Until this year, my family had never met Andrew’s family. Ever. Eleven years of being in this sweet sweet relationship, with no interactions while both families were present. We’ve been based in WA & CA, my family is spread across the east coast, and Andrew’s family is in England. We chose to get married at City Hall without telling anyone beforehand, and no other major event has ever been planned or executed to get everyone together.
This may seem strange or alarming. But it’s our normal. Everyone would have to take to the skies to meet the the other side. There are kids involved, and jobs, and school schedules and beaver/scout schedules and sports schedules. It’s always complicated to even consider. Usually Andrew and I are the ones happy to travel to visit either side, it’s easy for us to just pack up and go.
Occasionally, I’ve caught myself imagining renting two large beach houses, side by side, at the Outer Banks of North Carolina and inviting the parents, siblings, children of both sides for a glorious vacation where everyone could meet. While this sounds rather alluring, it also sounds so daunting. How would we ever find a week that would be suitable for everyone? And the expense everyone would have to put out for it sounds rather daunting. Maybe someday we’ll pull it off? Until then, we go about our daily life and make occasional travel plans that involve visits to each family.
This normal has recently shifted. Earlier in the year, for Andrew’s 40th birthday, my dad flew out to Seattle from the east coast while Andrew’s two brothers flew in from London. The idea of the two sides meeting made me slightly anxious. Maybe a lot anxious? I wondered how they would get along, and how we’d all fit into a very small one-bedroom apartment. I couldn’t talk through any details of it with Andrew, or how I was feeling about any of it, because it was all a giant surprise for him! Would Andrew’s brothers think of me differently (i.e. negatively) after meeting my dad? Of course this is irrational and speaks to my people-pleasing thoughts & behaviors, but in the moment when the anxiety levels are high, it feels like a real possibility. It was fine. It was fun, it was crowded in the apartment, sure, yet I’d change nothing from that wonderful long weekend celebrating such a milestone birthday. ((except ordering a few more platter of bacon from Derby at the party – if you were there, you’ll fully understand this reference))
Andrew and I, along with my mom, have just returned from a week-long trip to England, the first time for my mom to meet Andrew’s family. Similar anxieties from my dad’s visit reared their ugly head again. Would everyone like my mom? Would I be embarrassed by any of what she says or does? Will she use her fork to cut her food (gah!)? Yes. Yes and yes. Why am I now the helicopter parent to my parents, worrying and judging their every move while in my presence?! It’s not great.
It was a whirlwind week, exploring London, Edinburgh, Cambridge and the lovely villages around Stansted. Having my mom join us was such a gift. She got to meet the family that I’ve been talking about for over a decade. I cherish my in-laws. They are so kind, welcoming and warm. They’ve made me feel adored since day one.
(first ever photo op for the mums!)
Sometimes I wonder if this is one of the keys to a happy marriage. The distance. There’s no meddling, no pressures. Everyone lives their own lives with nothing but genuine support from each family. From an obvious geographic distance, though. We keep in touch with both sets of parents almost weekly. There’s no drama that comes from living our lives this way, but is that also the path of least resistance? We miss out on birthdays & major holidays together, or watching the nieces and nephews
play games on their iPads participate in school ceremonies or sporting events. We miss all the big and small day to day parts of their lives. What it certainly does is makes the moments we do spend together feel all too short, yet all so sweet.
Maybe that’s just one of the secrets to my own happiness at age 36, and to my marriage. I am living the life I desire, and it happens to be far away from our terrific families. We see them as much as we can, on our own terms. The anxieties of first time introductions/integration have passed. I’m usually organizing and pushing for the trips to England & Andrew is usually organizing and pushing for the east coast trips. I love that. We both wish to spend time with the other family. We’ll keep making that happen, while also fondly remembering the year the two families met, and maybe someday we will find ourselves toes in the sand in front of those giant beach rentals on the North Carolina beaches, families fully integrated.