I had a conversation with a friend this weekend and what I realized how true what I said was after I had already said it (strange, I know.)
For those who don't know, I am the oldest of a fairly large motley crew. I have three brothers and a sister. The oldest boy is already attending college, the next one down is a Junior in HS and starting to look seriously at various options, and the youngest brother and my sister are Sophomores. Also for those who don't know: yes, they are twins; no, they are not identical; yes, we get that question fairly often. When I left home, none of them were even in HS yet.
Now, this is the normal course of life. Children grow up, children leave home, and, in our culture, children may never bother to come back. I've seen it happen with my extended family. We've seen both sides an average of every two years. I really want more for my siblings and me. I've been so excited watching us all grow up these last four years. We're not a malicious family (which I have been shocked to observe in other friend's families) or very competitive (at least not against each other) so we get along pretty well.
But they'll leave soon. They'll all go off to college or vocational school or where ever. Will they come back? Will we still be a family? or just the people you send letters to on the holidays?
Now, over the years I have learned exactly why parents are constantly telling the older children to set a good example. What I do, as the oldest, is very persuasive. It shows what is acceptable or, at the very least, what can be gotten away with. So now I am trying my very best to stay connected to them. To be home for the big events. To call to play games just because. To show that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth. To show that I think they are important. That we are important. The whole time silently asking, when you are gone, will you come back home, too?
Will my example be enough? I most surely hope so.
Which is why I am so very excited about this Halloween party and why I was so very upset for the few days when I thought we wouldn't be able to do it. Mom said we could do it next year. But next year won't be the same. Next year we'll all be different people. Next year, Allen could actually be gone and Phillip starting to pack. Next year John could have decided on what he'd like to pursue in life and Valerie could have a personality change (for the parents of teenage girls, you know how that goes) and already had her first boyfriend. Next year is too late. It needs to be now. It's this year that Dad is trying to reconnect, this year that he's had a change in values. Next year mom won't be willing to throw a party like we are this year because they will be gearing up for two in college and the ever ready reason of 'we don't have the money' will be all too convenient.
But it is this year. And we're going to decorate the house like no one could have believed, we're going to pull out all the stops (at least I am), we're going to provided an environment to do what everyone in my family loves to do (theatre), and we're going to pull in every last close friend we can find. Because we're a big, creative, family. And for now, we're friends. And hopefully this event will help us stay that way. Perhaps it will be a precedent, perhaps it will only be a memory. But if it is a memory, it will be a good one. One we can all look back on and say, yeah, my family did that.
And hopefully, when they leave, they will come home again.