FAMILY PHOTO Spending time with your first family

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by SARAH BUTLER

Recently I found myself standing at my cousin’s wedding talking to my parents and my sister. It was weird. Not weird bad. Weird nice. Nice because it was the first time in a long time that I could remember just hanging out with the three of them like that.

The spell was soon broken – my husband returned from the bar – but it got me thinking about how infrequently we spend time together these days – just the four of us. We are always chaperoned by partners, grandparents, offspring or friends.

I couldn’t help thinking it a little sad that we never hang out together like we did for almost two decades. Now sure, toward the end of that second decade you couldn’t have paid me to be in the room with the three of them but these days I have a feeling it would be calmer (read: I am calmer), and quite nice even.

Of course this is simply what happens as you grow older. It’s undeniably better than the alternative – my sister and I living on top of each other attested development style in our old bedrooms. And of course it’s a beautiful thing that new people come into our lives and make them more interesting. My husband and my son are two examples of this.

Just occasionally though, I’d quite like to shift back into flighty older sister with two doting parents mode rather than being the organised wife and responsible mother. I’d like my mum to cook me dinner and yell at me about the state of my room.

I was lamenting this to a friend who immediately admitted to me that she would also love to spend some time with her ‘original’ family because she can’t remember the last time that she, her brother and her parents were all alone together in the same room without her passive-aggressive sister-in-law driving everyone batty.

Another friend also thought that ‘first family’ together time was a great idea. She is single, and explained that as much as she loves her in-laws, nieces and nephews, she feels that a lot of her family’s traditions have been lost over time and that their get togethers now are always so hectic, there’s never really a chance to catch up with her parents and siblings properly.

Other friends were in the same boat.  Some were actually pretty happy about this situation, explaining that being alone in a room with their parents was likely to result in a call to emergency services.  And I have several friends who sadly no longer have the luxury of catching up with both parents and siblings.

But those that, like me, do have a positive relationship with their parents agreed that is was a little sad that this type of one-on-one time is so rare. Everyone felt that being too busy was to blame. When family time is possible, we all tend to cram as many people into the timeslot as possible. Twenty birds one stone.

Ironically my own mother has spent quite a lot of time this year with her original family. The reason being that my grandparents are in the process of transitioning to aged care, so she and my uncle have been frequently meeting with their parents just the four of them to work out the plans.  They all get along which is great but it’s certainly it’s not the kind of quality time that they used to spend together all those years ago. And at this point in time there’s definitely no opportunity for my mum to get any special daughter treatment – she’s too busy organising medication, logistics and finances.

In light of this little revelation, my sister and I have spoken about heading over to mum and dad’s for dinner, maybe watching a good movie and just chatting like we used to. No big deal at all, just a little reunion with the people that I used to spend most of my time with – good and bad – and who for no particular reason, have slipped a little further away on my family tree.

Sarah is a mother-of-one who works full-time in the advertising industry. One day she will write a book, until then she will simply read lots of them.

Do you find yourself wanting ‘first family’ time?



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