Summer should be a time to relax, have fun, and be carefree as you try to soak up enough vitamin D to last you throughout next winter.  There are festivals to enjoy and meals to munch al fresco.  This is the time to indulge in new sandals and novelty sunglasses.  Ah, sweet, sweet bliss. Many Minnesotans pack their summer schedules with trips out of town.  We look forward to getting away from it all and secluding ourselves at the family cabin, which brings me to the subject of this article and one obstacle that just might interfere with your fun in the sun.  That, my friends, is time with your in-laws.  It can be difficult to really fit within the habits and quirks of a family that did not raise you.  No matter how much you might like your new family, cabin time with them, in particular, can be intense.  There you are, stuck in the wilderness, smiling as your father-in-law tells you his favorite fishing story again…and again…and again…

But fear not, dear readers!  A little preparation goes a long way.  No matter how well-stocked the family cabin may be, it is a good idea to come equipped to survive a long weekend.  It’s not the wilderness you have to worry about so much as awkward silences and, even worse, heated political debates.  Here are my trusty tips for survival at the cabin with your in-laws.

Start off on the Right Foot

Whenever you stay under someone else’s roof, it is never a bad idea to show up with a gift in hand.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy.  A scented candle works nicely, or maybe a small plant.  I am always a fan of giving something edible.  Why not arrive with a box of a dozen goodies from Bogart’s Doughnut Co.?  You’ll be a hero for providing a breakfast no one has to cook, and you can reward yourself for being so darn thoughtful with one of their amazing Nutella-filled or lavender cake doughnuts.  Bonus: While your in-laws’ mouths are full, they will be less likely to bring up that time you were a mild disappointment to them more than a decade ago.  Hooray!

Have Back up Entertainment

No, I am not telling you to ignore your in-laws.  That is probably a bad plan.  But nights can be long when everyone else goes to bed at 8:30, and sometimes for the sake of your own sanity, you have to bow out of the the third boat trip of the day.  If there’s a limit to how many games of solitaire you enjoy, it’s good to come prepared.  Chances are, your in-laws will take more kindly to you enjoying non-electronic fare.  It’s just more cabin-y.  So pack some crosswords, an adult coloring book or two, and some old fashioned (i.e. printed) reading material.  You can find a lovely selection of all of these items at Magers & Quinn Booksellers, the Twin Cities’ largest independent bookstore.  Located in Uptown, they stock both new and used books and will be happy to recommend something to help you ignore snoring coming from the other room.

Utilize a Reward System

You did it!  You survived the weekend and you didn’t get kicked out of the family.  Good for you!  Sometimes it’s easier to do something we aren’t totally enthusiastic about when we have a reward to move toward.  It could be pampering yourself with a manicure or treating yourself to pricey take-out.  One great option is doing something you’ll actually enjoy on your summer to-do list, like a round of mini golf at the Walker Art Center.  The unique experience of artist-designed mini golf (including four new holes this year) costs $19 for adults and includes free gallery admission to the museum.  It’s the perfect way to blow off a little steam, feel cultured, and enjoy the strange novelty of non-snowy weather all at the same time.  If that doesn’t sound fun to you, hey — margaritas are always an option, too.

As a published author, I personally guarantee that following my advice will help you get through your cabin getaway with less pain and misery than last year.  Isn’t that all we can hope for?  Onward and upward!  Maybe in due time, your mother-in-law will finally forgive you for seating chart SNAFU at your wedding.  (Maybe.)  The important thing is to make the best of it and not let anything ruin your bodacious summer.


By Liz Walker