As we entered a house, we quickly determined if particular pieces would fit, like the dining room table or the piano. But our primary consideration was our living area, the kitchen and the family room. In each house that showed potential, I tried to picture our family, hanging out together.
Over the years, our kids enjoyed some time in their bedrooms, but they usually gravitated to the kitchen and family room area because it’s where we live. It’s where we play and laugh, catch up with each other, have serious conversations, goof off and simply share life.
We didn’t get there overnight. It’s required lots of intentional effort and much prayer to forge relationships of depth.
Especially today, children are faced with plenty of opportunities to isolate themselves – playing video games, watching TV, listening to their iPod, doing Facebook or any number of activities on the computer… In addition, there are plenty of activities to pull our children away from home and therefore, away from cultivating family relationships. Our children need opportunities to come together within the family – with us and with their siblings. Ideally, we are molding strong life-long intimate relationships.
We need to initiate more opportunities for building relationships within our family. A lot of these opportunities are simple things, brief pockets of time. Others are predetermined boundaries such as when the TV is on or how much time is spent on the computer or the phone. Often when I was folding laundry, emptying the dish washer, or cooking supper, I’d call one of the kids to come to talk. If two of the kids were playing separately, I’d suggest something for them to do together, or prompt one to go join the other. Other times, I’d simply go insert myself into whatever one of the kids was doing because I wanted it to be natural that I was around when they were home.
Our children will pull away at different times as they explore and wrestle with the changes and adjustments of getting older – whether they’re 7 going on 8 or 16 going on 17. During these times, I really pray – but I don’t follow their lead. I pray and try to follow God’s lead.
Were my suggestions and gestures always welcome? Take a guess! Our kids really enjoyed our boundaries about the TV and computer – not! (Next time, I’ll tell you about what that was like in our house.)
Really being a family requires us to seize lots of opportunities to practice living together.
It’s really hard. Building great things usually is.