Although cottages, togetherness and the summer sun sound like a recipe for fun, sometimes all that togetherness can be cause for some serious relationship rifts. Especially when extended family is involved.
With many cottages, ownership belongs to more than one family. Say siblings have inherited a place from their deceased parents, or even more common, the older parents still own the place, and the married adult children come up on weekends with spouses and their little ones.
Hopefully, the parents have relinquished some control and allow their children to be heads of their own families, making appropriate decisions regarding meals, swimming, and outdoor activities. But sometimes, situations can get sticky and uncomfortable.
Let’s face it: not everyone wants to spend every weekend with their in-laws — especially if they’re even the slightest bit controlling.
It’s natural that each new generation does things slightly differently. For example, today’s children are more prone to a greater variety of allergies, from peanuts to lactose, and much more severe reactions than a decade ago. Part of it is awareness, part of it environmental. Either way, the children’s safety must be paramount.
A cottager I know has a young daughter who is anaphalactic for peanuts, which means she can have a fatal reaction. Even the smell can throw her into an allergic state. Her close uncles and aunts, cousins and grandparents are all aware of the situation and behave accordingly at the cottage. But one cousin, who used to come every year for a week with friends, refused to understand that he couldn’t bring peanuts — even when the child wasn’t there. That cousin has since been banned from cottage use.
That’s an example of why you need to think ahead when sharing space with others — when heading on vacation with your in-laws or other family members, be prepared to explain your family’s ways and needs, where there are major differences. You may even have to fight for what you strongly believe.
Of course, our parents raised their children doing things differently from some of today’s standards, yet most of us are healthy and fine. So the older generation have trouble taking our rules seriously.
Ordinarily, we can all manage with small compromises. But in the summer, when we may live together for some period of family time, it can get a little too close for comfort.
Again, be prepared to explain your actions, even if they are totally obvious to you. Stand your ground, but choose your fights. Swallow your anger at other people’s lack of knowledge; instead, explain why your way works for you and your family.
Most importantly, have your spouse, the offspring of your in-laws, step in when things seem about to escalate. Each of you needs to deal with your own parents instead of leaving your spouse to fight it out.
And, if it’s just too difficult to live together under one roof, don’t. Make family visits short and sweet.