People often say that nothing is more important than family. If you believe that, then ask yourself if your actions demonstrate that belief. If not, you always have time to make changes, especially when it comes to spending time with extended family.
Often, we allow life to get in the way of prioritizing time with our loved ones, whom we are unable to see each day. Work schedules, school events, practices and sporting events seem to consume the lives of those with children. I'm as guilty of this as anyone. My parents and brother live 45 minutes from me, while my sister is 20 minutes away, yet I see them maybe once a month.
My family and extended family are very good about getting together for the birthdays of our children. My mom and sister are great about getting the cousins together to do different things during the summer, such as bowling, movies, theme parks etc. My kids have a great relationship with extended family because of this.
Another fun thing my children used to do when they were younger, was to create and mail "Happy Birthday" cards for members of our extended family. My kids loved making them, and I know those who received them, enjoyed it just as much.
During the holiday season, we have a set routine which has become a tradition. I think that having the same set plan for the holidays is beneficial for all. This alleviates some level of stress for parents. Each year, we spend Thanksgiving at my Grandpa's home, then the ladies go shopping. Christmas Eve is spent at my sister's home, then everyone comes to our place Christmas afternoon. It works out great for our family, which are for the most part, in close proximity. Obviously, spending time with extended family who are hours or states away becomes much more difficult.
We all decide the things that we enjoy and are important to us—going to the gym, running, playing a round of golf, hunting or going to the spa, We are always able to find time to do the things we love, so making time for those who we love shouldn't be difficult.
Herb Cody is a husband and father of three. He is a part time Uber driver and full time caregiver of his spouse, who suffered a traumatic brain injury after an auto accident November, 2015. Herb loves football and is a St Louis Cardinals fanatic. He and his family live in Nixa MO. Herb can be reached for questions or comments at email@example.com . You can check out Herb's own blog at, www.thecodylife.weebly.com
The second Saturday in May they always appeared, side by side in the refrigerator, in perfect white boxes tied with gold cord. Sometimes they were roses, sometimes orchids. Always they were chosen to coordinate with dresses to be worn by my mother and grandmother the next day. They were one way my father annually honored both his wife and mother on Mother’s Day. The regularity of this simple gift spoke volumes to me, my brother, and my sister. It reminded us of the importance of not only loving our mother, and communicating that on a regular basis, but also setting aside time to honor her on special occasions. It emphasized to us the importance of remembering.
Two weeks after this event came Memorial Day, a time when we honor those who have gone before us and given their lives fighting for our country. Because of them we enjoy the freedoms we have today. Our farm family frequently spent the day making hay—it was that time of year in Missouri. But Mom always remembered to get out the flag and fly it from the front porch—no matter what we were doing. It made us reflect on where our freedom to make hay came from in the first place.
Hundreds of miles away, at the same time we were making hay, my husband’s family in Michigan was enjoying a slightly different observance of the day. His family typically made their semiannual trek to the cemetery on Memorial Day. Flowers were placed on graves or planted in urns as people walked among the grave markers and talked quietly of those who had died. It was a day for remembering.
Remembering, recalling, and respecting are vital to families. We need these times when we touch our roots, connect with our past, and recall the hard work, courage, and dedication of those who have gone before us. We need these intentional moments as inspiration for our future. According to Bill Doherty, author of The Intentional Family, “Only an Intentional Family has a fighting chance to maintain and increase its sense of connection, meaning, and community over the years” (p.8).
So how might you do this? Here are just a few ideas to consider trying this year with your children or grandchildren.
Dr. Jennifer Baker
Dr. Jennifer Baker is the Founder and Director of Good Dads. She is the wife of one, mother of two and grandmother of eight. She may be reached for question or comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*As a kid, my favorite of all the Holidays was Thanksgiving. We always celebrated at my Grandparents' house. It wasn’t out of the question to have 35-40 people gathered around five or six different tables. Their house was always full of laughter and love. Everyone would eat to their full. The parents would catch up on each others lives; the kids would catch up on play. It was a tradition I counted on, one I needed.
Thanksgiving evening, my Aunt Beckie would sit down at the old piano next to the kitchen. Like clockwork, you’d see most everyone shift their attention in her direction. She’d start playing old hymns from times past. Grandpa would always stand to the side of the piano singing with her. Pretty soon, ten other voices chimed in. If I close my eyes, I can still hear those sounds; I can still see a few tears rolling down thankful faces. It made me appreciate what I had. It helped me understand what it meant to be thankful for life and family.
With today’s fast paced culture, I’ve learned I have to be a bit more forward in how I encourage my kids to have an attitude of gratefulness. Technology, though it has it advantages, has watered down social interactions, and I want more than that for my children. I want my kids to feel the joy that sitting down at a big table with those they love, and lots of food, brings. I want them to have memories of playing outside with their cousins and friends without the burden of a cell phone. I want them to experience the unmatched feeling of giving to those who can do nothing for them in return. Twenty years from now I want them to be able sit down with their children, with watery eyes and a full heart, telling them stories of how it used to be. Just thinking about that kind of legacy makes my heart overflow.
So as we go into this Thanksgiving Holiday, here’s my wish for us all:
May our hearts be open.
May our burdens be lite.
And in all things, Be Thankful.
*We were unable to include Chris's post at Thanksgiving, but we thought much of what he said also applied to the Christmas holidays.
Chris Moss, with his wife Tiffany, keep company with five lively children. He currently resides on the outskirts of St. Louis, Missouri. Chris is the Missional Co-Founder of the grass-roots community organization The Serve Movement. He's a writer, a dreamer, and a voice for the underdog. He can be reached for comment or question at email@example.com or on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thechrismoss).
Fall evokes a myriad of emotions and memories for most people. By the looks of the grocery store aisles, it certainly must evoke all things pumpkin spice. But for many dads, it often brings thoughts of campfires, S’mores, and football . . . fantasy or otherwise. There is something about Fall that makes many of us feel like a kid, again. Maybe it’s the cooler temps, or the back-to-school rush, or hearing our own kids talk about what they’re going to “be” for Halloween. Whatever it is, it’s a great time to take advantage of those sentiments and celebrate, or perhaps even initiate fun, family, fall traditions.
The first thing most dads groan when they hear a statement above is, “Great. I’m already burning it at both ends, and now I have to be the Fall Fun Festivities Director?”
But, there are some simple activities dads can do with kids that don’t take a Herculean effort.
First, take advantage of events and happenings in your schools, churches, or communities that have already been planned out for you. Seriously, we don’t need to reinvent the Fall Harvest Wheel; we just need to hop on the wagon it’s supporting. Look at local calendars. What’s going on? Does your kids’ school already boast a Fall Carnival of some sort? Local churches host a variety of parties and events for the whole family. Have you checked out any of those? In addition, many city parks and recreation commissions offer family fall classes in everything from pumpkin painting to pre-holiday craft making.
We haven’t even touched Friday Night Lights. Maybe you have a Little Leaguer or two who would be incredibly inspired to bring their best at a Saturday morning game, after rooting for a local high school team the night before. Take blankets, hot chocolate, and get your painted faces to the stadium for a night of rowdy excitement. When you think about it, you’ve got a pretty economical evening to boot.
In addition to seizing opportunities already available to you and yours, there are some tailored traditions you can start, on your own. When my boys were younger, I was your typical, 60+ hours a week, over-worked dad. I loved my boys, but I didn’t have it in me to come up with one-of-a-kind Disney-worthy events. I brainstormed with my wife, and we decided on committing to two traditions each fall. Not that we didn’t do memorable things on a daily basis, or experience other amazing autumn happenings, but these were the two we wanted the boys to associate with fall in our home. One of those things was loading up the old Suburban on a Saturday morning, or as they got older – on Saturday night – and heading to a local pumpkin patch or corn maze. The patch/maze activities certainly changed over the years. Our toddlers petted animals, carefully picked pumpkins, and gleefully went on wagon rides. Our teenagers ran through complicated and dimly-lit corn mazes, then did some pumpkin’ chuckin’.
The second thing we did, was simply make sure that one evening, in early fall, we took a couple of hours to sit around our newspaper-protected dining table and carve pumpkins. Nothing extremely artistic, but something extremely satisfying . . . so satisfying that we often let the Jack-O-Lanterns inhabit our porch until they became very geriatric in appearance.
Whatever traditions you establish in the fall with your family, embrace it. It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive or one-of-a-kind. It just has to be together and heartfelt. Your family is one-of-a-kind enough.
Kevin Weaver, CEO of Network211 and father of three sons, lives with his wife KyAnne in Springfield, MO. He enjoys spending time with family, hunting and watching University of Kansas basketball with his boys! He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org