When I told my Father-in-Law that I was thinking of writing an article about family reunions he said, “be kind.” I laughed out loud but I knew what he was getting at. It can be crazy but it can be fun too. With one family reunion down and one to go this summer I started thinking about what made them successful and what made them stressful. Maybe in a few (hundred) years we can perfect this age old tradition and make it perfect or at least perfectly crazy.
Since I haven’t ever hosted one of these family soirées I can only speak as an outsider but sometimes that helps. My first tip, know when people are coming. Sounds obvious right? But when people live close they have the luxury of coming when they can but having opened ended arrival and departure dates and times is stressful for everyone. Are they coming for dinner? Will their kids need a nap? Should there be someone home to greet them or can we all run to the beach? And let’s not forget about all of the little ones who are so anxious to see their cousins. Tell them you have no idea when Uncle Freddy and the kids are coming and see the look you get.
Next, think out the sleeping arrangements way in advance and tell everyone. Unless you are doing your reunion at a resort there needs to be some room preplanning. Not everyone is going to love where you put them but compromise is the name of the game. Little kids need quiet and the bedroom next to the TV room won’t hack it. My Mom gives up her own bedroom every time there is a big crowd and happily sleeps on the sofa bed. Now that is what I call compromise. In an effort to follow her lead I offered to have my brother’s two year old sleep in with the four of us because the bedroom is dark and quiet. Will be a full house in there but might be fun too. Also, think about changing it up from year to year. Maybe last year’s plan didn’t work for everyone and this year someone can be flexible and change rooms. We are family by the way and we are supposed to love one another. What says I love you more than “why don’t you take the best room in the house this year.” This is the first year (and maybe the last, stay tuned) I am staying the entire week of my family’s reunion because it was just too crowded. This way others can move into my bedroom during the week.
And then there is the cooking. Fortunately there are some awesome cooks on both sides on my family so this is often the highlight of the reunion. However, that shouldn’t mean that person cooks the whole time. My husband’s family plans out the meals ahead of time (that email got my mouth watering) and different family members have their night. Family from San Francisco hosted a Mexican night and my husband did his now famous BBQ ribs. Of course there was a themed cocktail each night too. Ok, maybe that was the best part of the trip. My point is, delegate.
Finally, the dreaded last day of the reunion. This may be different from everyone. A staggered departure is kinda nice. Unless you are planning on having a cleaning service come in (which isn’t a bad idea) ask everyone to take their sheets off their bed and thrown them in the wash with their bath towels. Ask guests to just wipe down the vanity and dump out their bathroom trash can. This gives the host a head start. Suggest family take leftovers with them if they drove and do a final check of the house for items you may have forgotten. I always seem to leave something behind and this year was no exception.
I am sure there are several other “hot topics” that add to the family reunion dynamics but these are a few to get you started. Hopefully my Father-in-Law likes this article and invites us back next year. Maybe he will make me eat my words and cook for 14 people. Ah, I can feel the stress building already.