Sunday, April 8, 2007

Family Reunion with The Mouse

My family, on my mother's side, is composed of the following members:
  • My mother and her husband
  • My brother, his wife, and their six children (ages 3 months to 8 years)
  • My aunt
  • My two cousins, each of whom is married and has one child under 10
My brother has cooked up an idea for a family reunion. Bless his heart. He is a genuinely good person who wants to create stronger connections among our small clan. He has proposed that we spend four days together at Disney World in Orlando. Four days. Together. At Disney World. He imagines that this will be a fun, bond-building adventure.

I do not. It somewhat pains me to be confronted with the reality that I am not this kind of person. To say that I am not into theme parks is an understatement. Rollercoasters scare me. I clam up and become oddly shy when approached by people in large, furry costumes. I don't like crowds. I love my nieces and nephews and am regularly charmed and awed by how they've turned out so far. But I have to take a power nap after spending four hours, never mind four days, with them all. The idea of standing in line for 45 minutes to get on Pirates of the Caribbean with eight children under 10, two cousins I barely know, and their spouses whom I know even less makes me anxious.

I hate to sound this curmudgeonly. I do! I would prefer to be an enthusiastic, theme-park loving, extended-family-embracing kind of gal. Maybe if I pretend I am, it'll take.


Anonymous said...

I thought "bless his heart" was something Southerners say to temper insults, as in "he's such a doofus, bless his heart." What are you really saying about your brother?

Disney isn't my cup o' tea either--not to mention getting together with my entire family to bond for four days. (As my dad would say, we're going to be one big happy family, dammit.) Youch...

Anonymous said...

Actually, I interpreted the “bless his heart” as an expression of appreciation for the fact that the brother is interested in bonding with his extended family. But maybe that’s just how Northerners use the expression. Still, when I read of this plan for a reunion, the word “doofus” came to my mind as well. Your brother might as well put the whole family in a jar and shake it up to see if you all will fight.

Its interesting that while thinking of others in terms of wanting to bring the family together, your brother isn’t really thinking of others in terms of his plan for a reunion:

• Brother wants everyone to join in on, and spend their limited leave and financial resources on, a vacation of his choosing. It makes me curious if first he and his family decided to visit Disneyland and then as an afterthought the idea came to him that others could be invited and it could become a “reunion.” If you want to have a party where everyone has a good time, you want to think about what others might enjoy doing, not just what you want to do. One doesn’t need to know the Advice Goddess very well to know that Disneyland isn’t her cup of tea, and unfortunately, Disneyland doesn’t offer much outside of Disneyland in terms of activities. Heck, a weekend at Myrtle Beach would be a better option in terms of satisfying the interests of everyone invited. Or Colonial Williamsburg.
• Brother is also asking this large group to travel with children as young as three months. Let’s face it, young children need to eat when their hungry, nap when their tired, etc. so the needs of the children are going to determine what is done when on this trip. Once again, not everyone’s cup of tea, maybe not even the older children’s cup of tea. (Wasn’t this the brother who announced that once he had his first baby, he and his wife wouldn’t be traveling until the child was two? What happened??)
• Brother is also asking people who don’t know each other well, and people who wouldn’t necessarily choose to vacation with one another, to spend four days together in close quarters. ‘Nuf said.

Whatever happened to the Saturday afternoon picnic? After a few hours spent eating potato salad with the distant cousins everyone might know each other a little better and arrive at a more collaborative family vacation idea. It sounds like the “family reunion” guilt trip is the only aspect of this trip that has you wanting to participate. If that’s it, don’t go and don't worry about it. Promise to work with brother to come up with a group activity that better considers the needs of all concerned.

BTW, *love* the picture on your blog! FABULOUS!

Suzanne said...

Thanks for the nice compliment about my picture! Given enough time and hair products, I can clean up pretty well!

As for "bless his heart," I guess one could apply both the Southern and the Northern definitions/implications of the phrase. I honestly think it's admirable that he values family the way he does. And I'm afraid I do think he's a bit of a doofus for imagining that I might be thrilled to go to Disney World.

Anonymous said...

OK, I have to comment on the other anonymous commenter's asking: "Wasn’t this the brother who announced that once he had his first baby, he and his wife wouldn’t be traveling until the child was two?"

I assume that announcement was made years ago, before said brother's first child was born. I think ALL parents make pronouncements BEFORE they have kids that then turn out to be impossible to follow once the baby is born and reality sets in... So don't shoot at said brother just because a statement he made over 8 years ago is no longer valid...

"What happened" is that 8 years have passed, and brother is trying to figure out how to take 6 kids on a vacation that enables their parents to share child-watching and child-controlling with other responsible adults whom he knows and trusts. And I think he's also trying to give those adults a chance to spend time with the kids, and vice versa.

So the fact that a Disney family reunion wouldn't be the first choice of all the adults in the family is probably a secondary (or tertiary) concern... Or maybe even something he hasn't yet thought to be concerned about.

Suzanne said...

I don't think my brother had any devious intentions when he suggested Disney. I'm sure he didn't plan this trip as an opportunity for free babysitting. He has never imposed in that manner before. I think Disney was just the first thing to pop into his mind, which is understandable, given his perspective as a parent of six. However, my brother is also a reasonable person, and I think he'd like the adults in the group to enjoy the getaway as well. Which is nice, because, I'm sorry, no matter how many kids are going along, if kid-less adults are joining, the trip needs to appeal to us too. Anyway, he seemed kind of hip on the cruise idea, so we'll have to see what happens.

Anonymous said...

My point about "What happened?" was that at some time the brother realized that traveling with small children is difficult, and it is not something that everyone wants to do. He made the announcement that he wouldn't travel with his infant shortly before her birth, and held to this promise for the first few years--my understanding is he told the grandparents in NJ and FL that if they wanted to see the baby, they would have to fly to NC to visit him because of his refusal to travel with her. There is nothing wrong with that.

His attitude has obviously changed, and there is nothing wrong with that, either. What I was expressing was surprise that it didn't occur to him that others, especially those in his family who have chosen not to have children, might still feel the way he did before he changed his mind. But let's face it, not thinking about what other people involved in this reunion might want is the key theme here.

Extended family are under no obligation to help the brother provide a vacation for his family via free babysitting. If you have the kids, you have to accept the costs and you get to reap the benefits. The kids didn't appear overnight, and at some point he must've figured out that vacations with 6 kids is not easier than trips with 2. It doesn't mean he can't ask family to help him out so he can take a vacation, but he should ask this of them up front. Using a family reunion guise to make them feel like curmudgeons if they don't show up is not OK. Trying to obligate extended family to give you a vacation without considering their needs/wants is not OK.

Anonymous said...

April 10, 1:35PM seems pretty opinionated for someone who doesn't seem to know your brother. It is really difficult for one who DOES, to attribute manipulative or selfish motives to his original plan. I don't see him asking for anyone to babysit the kids, or contribute anything but their presence to the trip. And I don't believe a guilt trip would be laid on any who choose not to participate. I also believe he is smart enough to realize that not everyone would consider a theme park with or without 6 kids their cup of tea (or rum, or scotch)

Unless this reader/writer is one of those who is related and would feel like a curmudgeon for his/her planned refusal to participate, I think maybe putting away such judgemental ramblings might be in order.

Also, checking the spelling of "their" might also be good.