Shifting Family Dynamics – What will we do without our people?

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I grew up in a house where people would drop by. Without pre-planning or calling ahead; they stopped by just because. We pulled up an extra chair, poured a drink or a cup of tea or set an extra place at the table. They were always welcome, no questions asked.

Recently this German supermarket holiday ad went viral and it has hit us all right in the feels.

It definitely shook me and made me start questioning when it became the norm for families to drift apart?

There was a time when big events, both good and bad, were shared with those you love. Graduations, weddings, babies, they were all filled with loving support from family. You called in your people to help you celebrate your successes and they were more than happy to toast in your good fortunes.

Even more importantly, the moment life knocked the wind out of you, it was your family and close friends that were your support system. They brought dinner, cleaned houses and helped to care for children while you picked yourself back up. You were never alone.

Somewhere through the years the winds have changed and people are retreating into their bubbles. The dynamics in extended families are changing. Suddenly invitations are required, struggles are hidden and stipulations and control surround celebrations.

We have become selfish and guarded. We have built a wall that is intended to keep people out. We have lost focus. We have forgotten what it takes to build our village.

We all live busy lives. Double income families that are just trying to keep their heads above water with soccer practice, dance recitals and homework taking up every free moment of time it can often feel like we have nothing left to give.

Relationships require effort. They require care and feeding. When you don’t nurture you run the risk of having those relationships fall apart.

Social media has given us a false sense of closeness with people. Our pictures of new babies garner 300 likes but who actually visited the hospital or brought flowers to welcome the new addition home? You get birthday messages from people you haven’t seen in 20 years but who actually helped you cut the cake? Messages of condolences are sent via email or text when you have lost someone you love but who shared in your tears?

Distance used to be measured in kilometres from home; how many flights it would take you to make it home for the holidays. That’s no longer the only form of distance. We have family that is within 30 minutes by car and we are no closer to them than we are with family who live an ocean away. Our need to shut ourselves off is pushing us further and further apart.

My mum fondly remembers the hospital room full of people who welcomed my brother into the world just a day after his birth. I will never forget the family dinners we shared every single evening that my son was in the NICU. Dinners that were made with love and brought to us warm every single evening for 6 weeks, just so that we didn’t eat alone.

It was all about people. It was our people. It has always been our people that have made our highs feel high and helped us survive our lows.

If we aren’t careful, if we don’t start focusing on our people, we will lose them.

Sometimes we really don’t feel like setting that extra place but if we stop inviting those we love to the table eventually they will no longer want to join us. What then? What will life be like without our people?

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