|Playing in the backyard|
"We now live in the best and worst of times for families. The worst of times because families have historically followed the guidance of their community and culture in shaping marriage, child-rearing and the countless other elements of family living; and now the community and culture are unable to provide a coherent vision or set of tools and supports. Families are left to struggle on their own. We also live in the best of times because we understand better what makes families work, and because now we have unprecedented freedom to shape the kind of family life we want, to be intentional about our families.
Sometimes with my therapy clients, I use an analogy of the Mississippi River, which flows just a couple of miles from my office. I say that family life is like putting a canoe into that great body of water. If you enter the water at St. Paul and don't do anything, you will head south toward New Orleans. If you want to go north, or even stay at St. Paul, you have to work hard and have a plan. In the same way, if you get married or have a child without a working plan for you family's journey, you will likely head "south" toward less closeness , less meaning, and less joy over time. A family, like a canoe, must be steered or paddled, or it won't take you where you want to go." - William Doherty. Ph.D The Intentional FamilyIn a culture where selfishness prevails (as Doherty put it, the question is now "ask not what you can do for your family; ask what your family can do for you) and values are being tossed aside for the sake of "pleasure" and "fun". We will end up miserable and lost if we choose to follow the cultural flow. I know for a fact (as I have seen it over and over again in my life) that focusing on me (my needs, my wants) does not bring me joy, but focusing on others, ironically, fulfills all of my needs and wants. The cultural flow will lead us to broken or unhappy families and individual misery.
If we want to stay afloat and headed towards eternal family unity and joy - we must evaluate our daily, weekly and seasonal traditions. We must be intentional about what we participate in as a family. Doherty continues,
"At heart, the Intentional Family is a ritualizing family. It creates patterns of connecting through everyday family rituals, seasonal celebrations, special occasions, and community involvement. An Intentional Family does not let mealtimes deteriorate into television watching. It does not let adolescents "do their own thing" at the expense of family outings. It is willing to look at how it handles Christmas or bar mitzvahs in order to make them work better for everyone. It has the discipline to stick with good rituals and the flexibility to change them when they are not working anymore."
I met another mom, at my children's choir practice, that has chosen to not celebrate Halloween in a traditional way. I am meeting more and more of them these days. In the past, my first reaction to these kinds of moms was a feeling that they didn't realize the value of just having fun with their families and enjoying traditions with their community (even if they did start as pagan traditions, they have turned into community bonding traditions and good things have come of them).
Lately, though, as I have become more intentional about the things we do as a family in our daily lives, I have started to see the need for being more intentional about the things we do in our weekly, monthly and holiday traditions. I now admire these women who have had the courage to say, "This isn't working for our family, and, even though it's weird, we will do things differently".
I was reading a post that talked about holidays or "Holy Days" and the purpose behind them. I looked up her links and they also gave me some things to think about in regards to how we want to spend our holidays. I do think there is value to just having fun or "wholesome recreation" as a family. I do want to make sure that that recreation is wholesome and that it works for our particular family.
Traditions are tricky things though. One of the hardest things for a newly married couple to do is to take each others' traditions, modify them, and make them work for their newly formed family. Things as silly as how to wrap Christmas presents, what kind of food to eat for special occasions or even what way to put the toilet paper on the roll can cause conflict. We are very tied to our traditions and we can take it as a personal insult if someone does not agree with how we've always done things. We may also think that people think they are better than us if they think they have "better" traditions than we do. Traditions are emotionally volatile issues.
|Ray ready to go to the Halloween party|
|At a pumpkin patch with some friends|
I don't want this to be a source of contention for our family and our marriage. What I hope to do is set some time aside with Rock and go through our traditions, figure out which ones we love and why, see which ones we just do because we're used to them, and most importantly figure out, through prayer and pondering, which ones our Heavenly Father would want us to keep, to get rid of, or to start. I think, as happened in many instances before, that if we do this we can come to a united plan that will help our family grow closer to each other and to our Heavenly Father.
|A rainbow on Halloween night|
Painting Pumpkins and Gourds:
The important thing is to figure out what you really think is important to your family and do just those things. Those are the things that will have meaning and will bring joy. Anything else will only drain your energy and be a burden.
Here is my list for Halloween:
Things I like:
-Talking to neighbors that I don't often talk to
-A day set apart to do something different as a family
-Seeing the neighborhood kids when they come to my door (I enjoy this for the first 30-60 minutes. After that, I get tired of answering the door).
Things I don't like:
-Too much candy (by that I mean more than 2 or 3 pieces)
-Scary, gory or immodest costumes (I used to love haunted houses, but now I feel like the Spirit leaves me when I'm scared so I don't like them so much anymore)
-Buying or making costumes that are not what I want my kids to be pretending to be (if it's something that I can put in their dress-up stuff that I would like them pretending on a regular basis, I don't mind so much).
-Answering the door every five minutes (after the initial 30-60 minutes).
-The ambiguity of what exactly it is that we are celebrating. I would like there to be some meaning, but the real meaning of Halloween is not something I would like our family to celebrate.
This year, we modified things a little, but I think we can do a lot better. Here's what we did:
-We made Halloween-type meals: creepy crepes with Spinach smoothies for breakfast, a BIG salad (to counter the candy later) for lunch with a pumpkin-shaped donut, and we had pizza and treats at the ward Halloween party for dinner.
-We dressed up as pioneers (with our pioneer trek clothes)
-We attended the ward Halloween party
-The 2 older kids went trick-or-treating with their dad just once around the block and brought home candy to share with their siblings. The younger kids stayed home with me and helped me make popcorn and hand out candy.
-We passed out candy until 7 and then left it outside with a sign that said "Please pick one"
-At 7 we turned out all the lights, got in our cozy jammies, went downstairs and watched "How to Train a Dragon" while we snacked on popcorn, pomegranates and trick-or-treating candy. A movie has become a novelty around here so that was a pretty big deal.
That's pretty much it. During the day the kids raked up leaves and jumped in them and read books. I thought it was a nice day. I just know we could make it more meaningful if we really thought about it in an intentional way.