(the last post in this series on family)
Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables. -Spanish Proverb
My friend and I settled just behind the line of what light the fire flung and observed our people much like watching a play unfold itself on stage.
Bedtime songs of crickets, the static of low conversations, even coyote calls in the distance.
We take in the long breath of deep satisfaction and we continue our own discussions of good baked bread, summer gardens, and thyroids.
She asks one of those good questions and I know my friend is not one ever seeking an answer sitting right on the surface.
‘How do you keep your people close?’
I pinched my bottom lip like I do when I tuck into a cave of thoughts and scratched off a bit of melted marshmallow from an earlier s’more.
Then it struck me like a mosquito on my cheek: ‘This is part of it.’
Driving back towards the city under a fluttery sheet of stars, I began to chase the rabbit of that question in other ways we reign our people in to be together.
You know I don’t keep secrets here so I made us a list of some habits I think make good, strong cables:
1.Eat together. I’ve often talked about how our family dinners are our magic time. I’ve also kept no secrets about what a pain in the biscuits it can be what with gluten, green things, and kids with mouths. You can’t convince me this isn’t the fix for everything from acne to the ozone layer so don’t even try. The last few times we have had kid company over for dinner, I watched them watching us and one even asked wonderingly, ‘Do you guys do this every single night?’ After I over-explained about Pizza Friday and Pancake Sunday and on average 2 Fenfers a week, I said, ‘Yes, sir, we sure do.’ He said, ‘Cool.’ And then I looked at my kids like, ‘See how smart your friend here is?’
2. Get lots of good, old-fashioned Face Time. Does anyone else wonder sometimes if these smart phones maybe are just actually the dumbest thing to happen to us after all is said and done?
3. Say a lot of NO to other stuff. Every yes to anything else is splitting the hairs of time with our family: make sure that time is worth giving up.
4. Say a lot of NO to our kids. Let’s just all do them a favor now and let them in on that little secret we all know about? You know the one about the world not revolving around them and their comforts or their whims or their apps or their My First Mustang. They’ll be better humans for navigating disappointment with us instead of everyone being sick of them for being surprised and throwing a fit about it when they get out in the world.
5. Don’t forget how to have fun as a family. The great hamster wheel of life keeps us moving. It’s the nature of the cage. Adding people to the mix as we tend to do by way of cute babies tends to move it faster. It’s easy to get focused on making sure everything is spinning efficiently. What, exactly, would happen if that wheel stops spinning? We should find out as often as we can. Play. Make messes. Find adventures. Get paint on the table and mud in our toes: these are the things kids will remember.
6. Create safe places for our people. The safe places are where they grow, talk, ask questions, and learn to trust us (this comes in handy navigating hot-water situations). Is it at bedtime when you’re at the end of your rope and your boy wants to ask you about a word he heard at school? Or maybe you have a kid who likes to ‘help’ in the kitchen and while she’s making a larger-than-life mess on your counter she is also talking about a thing that bothers her. Some days it feels impossible, but slowing our rolls for the teachable moments is where the real life is. I have personally found a bag of chips to be a safe place in our home and my son will talk as long as he is crunching (and typically at the same time):
7. Live out in community. Drag our kids to dinners with our friends too late and have people over when our houses look as thrashed as it always does and don’t put on shoes for company and leave the dishes to meet for ice cream and love on other babies. Let our kids see us pray and cry and laugh and ask good questions not settled on the surface and debate presidents and hug necks and serve others and support dreams and lift boxes and carry burdens and bring casseroles for new mamas and go to weddings and give words of comfort in times of grief and erupt in unthinkable amounts of spontaneous laughter: they need to know how it’s supposed to be done and they learn by watching us. It’s also sanity for us as we all remember every day we are all just trying to show up, do the best we can, and we will try again tomorrow.
8. Say eight words every day: I’m sorry. I love you. I forgive you. (We’re all gonna be okay.)
9. If you have a spouse, love them more than you love your kids. Strong marriages tend to make strong families (kids figure marriage out by what we do). Plus? It’s just fun to gross our kids out by making kissy faces at each other or spontaneously dancing together and dreaming about Forever Date Night when they go off and make families of their own.
10. Love God more than you love your spouse. Loving God first and fully will never leave anyone in our lives unaffected.
Happy family, Friends.