As I’ve had these past few months to think about being a mother…having family, building a family, I, of course, have also been mulling over what exactly our end goal is here. What kind of family culture do we want to develop? What do we want our children and our family to be known and remembered for? What family traditions and ways of being do we want to pass down to our grandchildren? I know well enough to know that developing a great family culture won’t just happen without some direction and constant refocusing and repetition over the years. Oliver and I were both fortunate to come from very strong, loving families. And while the list of “good things” we hope our family will be is a very long one indeed, I’m starting to develop a (smaller) list of the elements that we particularly want to shape our family culture over the years, in big ways and small.
- We love each other and genuinely love spending time together. This is absolutely number one. My heart aches to build a family that is tight knit, one that talks honestly and often, one that loves spending weekends and special seasons together. One rich with traditions and a sense of belonging. I want us to enjoy working on projects and going on adventures together, to value family time far over and beyond time with any other people or any other things. I want family BBQs and trips to the pool, family reunions and get together often when our kids have kids of their own, and kids whose best friends are their siblings.
- Mom & Dad are solid and life at home is stable and secure. Our home has to be a place where our kids are safe and taken care of. Where they might not ever claim to see perfection, but will always be able to say with 100% certainty, that their parents love each other to pieces and have a solid, unshakable relationship. Where they can come back home anytime to feel protected and at peace. I want to keep adult problems and stresses strictly in the adult world, and never bother our children with these things, even as they become adults themselves. (This of course, means being able to take care of ourselves and our lives without question or concern over the years.) Home for our family has to be unwavering and unshakable. Life will do enough shaking for all of us combined in one way or another, anyway. Home has to be the solid foundation under our feet.
- We like to build things, individually and together. Both O and I are already like this…the unquenchable desire to “build things” is probably our biggest hobby and overlap as a couple. I want our family, too, to value and encourage big dreams and big projects, and well as any and everything they want to explore and teach themselves to do. We want to enable curiosity and drive and tinkering, to support experiments and pitch in on projects, whether for 5 year olds or 25 year olds alike.
- We encourage both every day and big innovation. Along those lines, I want to build a family that is constantly acting on opportunities for improvement they see in life. If the kids decide there is a better way to clean the bathroom, I want to hear it. If there is a better way to build a fort, or garden, or optimize the cash flow of a lemonade stand, we’re all in. I want us to constantly be on the hunt for ways to optimize, to beautify, and to improve, and also have the guts and gusto to build the things we dream up.
- We’ve got a good grip on the dollars and cents of things. Just like bodies are to doctors, money, to our family, will be non-emotional. It’s a tool and resource to be used strategically, to provide essentials, joy, love, protection, and support. I want from a young age all of our children to have a good grip on money, how to earn it, how to save it, how to invest it, and how to give it. I want them to learn prudence and principals of growth and ownership. I want them to be able to manage their own money to such a way that it enables their lives, not causes stresses on it. I want our family to be thrifty and strategic. To build and to own things, to be deliberate about when and how we spend the money we earn, and in doing so, be completely free of it.
- We make life special. Along with the desire to have a family that loves spending time together, I want to build a family that makes life special. I want every holiday, birthday, and event to be honestly celebrated. I want our kids to help shape and establish traditions for the holidays, to look forward to the different seasons because of it, and to have the ability to make life special for other people, too. I want us to be a family that gives thoughtful presents and write letters instead of present tags. One that takes every opportunity to enjoy the festivities and celebration that life and season have to offer.
- We value being tidy and orderly. I want our family to be the kind that feels most comfortable and enabled when the house is tidy. I want us to show our children, by example, that keeping an orderly house is something we enjoy doing because we value the way it makes us feel. I want to raise children that (eventually!) will leave home, and find that they, too, prefer and are most comfortable in a tidy life, and be equipped with the skills and habits needed to make that happen, day in and day out. I want to teach them strategies and tactics for how to optimize, pickup, and organize over the years, and I want to teach them all to have a hunger and energy for doing it.
- We are trustworthy and dependable. As a mother, I know this will prove to be difficult, but I want to always keep my word to my children. If I say we can go to the park in 30 minutes, I want to go, even if I discover another, more important task five minutes later that I think should take priority. I want my children to call me out when I make promises and then break them. I want to apologize for this. I want to teach our children that if they say they will do something, we expect them to do it, and do it on-time, and well. I want our family to be known for keeping our commitments, for being on top of things, for never letting things we promised to others that we’d do “slip through the cracks”. And, consequently, I want us to commit to things deliberately and intentionally, not haphazardly and casually. I want others to look at my boys and know that when they say something will get done, it always will.
- We like doing kind things for others. I want to build a family that delights in doing little nice things for other people. I want to go on kindness adventures and to relish secret present doorbell ditching for friends and family. I want us to be thoughtful and kind to neighbors, people at work, and even strangers. I want our family to pay attention to others in such a way that we perceive what they need and what they value, and then, quietly, delightedly, do little kind things here and there to show them we noticed.
Maybe I’ll look back on this in 50 years and laugh. Admittedly, this is a tall order, but an important one, and one worth working on every day. Every once of effort spent on developing family culture when our kids are young, will, I have a sneaking suspicion, be compounded a dozen fold as they go on to grow up, shape the world, and build family cultures of their own one day. Of course if won’t be easy, but then, the things that are really worth it never are.