Jim spent an hour or six getting our stuff arranged in the back of the truck. We are leaving town so early in the morning that I am likely to be slightly irritable, but with enough coffee I’ll survive. The good news is that we’re headed to the beach where we’ll spend a week of vacation with our kids and their spouses and friends. Since our family is spread across the country, we don’t all get together at one time very often. So of course, I am thankful and excited—eager to laugh at old jokes, eat good food and do all the things families do when they reconnect with the ones they love.

IMG_4824“We just want to be together.” I’ve heard my own mother-in-law say these words on many occasions. The older I get, the more I understand what she means.

Parents love seeing our adult children and their families individually, but we really treasure those rare occasions when everyone adjusts their schedules and we all land at the same place at the same time.

There’s nothing wrong with our desire, but if we aren’t careful, we can turn to manipulation in an attempt to influence our children. Instead of extending an invitation, we actually apply our favorite form of pressure. When our attitude and words make our adult children feel uncomfortable, they will eventually dodge our calls or show up reluctantly.  An invitation is not a command performance.

My own sweet mother-in-law has taught me a lot about navigating this part of life. Through our 35 years of marriage, Jim and I have had to decline many opportunities to be together with his family. I have never known Elene to pout or doubt our explanations. She doesn’t keep score and never mentions the times we didn’t make the reunion, the family dinner or the birthday celebration. To this day, she welcomes and loves us, even when we show up at less than convenient times.

I’ve watched and learned from a woman of grace and substance. In this new stage of my life, I want to look like Elene Griffith. I want to open my arms wide and welcome my children and their families with all the love I can offer, but I also want to give them the freedom they need to make decisions that work for them.



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