A friend posted a comment on one my Facebook posts that succinctly summarized something that I've been pondering for a while. He said "I would be messier, care less that every thing is just right and focus more on the kids." I've been trying to figure out how to be less concerned with things that don't matter in the long run, and more concerned with the things that do.
My default is to focus on appearances...how my house looks, how my kids behave in public, how I'm perceived by those outside of my family. But that isn't really what I desire to focus on. So, speaking specifically about my family, how can I be more intentional? The reality is that apart from schooling them, I spend a proportionally small amount of my time just being with them. So then I ask myself if this is just some cultural fad. Do we need to spend X amount of time on the floor with our kids so that they are well adjusted? Do our kids need scheduled play time with us?
For perspective, I look back though history and how families have functioned. I think in large part, little bitty kids were at their mother's side. Not necessarily playing games with her, but near her, maybe playing independently on the ground, talking to her, and mother was never distracted by text messages or Facebook or a telephone call (just by washing or cooking or mending).
School age kids (or often just boys) either went to school somewhere or were tutored at home by a slave or a hired tutor. I doubt that many mothers were spending money and time to purchase the best curriculum and spending 5-6 hours of her day teaching math to her large family. She was most likely too busy with her household duties, with buying and selling, most of which the girls were helping her with.
I think older boys, if they weren't being formally schooled in some way, were probably with their fathers, either helping with any manual labor or watching as deals were struck and business was carried out. As soon as they were big enough and old enough to help, they were right in the thick of it.
Dads didn't sit in front of computer all day in offices where kids are frowned upon. This was back when children wanted to become like their parents.
Then, at the end of every day, there were no cartoons to babysit the kids while things got done around the house. Parents weren't up until midnight finishing household chores or checking their twitter feed. No one was sitting at the dinner table checking Facebook. The end of the day would arrive and the family was together. Maybe playing music, listening to father or mother read a book, or just everyone relaxing in their own way before going to bed.
There weren't alarm clocks to get everyone up after their 6 hours of sleep. People more often woke up on their own when the morning came.
For Judeo-Christian history, families always had a least one day of the week to just be together. To worship as a family and then relax, maybe playing games or just enjoying each other. They didn't have to schedule family times or save up for months, or even years, to go on family vacations. Depending on the time/culture, a trip to visit extended family was vacation!
All that is very nostalgic, right? So...what can I learn from history? I'm certainly glad that I'm living when and where I'm living. I'm glad that dysentery and polio won't kill or cripple my children. I'm thankful for conveniences and more time to do things other than housework (like volunteer at the orphanage) and I LOVE being my children's school teacher. At this point, I don't like my other options for schooling, anyway.
But are all of the things that we've lost unavoidable? Can we get any of that back with easy changes or even just by being intentional?
Generally, we can start by getting off the phones/laptops/tablets. Getting off of Facebook and twitter and instagram. We can start by turning off the TV. We can share music together and books together.
We can invite our kids to participate in the few chores that we do, like mowing the lawn, pulling weeds, growing a little garden, sewing, mending, cooking dinner, washing the dishes, folding laundry. I don't mean just getting the kids a chore chart, but a "come and sit with me and help me fold these towels."
Maybe we figure out how to apply the Sabbath (or the Lord's Day) where we unplug and just be together without an agenda or a to-do list, and without having to be entertained.
Is this all unrealistic or too old-fashioned? Is it unnecessary?
After pondering this and discussing it with Brandon, we have decided to make a few small but intentional changes:
1. We are going to try to bring the children (probably one at a time) with us when we run errands, to have them participate in the process. Like teaching them about filling out the deposit slip at the bank, or the process of putting gas in the car.
2. Personally, I am going to unplug more. I'm going to (for the most part) get off of facebook, pinterest, and netflix. Those things don't add value to my day, and they use up time, which right now is my most valuable resource.
3. We are going to nix the movies for FFN (family fun night) and do other things instead like building forts, reading chapter books aloud, and having game night.
4. We are going to focus on unplugging and being together on Sunday afternoons. Not each of us doing our own thing.
So, what is working with your family and what isn't? Are you up for any changes? Share your thoughts with us!