My Family, My Priority

“I am a loving husband and involved father, who places my family above all other relationships in my life.”

So goes one of the key “statement of truth” affirmations I have written on a post it and hung in my bath room mirror. One of at least three that I read each and every day, have now memorized, and am finding out that there are sorts of situations in life where reminding of me of that statement makes a decision much more black and white.

This week in my coaching experience I am exploring my family life development. As I walked through the initial survey, I found more positive things than I presumed I might. I’ve heard over and over and over again that “time” is perhaps the best thing thing you can offer your family, and it seems to be one of the things I have tremendous opportunities to offer my family, either because of “must do” types of things each day (i.e. feed the baby) or “can do” things, such as the rather flexible schedule I have that allows me to work at home a couple days a week and cut out an hour and a half of commuting time each day. What I found myself asking, though, was something along the lines of, “even though I have all these opportunities, am I taking advantage of them to their fullest?” As I explored that, I believe what I’m finding is what I’ve found in many other areas of my life… I have great opportunities, but for the most part, I spuratically take advantage of those opportunities. I don’t have too many established habits, although there are some, and even though they may “seem” small, I think they are probably much greater than I’d allow myself to think. Things like:

  • I have gone for 11 years of marriage without a TV in my bedroom. It has provided the opportunity for numerous conversations that could otherwise have been zoned out or cut short by the evening news or weather. While not an end-all solution in itself, I can’t deny the impact this decision, and stick with it, have had.
  • I eat dinner with my family every day of the year. Well, not every day. But probably at least 300 – 325 meals a year. Whether it’s gathered around the kitchen table, cramped into the car in a parking lot wolfing down sandwiches, or a special night at the park, spending this time together matters. I don’t think it matters if there is a specified agenda to discuss or a rule that we can or can’t have the TV on… again, it’s the time that matters. What I wonder, though, is how this will “stick” or become more of an effort or forced occasion as our kids grow up. I don’t exactly want a Leave it to Beaver existance, but at the same time, I want my kids and wife to know what is important to me, and to know why. And I suppose that means I should make sure I know that as well.
  • I go to bed at the same time as my wife. This one’s caused some headaches… literally. I love opportunities to get my sleep in and start my day before the first hint of dawn, and my wife makes a great night owl. I enjoy the night life too, but there are those days when you know your morning will suffer if you stay up late, and that the only reason your staying up late on that particular day is because of something you’re really not personally invested in. I’ve given my wife a hard time on it, almost forced her to go to bed without me sometimes when she (or I) is sick or something, but again, for the most part, this is an unwritten rule in our home. And I should probably quit fighting it and recognize it for what it is: a blessing. I know many families that don’t even have the opportunity for this type of shared life with their spouse because of work or other obligations. I also know families who consider it quite normal to fall asleep in the chair and wake up in the middle of the night, TV muted, and spouse in the opposite corner of the house, in bed, alone.
  • My family has gone on several adventures together. Whether it’s a week long trip to Disney or our first roadtrip with the second child, we’ve done a lot together. There are some freedoms we haven’t achieved or made happen yet, such as a two week vacation or one completely free of the business email check or cell phone… but in all honesty, I think we do a lot together. There’s a lot of room for improvement, but as I look into the future, I don’t want to sell ourselves short. Besides vacations, we’ve ventured into horse ownership and mini-farm / garden adventures together, for example.
  • My wife and are committed to our marriage, and we’ve seen that commitment tested. Trials will come. So will tests. Whether they are by outside forces pressing in or personal failures and weaknesses raising their ugly head, all these pictures of a nice little world, including the white picket fence around the front yard, will be put to the test. We’ve been down this road. We’ve seen how close a family can come to falling apart, and the critical decisions at critical moments when it really is do or die, make or break.

All those good things considered… Where are we? Where do we want to go? Having dinner together, going to bed together, or not watching TV in the bedroom are good and dandy, but WHY? What is the bigger story they’re part of? What do I want to accomnplish with my family?

The “Where are we” question is a good one to start with. I think we have a lot of good habits, but we’ve probably got our share of bad ones as well. For myself, things like body language, looks, and sarcasm that I give without consideration to how it will come across can become a big blow to those I love most. The same could be true with plain worn-out-edness from work at the end of the day, and coming home to a wife who is also worn our from her more-than-full-time job of being a mother. As I look into the future, I see how coming up with specific things that I, and we, want to accomplish as a family will help us find the push through those hard times, as well as the motivation for the bigger things in life.

So what are some categories of goals I’d like to accomplish with and through my family? Here are a few, based on what I’ve considered recently, as well as a brief look back through my ever-increasing dream inventory:

  • Reach out to kids without a stable home environment through love and hope.
  • Develop an intentional use of time together each day so that all recognize it’s value.
  • Take a two week vacation to a place far, far away.
  • Develop methods to better “leave work at work”, both during the week and on vacation.
  • Plan our future together – short and long term – money, time, goals, etc.
  • Be a couple known for listening, understanding, and even giving counsel to other couples and/or teens.
  • Spend more planned time one-on-one with my wife.
  • See my children come to know (and be known by), love (and be loved by), and serve their Creator.
  • Develop regular one-on-one activities with my children.
  • Encourage my children to find and pursue their dreams, even at an early age.
  • Encourage and help my wife find/rediscover and pursue her dreams, no matter how far-fetched they may seem.
  • Understand my own need for personal discovery, and recognize that each of us will have to make some journeys on our own.

I believe the next step I’ll be doing here later on this week is coming up with some actual goals and steps to pursue and achieve some of these areas I’d like to see us accomplish as a family. So I’ll probably be coming back to this shortly. But for now, that’s us, where we are, and some of the places I’d love to see us go.

This was originally written in September of 2010, but I’m bubbling it back to the top as it’s still sooo important to me.

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