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.