As a child, I was blessed to have grown up in a very close knit family. My mom and dad loved my brother and I and they loved each other. Additionally, I grew up with the tremendous blessing of having all four of my grandparents nearby and very involved in my upbringing. Despite some craziness during my teenage years (for which I will now and forever blame *Buddy Kittle–I’m pretty sure he won’t ever read this, so it’s safe to blame him–ha!) I grew up blissfully unaware of the difficult challenges that many families faced. Oh sure, I’m sure that mom and dad had their moments of wanting to strangle each other (as all married couples experience from time to time) and lord knows that they had plenty of moments of wanting to strangle me–but overall, we were a happy and for the most part functional family.
As a child and teenager, I took my nice, stable, loving family life for granted. As an adult however; I now have a much greater appreciation for the sacrifices and efforts that my parents made on a daily basis to ensure that my brother and I grew up in a secure and loving environment. A supportive family unit is so crucial to the emotional well being of every member of the family. If there is strife between members, every individual in that family suffers as a result.
If you are feeling as though your family isn’t as close as you’d like or maybe you’re just a little out of sync these days, keep the following points in mind to help strengthen that all important familial bond…
1.) Labels Hurt. Most of us can look at our own families and immediately identify that one family member who is always getting into trouble. For me, that family member is my brother. HA HA! Okay–I’m lying. I’ll confess that I was the family member who was more prone to pushing the limits, breaking the rules and getting into trouble (thanks a lot *Buddy Kittle!) While I like to think that I was just a bit more spirited and headstrong, I’m sure that the word “troublemaker” was on the tips of everyone’s tongues during my teenage years.
How about you? What labels have stuck with you? Are you “the quiet one” or maybe “the showoff”? Perhaps you were “the smart one” who then felt pressured to maintain a ridiculous GPA or “the pretty one” who fell into a depression whenever a rogue pimple appeared. Yes–over time, even seemingly positive labels can have a negative effect on our self esteem if the pressure to live up to the label becomes too burdensome.
Labeling our family members is dangerous because it prevents us from seeing and appreciating their full range of FabYOUlousness and instead confines them to predetermined boxes with a set list of expectations. It simply isn’t fair to ascribe a single faceted label to a brilliant, multi-faceted human being.
2.) Time is a Treasure. I know, I know…we all know that we need to turn off the television and spend more quality time with our family members, but how many of us actually do it? How many of us miss our son’s football games because we are too wrapped up in a project at work (I’m guilty of this one myself) or how many of us hear about our child’s first steps or first words from the nanny rather than experiencing them firsthand?
As a mom with a full time job, I get it. The pressure to be a good parent and successful professional is immense and exhausting. Still…making our family a priority and then working our schedules to reflect our priorities is a juggling skill that we must try to master. Maybe we can’t make it to every football game, but do we at least make the effort to personally connect with our child to hear first hand how the game went and how they felt about their individual performance? Maybe we missed our little one’s first steps but do we make every effort to ensure that we make a big deal out of her second and third steps?
The time that we spend together as a family doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. A simple game of Uno or Jenga (or better yet–Jenga with a Twist) around the kitchen table can forge bonds that will last forever. It is important that we savor every moment that we can with our families because years have a way of slipping away in the blink of an eye. Before you know it, your sweet little four year old will be cruising Main Street on the back of *Buddy Kittle’s motorcycle while wearing a toga. Don’t let those years pass without forging plenty of happy memories and supportive bonds.
3.) Knowledge is Power. How well do you really know your family members? Can you name your teenage son’s favorite band or the position he plays in football? Do you know if the fella your daughter is dating is any relation to *Buddy Kittle? Do you know what book your spouse is currently reading? We live with our family members and think about them numerous times throughout the day but how well do we really know them? Make the effort now to really start listening to your family members and paying attention to their interests, hopes, fears and aspirations. I cannot imagine anything sadder than having a family full of strangers; so whether you eat dinner together three times a week or spend a lot of time driving your kids around to activities, use that time together as a chance to learn more about the things that are important in their worlds–you might be surprised at some of the interesting things you learn.
4.) Have FUN. When was the last time you and your family had a genuinely good time doing something fun together? If you have to stop and think about the answer to this question, it has been TOO LONG. Grab a frisbee, head to a water park, work on a jigsaw puzzle…just do something together with your family that is FUN. It is so easy to slip into a soul sucking routine of waking up, dashing off to work/school, coming home, eating take-out, doing homework, vegging in front of the TV, going to bed and waking up to do it all over again…day after day after day. Is it any wonder that our family life is suffering from a lack of connection and enthusiasm? Try breaking out of this dull, hamster-wheel of an existence by infusing your family time with a little fun. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive (though we are big proponents of family vacations), just something to get everyone laughing and relaxing together. These simple moments of shared enjoyment will be moments that form your family’s most cherished memories.
With a little concentrated effort and a dash of creativity, your family life can go from drab to FAB and every member will benefit tremendously from the added attention and affection. For more ideas on how to add more FabYOUlousness to your family life click here.
*Disclaimer–just in case Buddy Kittle does ever read this, I feel like I should point out that even though I got into more trouble as a result of Buddy’s high school hijinx, I also had more FUN with him than any person should be allowed to have. I guess it’s all just a matter of perspective.