When Family Comes To Visit
By, Diane Burton
When Joanne invited me to join Pandora’s Box Gazette, my husband and I had just completed two months of family living with us. Our son, daughter-in-law, their two-year-old daughter, and two big dogs (a Great Dane and a Lab) moved from Arizona and were looking for a house here in West Michigan. I chose the topic of family because it was so fresh in my mind.
By no means am I an authority on family. No degree in counseling, family therapy, or psychology. So what gives me the right to write about families? Experience. I’ve been married to the same man for almost forty-five years. We have two children and three (about to be five) grandchildren. My goal each month is to share some of my experiences. If readers are entertained, all the better. I leave inspiration to others.
My mother-in-law often said two women can’t occupy the same kitchen. She should know. Her MIL lived with her and Hub’s dad for the first twenty-five years of their married life. Twenty-five years of two strong-willed women living together? My two months of living with my daughter-in-law pales in comparison. The difference, I think, is that my DIL and I put aside our egos. She didn’t tell me how to cook, and I didn’t tell her how to raise a two-year-old (or how to cook). In fact, she loves to cook and, after forty-five years of preparing meals, I was only too happy to relinquish the kitchen to her capable hands.
Egos. They are what make us who we are. During our marriage, Hubs and I have learned when to take our egos out of tense situations. Not saying I always back down, or he does. We have opposing views on politics, for example. He claims we cancel each other’s vote. I’m not going to change him, and he knows better than to try to change me. We respect each other’s right to disagree.
A long time ago, I attended a conference for Girl Scout volunteers. Something a presenter said stuck with me. “Pick the hill you want to die on.” You can’t die on all of them. My mom would say “pick your battles.” Is the point of an argument that important? Good thing nobody asked me while I was going through peri-menopause. Each nit-picky thing escalated into a full-blown argument. I must have died on every hill. It’s a wonder I’m still alive.
Two families living together brings challenges. We’re each used to having our own space, our own way of doing things. Being retired, Hubs and I have developed a routine. Not an inflexible one, mind you. More like we fell into a routine instead of developing one. Enter three more people and two dogs. Did I mention they are BIG dogs? And one likes to bark? Fortunately, Son and DIL (mostly DIL) took care of the dogs. Family visiting shook up our routine. Not such a bad thing. I’d already assumed I wouldn’t be writing much after they came. That took away a lot of stress. Since my expectations were low, any writing I did was a bonus.
Expectations can make or break a relationship. I’d learned what to expect about the extended visit because of our visits to them in Arizona. For the past five years, we vacationed there for a month at a time. On our first visit, Son insisted we stay with them. I thought he was being kind and continued looking for a vacation rental. When Daughter-in-law said how much they wanted us to stay with them, I felt like Sally Field at the Oscars: “they want us, they really want us.” We had great visits. She and I talked about taking turns in the kitchen and occasionally take care of Toddler Girl. That was the extent of any expectations. It helps that DIL is easy going, and I work hard at it. So when they asked if they could live with us until they found a house, I was sure we’d have the same arrangement. We did.
About the two-year-old. The one with the engaging smile that could melt your heart. The one who closes the lid of my laptop when she wants to climb into my lap. Then, with the sweetest smile, she leans in close. Just as I anticipate a big hug . . . she reaches for my cell phone. Boy, was downloading toddler games a mistake. I didn’t know two-year-olds can be conniving.
I thought when they left I would be happy to get my own space back. Happy that we could go back to our old routine. I was. Sort of. They’ve been in their new house for three weeks. I miss them terribly.
Meet the Author
Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides the science fiction romance Switched and Outer Rim series, she is the author of One Red Shoe, a romantic suspense, and the Alex O’Hara PI mystery series. She is also a contributor to two anthologies: Portals, Volume 2 and How I Met My Husband. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and three (soon to be five) grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website.
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A special thank you to Diane Burton for sharing her Family Life column with us today. You can read her column on the 3rd Wednesday each month here at Pandora's Box Gazette.