Cultivating the Art of Family
Anything in life worth having is worth investing effort. Family doesn't just "happen". There are many elements to cultivating the art of family. This hub explores the elements of inventorying life as well as the importance of consistent discipline.
The Calm After the Storm
Rain soaked my shirt and pajama shorts. I lay face down on the trampoline – in a thunderstorm. I welcomed the cold wetness, an interruption from life – from the chaos within the walls of my home. Sounds of my husband correcting my children, and their oft rebuttals were silenced.
Disconnecting from heartache and frustration, I studied the slow water flow of rain toward the weighted touch-points of my body to the trampoline. A blurred line appeared as a small-scale river, its path smudging the clean lines of the trampoline’s cords. I focused on the trampoline mesh – an intricate weave of countless cords, each cord constructed of four-filaments of tightly intertwined fibers. The cords were no wider than an eighth of an inch. Tiny, almost miniscule holes were created where the cords crossed in the weave. Water closed the holes, blurring the view of the grass beneath. I closed one eye, and peered closely. Within minutes, visibility was sharp – the water had yielded to gravity, allowing crisp images of grass to be seen. I amused myself waiting for more rain to succumb to gravity. Two, three, then up to seven holes in a cluster would be freed from the water, and I could study the bend of the grass, the gradient of chlorophyll in each blade, the brown edges burnt from summer’s heat. I welcomed this pointless observation. I thrust my mind into the non-utilitarian study of my back lawn, searching for small creatures, unsuccessfully. The rain was too recent for the insects and other ground dwelling miniature beings to emerge from their refuge.
A bit ironic – the storm that caused the co-inhabitants of my property to seek refuge, provided refuge for me from the seemingly incessant fighting and bickering of my children. Thunder claps grew distant, and the birds welcomed the sun, as its heat warmed my bare arms and legs. I wondered, “Will I burn?”
I don’t know how much time passed during my short sabbatical. My responsibilities were not going to self-administrate. I decided to jump at least 100 times before yielding to my duties. Turning as I jumped, I prayed, "Father, I need Your help. Restore peace to my family. I cannot do this without You."
Proverb 4:26 tells us that inventorying life is productive, and worth the time investment.
Watch the path of your feet And all your ways will be established. - Proverb 4:26 New American Standard Bible
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. - KJV
Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be well-ordered - Darby Bible Translation
We Are Family - Sister Sledge
A Similar Story
I opened the door – my husband stood a few feet from where I entered. My husband vacillated between our children on either side of him – some in the kitchen to his left, some in the living room on his right – not missing a beat of his instruction. I walked silently through them, busying myself with tasks that needed my attention. Soon, the children were at my feet with comments or questions. To have seen me, one would not have thought a child was anywhere near me – I was unresponsive. I did not want to talk to anyone.
I remained silent and close-eared for at least an hour as I finished my checklist and prepared to shop for groceries. My five year old asked futilely, "Mommy, are you giving us the silent treatment?" They had heard about the silent treatment on one of their children's tv programs. At one point, one of my kids leaned heavily on my shoulder as I worked on the computer. I asked him, "Please do not lean on me." He jubiliantly whispered to his siblings, going from room to room to find each one, "Mommy's talking!" His announcement was met with happy exclamation, "Yay!" and "Really?" I don't think they had ever experience me ignore them.
As I finished my shopping and coupon lists, my husband and I chatted, and I broke down in tears. Something has got to give – and it cannot be me. This fighting and delayed obedience and often downright rebellion must cease. I longed for peace and joy to be restored in our relationships, corporately as a family, and individually. Family is an art, not just an existence. Family takes effort and discipline – and perseverance. Restriction from friends and computers was not effective. Corporal punishment was not effective. Taking toys proved futile. What? What more could my husband and I do? We’ve taught them the reasons for chores and stewardship, as well as for seeking love and peace with each other. For naught? I think not.
We decided to cancel all “extra-curricular” family activities for the weekend. We had planned to take the kids to the theatre, we told them, “If we take you to the movies now, we’ll just be rewarding poor choices. We can no longer do that.” The protests were curtailed by firm rebuke from husband, with the admonishment, “Your mom and I really desire to bless you and to do fun things together as a family. But, until we see improvement in how you treat each other, how you follow rules you already know, like your daily chores and taking care of your things, and especially until I see you respecting your mother every time she asks something of you, we will not be doing anything extra. Your mom and I will spend that money on something else.”
We made some other decisions that are proving effective. I will share those in another post to avoid being longwinded. (Too late?)
Worth the Effort
The busyness of life, the mixed-messages from media, words and actions compete for our families’ health. We can get lost in the muddle of disciplining children and frustrations of parenthood and life. Breaking away for a few moments from the demands of family is necessary for sanity, as well as clear thought process. Even Jesus took “breaks” by going off from daily routine to pray and seek solace for weeks at a time.
As I wrote above, family is an art. Any art form takes discipline to master. We frame the art of our families through decisions, goals and habits. Stepping back from the canvas and studying what is before you enables you to see if your efforts are creating something beautiful, or something unappealing – not necessarily for those who would observe your family, but for those who comprise your family. Is my home a place my children feel safe, nurtured, comforted? Do they have boundaries that are enforced?
We had boundaries, but we were “jumping” them by rewarding poor choices with fun activities. We had taught them, not through verbal instruction, but through inconsistent discipline, that their behavior was ok. We have re-established boundaries, and we are enforcing them at every angle. The results? Dinner time has actually been pleasant, conversation enjoyable. I am not implying things are perfect, but they are peaceful. Chores are being done – increasingly without a reminder, and with a lot less complaint. I am hopeful of continued improvement.
Thank you for investing your time to read. I hope the return of investment on your time spent is great. :)
As always, if you enjoyed this hub, were encouraged or provoked to thought and think others would enjoy reading, please share on your social networks. I welcome your comments and suggestions.
Thank you for maintaining respectful dialogue whether to me or other readers.