We have a big family. Our four children are grown up and adding to the numbers on an almost annual basis, so our original 6 is now 15 and I’m sure there will be more. We spend a lot of time together and we actually like each other. But we’re not perfect. Far from it. We’ve simply learned how to do family.
People often ask me how that happened.
I don’t know. Well, I do know, but it’s not a magic formula and it was (still is) a lot of hard work. Here’s what we did:
1. Always, ALWAYS keep open communication, right from the start. All of our children, at one time or another, tried to close themselves off from us, but isolation was not an option in our family. We encouraged them talk about what was going on in their lives, even when they didn’t want to. We knew they didn’t tell us everything and we didn’t expect them to, but the point was to make sure they knew that they could. Sometimes it was parent/kid dates. Or a notebook that got passed between mother and daughter when the subject was sensitive. Or just a simple after school conversation. The open communication still happens today. Voluntarily.
2. Have fun together. We indulged in many Family Adventures. These were activities – usually free – that all of us enjoyed. Playgrounds (when the kids were little), picnics, museums, long drives to see if we could get lost, hikes, movie nights, inviting another family to join us. Everybody was always up for a Family Adventure.
3. Go to church together. Church attendance was non-negotiable for our kids. I can’t stress enough the importance of worshiping as a family. It creates a unity that doesn’t come any other way. There came a time with each of our children when they didn’t want to go to church anymore – around age 13-15 – but our rule was that as long as they lived in our house, they had to abide by the rules of the house. And the rule was that everybody goes to church. No exceptions. Today, all of them are active in the churches they attend with their own families.
4. Pray for and with your family. I don’t even want to think about where our kids would be today if they’d had no prayer covering. I know that God saved them from a lot of heartache, physical danger and bad situations that could have sent them down the wrong path, and I am so thankful for His protection. He has kept us a strong family unit.
5. Love your kids unconditionally. No matter what they say or do. When they get married, love and accept their mates the same way. I’ve said many times that I love my in-law children just as if they had been born into our family. Really.
We’re not a model family. We haven’t escaped hard times. And we do argue periodically.
But when all is said and done, we are there for each other.
And that’s family.