Embrace family, embrace life

Recently, my husband and I celebrated his 40th birthday in Jackson Hole, Wyo., with our family — which a few years ago probably never would have happened. For the last several years, my husband and I have chosen to celebrate his birthday the same way: a party with his friends.

This year, though, he chose to celebrate his milestone birthday with his family.

For much of our adult lives together (the pre-parent years) the idea of spending time with “family” always seemed like the antithesis to fun. Sometimes it even felt like a drag on our happiness. Certainly, we both liked the idea of having family, but honestly didn’t always look forward to spending time with them other than for those obligatory family occasions like Thanksgiving and Christmas. Between all the nags and all the things we thought they were doing wrong, our families just didn’t get it or get us.

So when my husband and I got married and became parents, the idea of “family” was still very much an emerging concept. Now that we are parents, “family” is no longer at the periphery of our lives. It’s at the very core.

Starting our own family and watching our parents become grandparents have not only caused us to value our families more, but also to stop taking for granted the time we have left with them. It has also caused us to be more flexible and patient people, which are two great skills needed when dealing with family.

So to celebrate my husband’s birthday, we rented a house in Jackson Hole and brought along our parents, grandparents, relatives, and of course, our kids.

We had a great time! We went skiing. We went on a sunset expedition to see the area’s wild life: like elk, buffalo, white horn sheep, and moose, but what we enjoyed most about the trip was the time we spent together. Also, for his special day we hired a personal chef to prepare one of his favorite meals, which he ate with two of our three kids sitting on his lap the entire time.

Our time in Jackson Hole was our first real family vacation, and also a turning point for my husband, our family, and for me.

Interestingly, while at the house, we saw photos of the family that owned the house. In their photos they looked happy, were all smiles, and showed off their many generations of kids.

On the night of my husband’s birthday we talked about those photos and about us. We talked about our kids and what we want for our own family. We also talked about how different we are today, and how our lives and values have changed. We also talked about embracing our new lives as parents, but also those parts of us where we are someone’s daughter, son, sibling, and a part of a very big and wonderful family.

Notoya Green is a parenting expert and former family law attorney. You can read her blog at www.tripletsintribeca.com. You can also follow her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tripletsintribeca and on Twitter @NotoyaG.