My Dear Tune-iverse,
Any plans to share a summer house with family or friends this weekend?
Our intentions are so well meaning when we make plans to get all our favorite people under one roof. Sure, there are differences in what people eat and don’t eat or what music they like or don’t – but the bigger adjustment is how to handle living with other families when you have completely different habits, routines and boundaries.
Do you ever think, “It’s too hard! We Just won’t go!”?
For me, that’s not an option. I love being with my family – as hard as it can sometimes be.
After many summers of grappling with other families’ routines and my own, I’ve figured a few ways to make the most our of shared summer living.
You see, every summer we spend a few weeks at my aunt’s beach house with my extended family. I especially love the joy that my kids get out of being with their cousins. For most of the day, we don’t even see the kids because they are playing together.
At full capacity, there are 17 kids and 15 adults. Eek! The house is big – but not that big. The kids sleep together in bunk beds and the grown-ups find their own corners. As you can imagine, meals are chaotic. We’ve found that the best (well, really the only) way is to feed the kids first and then send them to watch a movie while the grown-ups have a peaceful meal.
So here are some tips I’ve come up with over the years on how to make the most of shared summer living
I won’t go into all my ideas here because you can find them in past blogs, But the point is, fun makes all the other conflict that might come up worth it. And my suggestion for fun? Make it musical. So to start check out this post that gives you 5 Musical Family Acitivities. My favorite is KARAOKE!! All you need to do is buy a simple microphone with a small speaker. That’s it! Becauese the rest can come from your laptop or computer or TV if it is hooked up to YouTube. Just type in Karaoke for your favorite songs.
2. Pick your battles.
When my first son was born and we would come to the beach house, Froot Loops seemed to me like the food of the devil. To that same thinking, the kitchen seemed to be made out of cakes and cookies alone and the other kids were on much different schedules then my own.
With the years, I’ve softened. Maybe I realized it was a losing battle but, more than that, I just realized it didn’t really matter. I learned to separate between the rules that we have at home and the rules that we have when we are with the family.
Not to say that everything goes smoothly. This year, I need to figure out my screen policy for the kids, who forever seem to be complaining that everyone else gets to watch more.
The bottom line is that I let go of many of our rules when I’m at the beach house. So they may eat less healthy, watch a bit more and go to sleep later. But what they gain is fun with their cousins, time on the beach, communal living and the stuff that makes up our best memories.
3. Let the kids work it out.
For the most part, we try to stay out of the kids’ conflicts. Even for the little ones, we believe that they can work it out. With family and close friends, that is an option that doesn’t exist on the playground.
There is a deep knowledge that we’re staying together no matter what. No matter how angry they get at each other, they will still be living with each other next summer and the summer after, etc. That is an important lesson for them. Of course, if the conflict is really challenging and they need us to intervene, we do.
4. Model the behavior.
It’s important to remember that the kids are watching us at all times. They’re watching how we handle our own family conflicts. They want to know how we deal with it when our boundaries are infiltrated.
When you’re living in a house with others, that can happen almost daily. It’s our job to show our kids but there’s a balance to strike between maintaining our boundaries and also softening them when we are in a particular situation like this.
5. Find your space.
For me, the most important thing to do on these weekends is to make sure I go on a nice long walk on my own. It keeps me grounded and reminds me of who I am. It is so easy to regress into old behaviors and thought patterns when we are with our family, both because we may be seen as the child we once were and because we revert to old dynamics.
The way to make sure that doesn’t happen is to take your space. For me, a walk by the ocean is the perfect cure.
6. Find Connection.
What keeps us coming back to be together are the moments of connection that we find with each other. But with a full house of people pulling in many directions that might not be an easy feat. It makes all the difference to grab a friend, sibling or a cousin for a quiet hang away from the chaos.
7. Turn on the music!
You’re making dinner, there’s tension in the air – who hates onions in their salad? who is gluten free? who is going to do all of these dishes? And you know what makes it all better?
Turn on the tunes. Sometimes we forget to do this simple move that changes everything.
Put on the music that will get everyone singing and moving their hips. Stevie Wonder? Queen? Beyonce? Figure out what it is for your family and go nuts.
8. Have gratitude.
This might be the most important one. The fact is this – Froot Loops or no Froot Loops – none of it matters.
What matters is that we get to share a living space with people we love and people who care about us and our kids.
During the year, we get caught in our own little bubbles. It’s no longer a village who takes care of our kids. Mostly, we somehow work it out on our own or with hired help. But these moments when we are able to feel the village are everything.
When you feel overwhelmed – like you just can’t make another meal, or fold another towel, or bend another rule – remember to breathe deep and think of what you are grateful for. It might just be the people around you.
How about you – how do you deal with alot of different ways of doing things under one roof?
Do you stick to your ground? Do you give in on certain things? Which ones?
COMMENT below and let me know!
Do you have a friend who is spending this weekend with family in close quarters? Be a good friend. Send them this for some encouragement.
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