Johnny playing “Spot It” with my brother and nephew.
I’m from a big family, but we don’t have the luxury of living near one another. I have the closest sibling, with a sister about thirty minutes away – and, of course, I’m moving very far from her this fall. The next closest distance between family members is 7 hours, and one sister lives far, far away in China.
In spite of the distance, my family is one of my strongest support systems. Here are a few of the ways we stay close in spite of distance.
Google Hangouts are free! You can have up to 10 people in a hangout, and we have maxed out that allowance! We try to have live hangouts every few weeks, with as many people making it live as possible. We ALL managed to get on at once for Christmas day last year – spread across three continents.
We have a top secret Facebook group. Supposedly the in-laws have an even more top secret in-law support group. I think they should, if they don’t – wouldn’t you need one, if you married somebody with nine siblings?
Free long distance is my friend! I had to pay over $2/minute to call home (Nicaragua, at the time) when I went to college. I spent all of my spare money calling home once a month, for maybe half an hour – often with a miserable connection. I love being able to call family now without breaking the bank!
These only work out every few years, but they are amazing when they happen. This summer we went camping in Vermont, and it was awesome. Here are a few things that make our family reunions really great:
- Keep it simple. We plan a few outings, but spend a lot of time hanging out – playing board games, talking, and cooking meals.
- Spend time outside. ALL of my kids’ fondest reunion memories are of time spent outside with aunts, uncles, and cousins.
- Prep kids. My kids had 28 people to meet at the reunion – some they knew well, a few they had met too long ago to remember, and a few they had never met! We talked about each family set before driving up, so they at least knew who everyone was before we got there.
- Build memories. We make cheesy shirts for our family reunions, because they are a fun way to be geeky together while we are there, and an even funner way to remember the reunion! This year we made shirts full of inside jokes from growing up – a great way to teach grandchildren bits and pieces of family history.
My kids feel very strong connections to the cousins we have put together packages or written letters for. Technology is wonderful, but there is something about old-fashioned letters and packages that is extra special!
It doesn’t take much
I remember easily falling into a comfortable relationship with my cousins, even when we hadn’t seen each other for years – and my kids do the same with theirs. There are plenty of differences between my family and those of my siblings, but there is enough common familiarity that relationships can last even when physical distance makes time spent together a rare event.
How do you maintain family connections?