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May 2011

It's All Relative!

It’s All Relative!
 
Did you know that May 18 was National Visit Your Relatives Day?  Honest! Of course, we have all heard the phrase, “You can pick your friends but you can’t pick your relatives!”  As a result, we’re all related at some point to some one we would not choose as a friend - and vice versa.  God does have a sense of humor! 
 
But what about picking “in-laws?”  Unless you are from a culture where a child’s future spouse is chosen at birth –no one has a say in that, either! And mothers, don’t ever kid yourselves into thinking you can influence your sons’ or daughters’ choices of partners.  No matter how close you are to your children, their choices will often surprise and bewilder you.  And of course – rarely does anyone marry only a spouse – they marry a family! (Kate Middleton, anyone?) Parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even pets come into the mix.  And with any luck at all, you may be compatible with a few of these family members.  I personally have had the most luck with pets.
 
I’m not sure where the dynamic of opposites attracting comes from, but being a romantic at heart, I would like to believe “love conquers all.”  And, it may for some fortunate couples.  However, being “opposites” as in-laws does not attract love or any other favorable emotion.  At best, we can hope for tolerance, and at worst – “Meet the Fockers!” 
 
And by “opposite” I don’t mean the obvious such as race, religion, politics, etc.  (Although, avoiding discussions about religion and politics is always a good call.)  I’m referring to the basic perceptions all families have about life, love, and the pursuit of happiness.  It has been my observation that most of us don’t adapt easily to change in our routines, especially where family gatherings are concerned.  One-on-one we can be amiable, flexible and even enjoy each others company.  But, put us in a group and . . . . not so much!
 
Having been an in-law several times, whether through my own marriages, my children’s or my sibling’s, I am certain that the one thing we all have in common is the best interests of our loved ones. Unfortunately, that can, and does, get in the way of familial harmony. 
 
So, back to the beginning, since we have no choice as to whom we become related to by law, since we love our own family (most of the time), and since we want to be involved in our loved ones’ lives (again, most of the time), what choice do we have?  Take the high road!  Do our best to be tolerant and respectful of our differences.  Be a little more flexible with our routines, and we may find some of their customs actually enjoyable.

Remember, we do love the same family member(s) that made us in-laws,  and the best choice we can make is to be a likable in-law.  We may be surprised to find, without picking one, we’ve made a friend.  Happily, I did!  Now, go for a visit!
 
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