I always joke that there’s one side of my family that I can deal with and another side I can’t. I might say that in jest, but it’s true. There’s one side of my family that I’m happy to travel with and invite over for parties because it’s actually a pleasure to catch up with them. Then there’s the other side that you try to gauge whether they’ll start a fight or do something inappropriate to the point you have to put them out.
Having two kids in the last three years has made me face some ugly truths. My kids won’t know some of their family. They won’t get to be close with all of their cousins. I use to be very close with two cousins, in particular, when I was growing up and the sad truth is…I don’t even really know them anymore. I’m sure what I’m experiencing is not unique as many people have strange family dynamics.
Have you ever tried talking to a family member that you have absolutely nothing in common with? I have and it’s painful. Not to get too deep, but this is exactly how black people lose parts of their history because no one talks to the other. Pictures aren’t shared and eventually connections are lost.
Determined not to let that happen, I decided to host a family 4th of July BBQ. Only this invite was extended to everyone and not just a select few. Surprisingly, everyone RSVP’d on time and was excited to come! Since I knew lots of people would be together for the first time in years, I decided to set up the party to make it all about bonding. Here’s how I did it:
I set up social stations
I put snacks (and liquor) in several different places throughout the park. These weren’t huge spots, maybe only two or three people could get food at a time. It was designed that way to encourage people to strike up conversation while they get their food.
One of the best ways to encourage bonding is through games. I split folks into teams who had to work together to win. These teams consisted of people who haven’t always gotten along over the years and full of people who may not even know each other. I made a very conscious effort to only put one alpha/type A personality on a team. Otherwise, my whole BBQ would go up in smoke.
Putting digital pics up for everyone to see turned out to be a surprising way to strike up conversations. Remembering when a certain picture was taken or who the person was in the photo was such a powerful way to remind all of us that although we may not always see each other or agree on certain things, we all belong to one tribe and that’s what will ultimately connect us forever.
So there you have it. One family BBQ down and no one was killed. If you’re thinking about being the one to reconnect your family…do it! I would just advise that you go into it with an open mind and a lot of patience. What you’ll get in return are memories no one can take away and a good first step in preserving your family’s legacy.