Celebration, recognition, transitions, ritual. If you are like us, the next couple of weeks are filled with milestone occasions. For Gary and his wife Sarah, it’s the celebration of her mom’s 90th birthday. For Ricardo and me it’s the high school graduation of our oldest grandson.Family celebrations have such potential for joy, but they also have equal potential for a lot of stress. Part of the stress comes from differing expectations. The meaning and experience of a high school graduation are very different for our grandson, his parents, and grandparents. Same is true of the meaning of a 90th birthday for Gary’s mother-in-law, her children, and grandchildren. They are all the main players of the events, each with different expectations and personal reasons for celebration. Mix in some extended family and friends and you’ve got the makings of a spicy gumbo or a fallen soufflé.There are two keys to keeping the “celebrate” in celebration that we ascribe to, not just for celebrations, but for everyday life. They may sound like common sense to you, and they are, but they are also grounded in the reality that there isn’t a single experience for everyone.
- Create the plan, then let it flow. Perfection isn’t going to happen. You are setting yourself up for disappointment and frustration if you try to orchestrate “the perfect experience”. Put the plans in place – get the invitations out, have the food ready, the decorations up, the music playing, then sit back and let it flow. There’s bound to be a surprise or two, some ruffled feathers here or there. You can avoid some predictable disasters (never invite Jessica Fletcher or Hercule Poirot for obvious reasons), but you can’t control it all. Create your plan, include contingencies where you can, put the plan in place, then enjoy the experience.
- Memories are for sharing. Reminiscing is a standard at every milestone gathering. It’s one of the ways we human beings create and nurture community. But we remember different aspects of shared experience (think the standard dilemma for any cop show detective trying to gather information from witnesses, or the fact that you and your sibling were both on the same road trip with your parents when you were 8 but you all remember a different aspect of the trip). It really isn’t important to correct each other because in reality there’s no single truth, no one correct memory. Reminiscing is a lot more fun and stress free when you build the fabric of a memory together, each person contributing threads to the story. (Ok, the regular social rules of not sharing really embarrassing moments for someone else apply!)
We hope your upcoming celebrations are enjoyed by all and create the kind of memories you’ll share for years to come. That’s what we plan for ours. Happy Graduation, Dylan! Happy Birthday, Fern!
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