We are not that family.
You know, the family with the matching sweaters sitting criss-cross-apple-sauce in front of the fireplace while Dad reads a favorite Bible passage and Mom follows up with leading a hymn on the piano and the children sing in harmony soaking up some deep spiritual truth. During these first 7 years of family life I find myself always comparing our lives to that family. And let me tell you, we are not that family.
My husband and I both come from broken homes. My parents divorced when I was 4 and living with my mother gave me a childhood full of yelling, abuse, and dysfunction. At 14 I lost my mom to a heart attack and moved to California to live with my single (gold-hearted) Dad. My husband’s father died in a car accident when he was just 12 and his mom shortly afterwards turned to alcohol to cope.
Every holiday we find ourselves scrapping for family traditions, trying to piece together some sort of family culture. I’ll never forget our first Christmas together before we had kids. That moment of bringing the Christmas tree through our front door and propping it up in the stand as best we could and questioning ourselves the whole way – WHY were we doing this? We had no reason other than everyone else was doing it. And the next morning when we discovered that the trunk had not been secured well enough and the tree was smashed all over the living room – ornaments shattered everywhere – we soberly questioned if God wasn’t trying to teach us something.
A few years later we find ourselves in a family of our own with three beautiful daughters. I feel like we’re always behind. Other Christian families have their traditions, their bonding times, teaching times and so forth. I’m 36 years old, married 9 years and I still can’t figure out how to keep the house clean and put dinner on the table each night, let alone establish a nightly bedtime routine that includes prayer and Bible reading. My husband is self employed and comes home each night to hours of invoicing and quotes, stopping only to at least have some sort of dinner together as a family, usually while watching TV. Honestly, I’m struggling. I feel like as the years slip by I’m failing to bring our family together and we are losing precious time to create an unbreakable family bond that is centered in God’s love for us.
The other day I went to an annual used homeschool curriculum sale and stumbled upon a book called Family Night Tool Chest. Having a family night was something that had been on my heart for days and I’d been praying that God would reveal his plan for our family and how to strengthen our bond together. I took a quick look at the pages and bought it on the spot. Family night. THAT’S what we needed.
One night a week is something we could do. Maybe I’m not quite yet putting meals on the table each night with candles and music, but we could certainly slap together a pizza family night every Friday and play games and have some sort of activity that sparks conversation about God. So I enlisted my little accountability partners and came up with a plan. (If you ever want to start a new habit or break and old one, tell your young children. Trust me, they’ll never let you drink coffee again without a fight if you ask them help you stop!)
For our first Family Night I issued the girls a large piece of butcher paper and asked them to make a sign. It was a serious “warm fuzzy” – as my Dad would have said – to watch them work together on a project. They were THRILLED at the idea of Family Night. We bought a pizza for dinner and set up a special table in the living room with a tablecloth. We hung the sign over the TV so we wouldn’t be tempted to watch something but be free of distractions. The girls just loved it.
I loved it.
In typical mommy fashion, my eyes filled with tears many times during the night. We opted for a game of Feed the Kitty instead of a Bible lesson, but we built the foundation of something great that night.
So while I might have used the idea of Family Night as an excuse to buy a pizza stone that I’ve always wanted, the real blessing in all of this is a new tradition that we are building together as a family. It’s a springboard to something great – something of deep meaning. I can feel it. I’m deeply thankful for God’s provision and guidance as he reveals to me the very great importance of Family.
And as I open my heart to His plan, I’m trying to give myself grace to not compare myself with what I imagine other Christian families are doing. God has made us who we are for a reason. Our kids are His kids and He has perfectly positioned us to parent them with His grace and provision. Starting where we’re at is exactly how to get to where God wants us.
Blessings on you and your family as God strengthens us daily!
Does your family have a special night together? How did you get started?
Here are some fun family night games & ideas from my website that you can print for free for your own family night! 🙂
Play the /L/ Sound Tongue Twister Game
Play the very silly and crazy Spanish Numbers & Colors Game
Go on a Nature Explorer Walk Together
Make Hidden Message Valentines for each other.
Want more Family Night inspiration and ideas? Visit the iHomeschoolNetwork link-up:
You’re definitely not alone here. I am struggling mightily to create this family culture and I see the years slipping by quicklywith my 8yo. Only 10 more years to get this right and they seem to fly by! I wonder if this is a very common thing in dysfuntional families? There were no deaths in my family, but my mother is mentally ill and struggling with her own demons. My parents were absuive and yelled and scream. To this day, it befuddles me on how exactly one learns to keep house clean on a consistent basis. My family never ate at the dinner table either.