Sunday, April 15, 2012

10 Parenting Principles I Wish I'd Known: Episode Five

5) Family Time is Important. And Necessary. And Intimidating. But It Shouldn't Be.

Some families have great traditions from early on. Family Game Night. Pizza Night. Movie Night. Lots of things that the family does together that strengthens the bond they share.

Those families are lucky.

Then you have families that struggle to find that family time. Families that get lost in the daily grind of work, school, etc. Families who spend a lot of their "down time" reading and watching TV in separate rooms. Not really the best way to strengthen family bonds.

Many of the families that fall into Category B want to find more meaningful family time, but it can be intimidating.

In today's world, we are flooded with images of "perfect" families. Don't get me wrong, we also see dysfunctional families and lots of other things. But how many times have you been watching TV and run across a show that shows some family spending time together, looking so happy, usually after resolving some big drama much more easily than you ever could in real life. Or seen the same thing in a movie. Or ran across a book or magazine with a magic list of fun things to do with your family. And searching for "fun things to do with my family" yields over 308 million hits on Google.

So many people get stuck trying to figure out the best way to spend time with their family.

Go to the park? Go to a ball game? Go camping? Amusement park? Gardening? Trip out of town? Cooking? Swimming? Scavenger hunt? Game Night? Movies? Zoo? Bowling? Laser Tag? Scrapbook? Play Barbies? Bakugan? Build a fort? Talent Show? Fly a kite?

Feeling overwhelmed yet?

So many people get so caught up in trying to figure out what to DO for family time that they get overwhelmed and end up not doing anything that they feel is "special" family time. Sure, you still spend time together as a family, but you are not doing the activities that make you FEEL like you are getting that special bonding time.

I had always thought that I would be "that mom." You know, the one that bakes cookies with her kids weekly, has family game night once a week, plans a new activity each weekend, etc. We'd go camping one weekend, bowling the next, day trips to the zoo, etc.

Then I had kids. And it can be EXHAUSTING just getting through the daily grind, let alone planning and executing special family time.

Hubby and I both have full-time jobs. He is very involved in several fraternal organizations. I am involved in several things of my own. Sassy and Diva have school. And Monkey is a toddler. 'Nuff said. We have some responsibility or activity almost every weekend. Out of the next 6 weekends, each one has at least 1 major event except one. Evenings during the week involve coming home from work/school, dinner, homework, and bedtime routine. Not a lot of space for additional family activities other than our usually already packed weekends.

So I understand how overwhelming it can be to make time for quality family time. I get it.

But do you know what I have realized?

We don't NEED to plan and execute special family time to HAVE special family time.

It has taken me some time to learn this lesson, mostly because I had all these grand ideas of what quality family time should be. Like when you are in the kitchen and you envision yourself as Julia Child, Anthony Bourdain, or Rachel Ray. And really you are burning grilled cheese and overcooking your pasta.

Let me give you an example. A few weekends ago, we had events and meetings on Saturday. On Sunday, we spent some time at my MIL's in the morning, then had a birthday part early in the afternoon. Afterwards, we had a few hours free until dinnertime. So we decided to get the family out to enjoy the spring weather. Just spur of the moment, we decided to head for a local park.

Nothing fancy.
No big activities.
Just a small playground and a scenic overlook of our city.

We let the kids play on the playground

Monkey monkeyed around with Hubby's help

Sassy struck a pose on one of the cannons

Diva struck a pose on top of the playground

I even tried to get a family photo of all 3 kids. And failed. Monkey looks most unhappy. And slightly constipated.

But it was still a great time. We were there for a little over an hour at a small park less than 10 minutes from our home. It just goes to show you that some of the most special quality family time you will spend is unscripted and spontaneous instead of orchestrated and meticulously planned.

You don't have to make big plans to spend time with your family.

Just DO it and memories will happen.

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