We spent the last few days at the cottage with my entire immediate family. Eleven of us sharing the same space: my mother; my youngest brother, his wife and their 3 teenagers; my middle brother and his girlfriend; and me, my husband and our son, M. Plus Jet, our lovable, but slightly dopey, standard poodle. It was a big crowd, with lots of different personalities. There isn’t a great deal of privacy. We have running water, but only one bathroom. Did I mention 3 teenagers? And a matriarch (my mother) who likes to run the show? And a 10-year old who is not used to having lots of people around?
Everyone was on their best behaviour. The warm sunny weather probably helped – we were all able to do our own thing outside, either reading on the deck, lounging on the dock or out the water in the kayak or fishing boat. The water was warm enough to swim, unusual for mid-June. All the kids are old enough to amuse themselves, including M. Given a choice, he would spend all day on the computer or on his iPod, but he fished and played cards with his cousins. Even my husband, who looks forward to these visits with my family as much as he would a root canal, seemed to enjoy himself – the full beer fridge and multiple open bottles of wine no doubt took the edge off. Not to mention, the gourmet meals and mid-day naps.
The fact that this was probably one of the last times we will all be together made the last few days all that more special. My eldest niece is going into her last year of high school and will be off on her own in a couple of years, followed shortly by her brother. We are planning to go and visit them next year, but the kids will probably all be in school or busy with their friends and extra-curricular activities. At the cottage, there were fewer distractions and more opportunities for conversation, as we waited on the dock for my brother who owns a jet-ski to take the girls out on the water, or as we were driving into town to go shopping. Most years, other relatives are up at their (nearby) at the same time as we are, so there are always people coming and going (we are a bit like lemmings and tend to all gather at the same time). But this year, it was just our family. The adults agreed it was much quieter; as much as we love our extended family, it was enjoyable, being their on our own. We have high-speed internet, so the kids were happy.
It was good for M to spend some time with his cousins, aunt and uncles. Since he is an only child, having so many people around is a bit overwhelming at times. We tend to eat supper late, by which time he “isn’t hungry.” All the activity makes regular bedtimes impossible to enforce. And M had to help out with dishes and other chores which he did not care for at all. But a short stint at “sibling boot camp” was a good thing. The fact that M’s cousins do what they are asked (mostly) when they are asked (or at least the second time) set a good example for him. They aren’t perfect kids but they are kind, good-natured and genuinely fond of M.
Most of the time when we go to the cottage, M has a least one emotional outburst on first day (sometimes in the first hour). Like many kids with ADHD, he has trouble with transitions, so the change in routine and a different environment can be challenging. But other than a few sulky moments – brought on by being asked to help with the dishes or when his grandmother “told” him to do something, rather than “asked” – M was in a good mood the entire time we were away. He spent most mornings playing cards with his 15-year old cousin, who is very patient but didn’t hesitate to call him out when he perceived M wasn’t following the rules. M preferred to spend most of his time sitting on the big comfy sofa in the main room, on the computer (his choice) or reading (his parents’ choice). Occasionally he retreated to the room he was sharing with my nephew for a little quiet time. He was good company and seemed to genuinely enjoy hanging out with his family, especially his cousins.
The fact that it was a relatively short visit – just 3 days – likely upped the enjoyment factor for everyone. We got to spend quality time with each other, but it was time limited. It probably wasn’t long enough for my mother – she loves having all her “chicks” together. But for the rest of us, it was just a long enough visit so everyone had the chance to relax, but not so much that anyone got too bored or aggravated with another family member.
Hopefully, we will have another opportunity to be together at the cottage before too many years pass. But if we don’t, we will have lovely memories of this visit. Plus a few photos of the cousins – smiles all around. Can’t do better than that.