Friday, July 23, 2010

Family is Like Fish

I've never had the conventional family. You know - mom, dad, siblings, etc. I'm lucky enough to have been blessed with a lot of extended family and friends, who have filled my world with love and joy and a whole lot of entertainment over the years. I'd do anything for any of them.  

Except join them on vacation.

I have a long-standing rule that family should be experienced in small doses. I don't believe that out-of-town family should stay in your home. In an emergency, they can crash on a sofa or air-mattress, but under no circumstances should they be made to feel so comfortable that they want to stay for several days. 

When I was married, my father and cousin tried, more than once, to get my ex and I to go on their family vacation to Las Vegas. My ex thought this was a great idea. "Oh, it'll be fun!" I heard over and over. "Oh, don't you want to spend time with them?" he would ask. 

No. I don't.

Here's the thing.... Family is like fish. After three days, you either have to cook them, or throw them out. If they hang around too long - they permeate the air. It's not one big thing - it's a bunch of ongoing, little things that eat at you until you feel like they have filled up the place and surrounded you. Like a lingering smell that you know is there, but you can't quite figure out what it is. 

Last week, I went away with my best friend and her two kids. I adore her, and I adore them. More than life itself, actually. I was so excited when we made our plans (several months ago) that I didn't think things all the way through. If I had, I probably would have realized that her parents, sister, niece, etc. would also want to join us. My friend comes from a very tight-knit family, and they have always vacationed together. 

Turns out, I broke my #1 rule - I vacationed with a family. 

When you're away, especially if you're sharing living space, things like bathroom schedules, money, discipline (if you're with children), noise, when to wake up/go to bed all come in to play. It should be simple to divide up money for the condo or groceries, or not to disturb others by making too much noise - but sometimes, people just don't agree on those things. By themselves - not a big deal. But when it's one on top of another on top of's too much. 

If you're with a close family, they sometimes believe that the closeness comes from proximity - and they will sacrifice everything else, up to and including everyone's sanity, to maintain that "closeness." But that leads to a lot of stress, hurt feelings and aggravation. I can get that at work - I go on vacation to escape those things.

Does this mean I don't love my family (or my extended family)? Absolutely not. 

It just means that next year, I'll be waiting for their postcard. 

1 comment:

  1. Just came across this from googling the 'family is like fish' thing. Oh God, I relate so much to this, all of it. I come from a family where the implicit belief is that physical proximity generates emotional closeness and..ack, it can become so suffocating, so fast. But apparently only for me and my SO. At the same time both of my parents seem to find it actively nourishing, which puzzles me.

    Anyway, just felt a powerful need to voice my approval. Thanks for posting this!