Gone Visiting . . .

“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.” ~ Winnie The Pooh

When I was very young, my family used to go “visiting”. “Visiting” consisted of driving, as a family, to someone’s house … usually a grandparent, a great aunt or older relative we did not see very often. Most of my extended family lived close by (a block to maybe 10 miles), so it was not a long drive. Once there, we usually sat in the living room and the adults talked while we (the kids) sat quietly and behaved ourselves. The adults usually had coffee and during longer visits we (the kids) might be sent off to the kitchen for koolaid and a snack.

Walking into my great aunt and uncle’s house is one of my most vivid memories. They only lived a few houses away and we shared a gardening space … they were big gardeners and with my dad’s help, it turned into a huge garden every year. Spending time in the garden with them was much different and more casual than visiting their home. This could be because everything in their house was always very neat and clean, lots of knick-knacks around, with straight back very uncomfortable furniture. But, I think it had more to do with the fact that my aunt and uncle never had any children and my parent’s always reminded us of that before we went in as a reason to be extra good. And, my sister, brother and I were always very good … we sat and listened. Sometimes my little brother would bring one little hotwheels car in to play with. At first, I would be afraid to move or make a sound because I was trying to be good (and trying hard not to catch my uncle’s attention as he tried way too hard to play with us sometimes and his teasing/play could be scary). However, by the time we left, my uncle had relaxed and stopped trying so hard and my aunt had warmed up we might even be all together on the sofa looking at pictures or something with her. She was standoffish or uncomfortable at first, but I think she really wanted to give us a hug all along. Conversation and time together made everyone comfortable.

Why my sudden trip down memory lane? I tend to learn a lot about myself by looking back. On a recent trip through the past, I couldn’t help to notice how my extended family is disappearing. Many have died of old age and of those remaining, there are only a handful of relatives I still have contact with and they were the cousins I was closest to in my childhood. Life for me now, is completely different than during my childhood when family was everywhere and we visited often. I started wondering if that is the same for other people, are extended families losing their connections to each other? And if so, is it because we don’t go visiting any more? I know families are spread farther and farther apart and visiting is not as easy any more .. but have they also become less important to people to maintain those relationships? Have we really thought about all that is lost when those connections are abandoned? Personally, I think over a life time it is immeasurable .. family connections bring more to our lives than we realize, if we allow it .. seek it.

“There isn’t much better in this life than finding a way to spend a few hours in conversation with people you respect and love. You have to carve this time out of your life because you aren’t really living without it.” ~unknown

It is a shame “visiting” has diminished just like nightly family dinners because everyone benefitted from the time together. These are the situations where people of my generation learned how to have polite conversations, how to listen, and social manners. My older relatives were better off because they were not alone … people visited and they were still included in the family. And, even though it felt like torture at times, I think we (the kids) learned a lot without really knowing we were. We heard stories of the past, we learned about our extended family members, and we learned how to listen, reflect on what was said, and be polite. As a child, I was getting a “verbal bath” without any effort …
According to How Children Benefit from Adult Conversationsa “verbal bath” is:

… the shower of language which occurs when children interact with adults in a safe and appropriate way. When children are soaked in language, through stories, conversations, and discussions, it helps them learn to reason, reflect, and respond to the world around them.

Research shows that good communication with children leads to warm relationships, cooperation, and feelings of worth … Where are children today learning these lessons? Fostering family conversations is important to a child’s growth … Grandparents, aunts and uncles can be a vital part of a child’s socialization if we work to keep those connections alive and well. It is time to reestablish the act of “visiting”. I would like to challenge everyone to visit a relative that they have lost touch with (by phone if that is the only way) … we can rebuild our family connections one person at a time if we do it before everyone is gone. There is a lot to learn from our elders.

Another useful site: Teaching Children the Art of Good Conversation

~ by bearyweather on July 23, 2010.

2 Responses to “Gone Visiting . . .”

  1. I was never very close with my extended family to begin with so I can’t answer that question. However, I do observe that things have changed since I was a child. Not just for my family but for people around me as well. Families don’t visit each other that often anymore- it seems like everyone is just ‘too busy’. It’s a shame really, because ‘being busy’ seems to be getting in the way of ‘enjoying life.’

  2. We used to go “visiting” too when we were little or our house was filled with visitors. Seems people don’t take time to do simple things like that anymore…now a days they want tobe “entertained”. Of course, time and distances plays a factor as well. Seems our extended family has drifted apart as well, but some of the youngers ones are catching back up through Facebook!

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