What should our family look like?
I feel like my whole life is a test I didn’t study for.
I was always anxious. I tiptoe on eggshells around my parents. I shouldn’t have to.
I have a rocky relationship with my parents and my husband’s sisters. We have nothing in common. I have different priorities and values.
I’m tired of being apologetic about my choices.
My parents are really well-off financially and have a 3500 sq. ft. house and 3 cars but complain constantly about their money troubles. They sent a few items to two of my four children last Christmas and claim they “do not recall” playing favorites. He sends me daily emails dripping with racism about everything he thinks is wrong with our society.
It’s hard for me to make excuses to my children or protect my parents.
My parents fit every mark on this checklist.
I’ve spent the last twenty years healing and trying to create a healthy respectful family atmosphere for my kids. I had to re-parent myself and work through my trauma and history and grow up.
I want to be gentle, loving, kind, and proactive. I want my kids to grow up to whole and complete. I want them to realize their privilege. I pray they are loved as people and I did enough.
Gentle parenting is “guiding instead of controlling, connecting instead of punishing, encouraging instead of demanding. It’s about listening, understanding, responding, and communicating.”~LR Knost
I have goals for my family based on what I don’t want. I honestly don’t really know anyone IRL who has a family I want as a role model. I think we’re all trying to do the best we can, but it’s getting harder and harder to be ignorant about being abusive, mean, punitive.
I wish I had been mature and healthy enough many years ago to have firm goals for my own family, but I’ve had to learn by trial and error, making many mistakes and living with many regrets.
My Family Goals
Parents, children, siblings, and others…should be ready and willing to forgive each other for most minor squabbles.
For everyday things – the bickering that comes with living closely with someone else.
I have always made it a big priority for our family to be active peacemakers.
I have some issues with forgiving, but I’m working on it.
Some things just don’t matter.
Being accepting doesn’t mean being a doormat. It means boundaries and respect.
Differences are good things. Iron sharpens iron.
Introverts and Extroverts can get along.
We respect and accept how we complement each other’s strengths. I have two very compliant kids and two very absent-minded and somewhat defiant kids. We have to talk things through when expectations clash.
There are all kinds of people in this world and we talk about it all day long and at dinnertime.
I am actively teaching anti-racism to my white children. There are no excuses for exclusion.
We should cheer each other on in our endeavors.
Soccer, baseball, gymnastics, academics, job interviews, promotions, awards.
We should be happy for each other. We should encourage each other to try even if it’s scary or hard.
We cry together and laugh together. We help each other through the big emotions.
We help each other through the bad times and lift each other up and over the hills.
Doing the right thing when no one is watching.
It’s easy to do what we’re “supposed to do” when an authority is watching us.
We live in a society of watchers, rule makers, legalistic check markers.
My father always prided himself on having integrity.
He picked and chose where it lied. He would steal office supplies, short change store clerks, poorly tip service staff, and cheat on his taxes. He’s very racist and anti-poor.
It was confusing for me as a kid, but it’s even harder as an adult as I teach my own kids to do the right thing all the time, in all circumstances, with all people.
Apparently, this idea is bizarre to most people, even Christians.
Family members should love each other.
Love looks different to everyone.
It’s important to know the love languages of my kids and spouse and actively try to show it in ways they perceive.
Shoulder time with my son and husband. Ice cream dates. Little gifts. Doing the dishes when they need it. Folding and putting away laundry. Going together for errands. Remembering important dates.
Love is forgiveness and healing. Love is duty and unity.
Love is action.
Living as a family often means yielding my will to someone else’s.
It doesn’t mean I am walked all over or invisible or lose my identity. I can never be called submissive.
It means that I feel the other person is more important or as important as myself.
I want my kids to have empathy and sympathy. I have to model that.
It means apologizing for wrongs. It means compromise.
It means knowing my limits and asking for help. It means self-care.
Ideally, everyone in the family should feel that way and it should be give and take and equally offered.
Sometimes the hardest gift we can give our children is the gift of acknowledging and accepting our own imperfections. Angelita Lim wrote, “I saw that you were perfect and I loved you. Then I saw that you were not perfect and I loved you even more.” There is deep truth to that. Our children need to see us being human, being real, being our messy beautiful selves so they know that’s it’s okay for them to be human and real and messy and that it’s all beautiful. Besides, aren’t we all a little more lovable when we’re soft and open and oh-so-velveteen-real instead of acting like we’re flawless, mistake-proof, and sharp-edged perfect?L.R. Knost
It’s up to me what my family looks like, what our values are. I have to model it and guide my husband and kids towards the goal.
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