When I was a younger, my family took a trip to Florida to go to Disney World. At that time, I was probably in my very early teens, maybe even younger. While we were in Florida, we visited a family friend, who had known my parents for years and was my sister's godmother. While she wasn't related to our family, she was close enough that we always called her Auntie Emily.
At that time, she was probably at least in her late 70's, possibly even in her 80's. Despite her age at the time, it didn't stop her from pulling out all the stops when we visited for a meal.
I don't remember a lot from when I was younger, as I have a terrible memory, but that dinner stands out strikingly in my memory.
Our Auntie Emily had spent what seemed like hours cooking for our family. I remember her having made several courses with fancy dishes that even my young and picky palate appreciated. She had her house cleaned and put together perfectly. I remember sitting in her living room looking at all the keepsakes and decorative accessories she had around the room or in china cabinets and wondering just how long it would take someone to dust and clean all of it. She had a beautiful spread laid out on the table, including her fine china and crystal. I was extremely careful while I was eating, because I was afraid I'd break something that was obviously very important to her. It was gorgeous, and it was completely evident that she'd put a TON of effort into making that meal special to enjoy with our family.
The way she went through so much work and spent so much time to celebrate our visit has always stuck with me throughout my now adult life.
That's what it's really all about, though, isn't it?
No matter what else is happening in your lives, whether it is easy or difficult, the people you love see the effort you put in to your relationship. They see how you interact with them, how much attention you give them, and how you spend the time you do have with them.
Sometimes, I need to ask myself if I'm being present enough in all of my relationships.
As a parent, your relationship with your children and your spouse becomes number one. But it's easy to phone it in with the people who are closest to you. I will totally admit at times that I have checked my phone, turned on the television, or just in general spaced out while with my children. And there are certainly nights when, after caring for our children all day long, I just want to veg out in front of the computer or tv to get a little me time instead of hanging out with DH.
But everyone has those moments sometimes, and it's about the effort you put in the majority of the time. If the majority of the time you are dialed in, present in the moment, and actively participating with your children and spouse, then it's okay to give yourself a little slack and tune out for a few minutes in the general scheme of things.
Same as with your extended family and friends. Even if you're not able to speak every single day, see each other weekly or even monthly, the effort you do put into the relationship matters. If you try to call when you have the time, see them when you're able, and again be present when you do have the time, they'll see that and they'll appreciate the relationship as you do. It's not about endless amounts of time, it's not about multitudes of gifts, and it's not about being attached at the hip with friends anymore when you have a young family. It's about the love that you show and you share when you can, and the effort that you put in.