Our family has decided we need to get it together.
Just like we have several times before.
But isn’t that life? You’ve got it down. Then you don’t. You’re together and then you’re not. You’re on a roll and then you stumble.
Well, we were in an off cycle there for awhile. Maybe it was dad’s traveling or spring sports or the moving blues. No matter the cause, I was ready to stop making excuses and make some changes. So I used the car ride down the canyon to a baseball game to hold a family council.
I asked the kids, “In what areas could our family improve?”
There were some blank stares and some silence and then the conversation started rolling.
Crew mentioned eating out. (We eat out way too much.) Chad mentioned service. (We laughed as we remembered how we used to do Service Saturdays before sports took over our life.) Elle mentioned family home evening. (We aren’t as formal as we used to be.) Croft mentioned less technology. (I miss the 90s), and Locke couldn’t care less.
Then there was my list of ways we could improve. I had brainstormed the day before after attending the temple. I was happy that the kids and I were on the same page. Here was what I came up with:
- more family dinners
- get out in nature more
- teach kids’ financial accountability and responsibility
- eat out less
- more fitness / exercise
- kids help with dishes more
- cultivate self-starters
- better Family Home Evenings
- less fighting
- less technology
- quicker bedtimes
- more consistent when dad is gone
We talked about how some of these areas were maybe primary concerns and some were maybe secondary concerns – like if we fixed a few key items, those changes might automatically rectify other areas. For example, if we had more family dinners, we would eat out less often. Or if we served others more, maybe there would be less fighting among ourselves. If we were out in nature more, we would automatically get more exercise.
I also made sure the kids knew I wasn’t looking for a perfect family. I knew we would still make mistakes and have bad days here and there. But I did want us to make some small improvements that could have an important impact.
After hearing everyone out, I asked everyone to pick their first area of concern. I had them consider what goal was most important to them. What line item could they really get behind and support?
Chad chose service.
I chose family dinner.
Elle chose family home evening.
Crew chose family scripture study when dad was out of town.
Croft chose kids making money.
And Locke ignored us again.
(I really wanted someone to pick nature, but since no one did, Chad and I agreed to split it.)
I asked the kids to think about their chosen topic and come with a plan of improvement within their area. My plan was to give them stewardship over whatever topic they picked. They would have some responsibility for their plan of action. I wanted to share some of my burden with them.
A week later, on the way down the canyon again, we held a follow up Family Council where everyone could return and report. If I’m being honest, Elle and I were the only ones that had actually put any previous thought into our answers. But we were still able to have a great discussion.
Chad decided to shoot for formal service once a month and impromptu service weekly. He had some ideas for bigger projects and he was in charge of planning those.
I hoped to meal plan more. The kids would get to pick some meals, and they would help me with clean up. I also asked the kids to shift their expectations and support the meals I make — meaning no whining when we pulled out a cooler at the baseball game as opposed to stopping for fast food.
Elle wanted to make a new family home evening board that was more current with our family and the jobs we like best. She also decided to move our agenda to our new computer so we didn’t have to go to the really old computer to print it. We agreed we would have to hold family night on Sunday instead of Monday during baseball season.
Crew was asked to be in charge of calling scripture study when dad was out of town. He would need to keep a bookmark in his scriptures so he would know where we were. We also thought we would keep a Book of Mormon in our car so sometimes we could do family scripture study while we were driving. Crew decided to record the days we read our scriptures on a calendar to keep track. Afterall, “you manage what you measure”.
Croft planned to have a lemonade stand as a way for the kids to make more money. We brainstormed names for a family bank and came up with the names “Families First Credit Union”, “Raising Lemons Credit Union” (RLCU) and “Lemon Bar Bank”.
Locke interrupted the whole time and tried to distract everyone on to other conversations.
As far as our “nature” goals go, I opted to organize weekly hikes and outdoor adventures with other families, and Chad was in charge of planning a big camping trip this summer.
A few months or so after our initial family councils, here is a quick report on our progress:
Service: We helped my grandma move in June, we’ve invited many families over for dinner and have taken dinner into a single lady suffering from cancer and into a mom that just had a baby. The boys have chopped wood for widows and we’ve babysat for a few families. We serve more than we thought we did.
Family Dinner: The main thing I have done in this area is go to the store more. Ha. Turns out you need more food around your house if you are going to eat in. I also hired a kitchen helper to assemble 10 freezer meals for me so that we can have family dinner more often. The money I spent on her was the amount I would have spent on one meal out. And for fun, I cleared off a chalkboard in the kitchen area so that I can post our weekly menu.
Family Home Evening: Elle typed up a new agenda and created a new family home evening job chart with an old window pane, chalkboard labels, and clothespins. Now we can keep better track of who is doing what.
Family Scripture Study: Not much progress here, other than there is a Book of Mormon in our car now and we do have a calendar printed to keep track of our days.
Finances: Although the lemonade stand hasn’t happened, all the kids got a job walking a dog in the neighborhood. They take turns and get paid $5 a day. We use Finance Friday to distribute their paychecks, pay tithing, and add to savings. Elle started a business and Crew’s business is in the works.
Nature: We’ve been boating, hiking, swimming, and we have plans to go bike riding this week. Chad goes mountain biking and I go walking and we’ve done yoga in the park together a few times on Saturdays. At least the kids see their parents getting out in nature if nothing else.
Despite some deficiencies, I am happy with our progress and planning in getting it together. But I am most happy that the success of our family is now a family effort, not just a mom effort. I am hoping by spreading the work and the responsibility on everyone’s shoulders, we will have longer lasting results, and we won’t have to “get it together” again for at least a few months.