Isn't it interesting how we can "know" something to be true,
and even profess to others to believe it,
and yet not really internalize it until years later?
Or maybe I'm just a slow learner --
it can take quite a while for some things to get from my head to my heart.
It wasn't too long ago that being together as a family was hard. Really hard. Graduate school and new jobs left my other half, an introvert, with little energy or patience for family life at the end of the day. Working full-time and homeschooling left me with little energy or patience for family life at the end of the day. And the end of the day was the only time we had together as a family. With everyone's nerves shot, it became the most dreaded part of the day. We didn't know how to be together. Evenings were a matter of survival -- get everyone fed and to bed as quickly as possible, so I could escape into my never-ending to-do list or a book or sleep. I don't even know how it began, but it spread slowly, like a disease -- the dread starting to creep into the weekends as well -- so much to do, so little time to do it, no patience, everyone annoying each other, everyone being annoyed -- and even into our Sundays, which we had still been trying to set aside as family time.
It really was miserable.
And then ...
... enough was enough.
I hit bottom.
But for the grace of God ...
... I was blessed with a wonderful spiritual director, who affirmed that my desire for a peaceful, joyful home was from God. And that I should beg Him for that, and for the consolation necessary to persevere in that goal.
(Isn't it amazing how hearing something we know already
from someone else can flip a switch?)
And it was a little light.
Followed by a lot of prayer.
Thankfully, my other half and I were on the same page -- both of us were miserable and both of us knew something needed to change. We started small with a family rosary after dinner.
A little more light.
A little more prayer.
Next, we decided on a course of action -- more time together.
In addition to rededicating Sundays to family togetherness, we added one evening a week of designated family time -- we got a membership to the local aquatic center and racquetball club and began going swimming on Wednesday nights and then out for frozen yogurt. (And, even though I HATED going swimming and out for frozen yogurt when it was twenty degrees BELOW zero outside, I made up my mind that I was going to enjoy it because everyone else did. And, once I got over the dread of leaving the house, and actually left, I really did enjoy it.)
A little more light.
Next came the decision to spend a whole month in Montana over the summer.
Away from work commitments -- both his and mine -- away from friends and camps and summer sports, away from home project distractions and cleaning and mowing, I found that I really enjoy being with my family. We climbed mountain peaks, discovered the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone National Park, studied birds, explored creeks, played games, colored in coloring books.
As July came to an end, I was aware of what I had found and didn't want to lose when we returned to our school year routine. And I began to think about how to incorporate more family time into our weekly schedule. Now we have game night on Mondays, swimming or racquetball on Tuesdays, a family dance class on Wednesdays -- and, while it doesn't always work out the way it's planned, it's still a concentrated effort to spend time together on a regular basis.
2014 Lesson #1:
The way to learn how to be together as a family,
and to enjoy one another,
is to be together as a family and enjoy one another.
As the kids get older, I am realizing just how precious my time with them is. It's a lesson I don't know if I could have learned when they were small and I took time with them for granted, but I wish I would have learned it sooner nonetheless. The girls are getting to an age where they would often rather be with friends than family, and the new struggle is to balance their need for independence with my desire to have them home with me -- to hold them close, but to let them go at the same time.
I haven't figured that one out yet ...
... maybe that's a lesson for this year.