Take it from a family lawyer: Family is family, and worth the effort

By Kate Kovats

As a family law attorney I think about family a lot. I guess I’m wired to, or it’s a prerequisite of the job. And I am here today to say family time is special. Even when it’s hard, it’s actually special.

Hasn’t this life in a pandemic taught us all that?

My family has been vacationing on Idaho’s Priest Lake since the 1960s, since well before I was born. My immediate family plus my aunts, uncles and cousins on my dad’s side, the Hungarian-American side, have gathered there – first in one cabin and now in two. Not all of us get there every year. I don’t think any of us went last year – thank you, not at all, COVID. And until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t been since 2018.

I recently got to reconnect with my extended family in Idaho. And it was special. Let me share some observations.

We all crave our family stories and traditions.

I loved hearing – not always for the first time – our family’s stories. I loved being the storyteller and sharing my stories – also not always for the first time. Isn’t that the way it is for all of us? There’s comfort in our stories, and we all need comfort right now.

Stories are just part of the traditions we pass down. If I hadn’t gone to the Lake this past summer, I might have missed the opportunity to learn from one of my dad’s cousins, who is in her late 70s, how to make Hungarian cabbage rolls. That was special. I wouldn’t have gotten to go on the hike my dad led, and it’s a hike he’s been doing since he was a kid – special.

All families have warts.

All families have been through stuff. That’s family. And I won’t get into my family’s stuff. But for the most part, families are more than all their warts. We might not always agree. We might have hurt or been hurt in the past. But we are rooted in love – flaws and all. It’s just important to keep in mind that no family is perfect – no matter what you see on TV or social media.

Family time is a lesson in patience and forgiveness.

Let me just say that as your parents and other family members get older, patience and sometimes forgiveness are required when you are around them for more than say a day or two. These qualities can take many forms – letting things go, biting your tongue, chilling out, slowing down. It helps to have the distraction of beautiful scenery and outdoor activities.

Family is worth the effort.

Let’s be honest, sometimes before a big family trip – one with lots of people, lots of personalities, lots of feelings – there’s a little dread. But how many times do we get there and realize what we had built up in our heads as less than ideal, less than easy, less than fun is actually exactly what we needed?

Trekking out to northern Idaho from North Carolina is no small thing, especially after a year and a half of somewhat isolated living. But it was worth the effort. The trip was more than worth it and so much so that I especially hope I remember this next thing, which is…

Take more time with family.         

I took one week off of work, though my boss encouraged me to take two weeks. On that last evening with my family, I was really wishing I had more time. My boss was right; I was wrong.

Next time.

Next time I will take more time with my family.