I love talking to my husband. And it’s not just because I get to gaze deep into his green eyes. We have had some really great conversations about the meaning of love, life, and happiness over the years, and he never fails to come up with a new spin on things. Yesterday on the way home from church, that’s exactly what happened.
We began by talking about how a foundation of gospel study in the home can strengthen family relationships. I agreed, and I didn’t fail to remind him that every morning at precisely 7:45 a.m. I wrestled the boys down for ten minutes of scripture study. I mean, this was no mean feat–I deserved all the acknowledgement I could get!
And that got us talking about taking an active role in creating a family culture.
Pages and pages ago, I wrote about global culture vs. God’s culture. I told you all about my love for anthropology and how it seems to color my world perspective. Well, that also includes how I view my very own world that I have created–my family.
So macro-culture, meet micro-culture.
TO ACT OR REACT
Time is something that we can’t slow down. We can pretend to control it, but it comes and goes and doesn’t wait for anybody. However, it is what we do with that time that determines the outcome.
And you can either act, or react.
To act means to get up and do. It means to make a decision to make something happen.
To react means to allow things to happen to you. It means to decide what to do when something happens.
Does that make any sense? My own head is kind of swimming here.
Alright, here is an example:
As a child, I knew that holidays were important and special because suddenly decorations were everywhere. A christmas tree magically appeared. An easter basket sat at my place on the table. Or a summer vacation was planned for my enjoyment.
These are things that I reacted to because I certainly wasn’t making any decisions about when or how they would happen. But they still happened, and they even became something that I looked forward to, and even began to expect.
They were fun and exciting, and somehow I knew that they would carry on in my life forever.
~And here is where you insert the noise of a record screeching to a halt.~
After I got married and had children of my own, it suddenly dawned on me that I had to create the magic. I had to make the plans. I even had to stay up late into the night making sure that everything went according to said plans.
Well, that was a wake up call. Sure, for some of you, taking over these responsibilities probably seemed pretty obvious. But for me, not so much. I don’t know why, but my husband and I both found it mind-boggling that traditions didn’t just carry on without any effort.
I mean, it all seemed so easy when someone else was running the show.
The good news is, over the last twelve years, we’ve finally buckled down and hammered out our own traditions. We are finally acting instead of reacting.
IN FAVOR OF FAMILY CULTURE
So, let’s get back to the microcosm of family culture. Earlier, we defined culture as a way of making sense of the world around us. That means that a family culture would be the way your family makes sense of the world.
If life happens right before our eyes, and we can’t slow it down, we can harness it by choosing what we focus on–by what we choose to make our family culture.
And I firmly believe that we have to make a choice.
I believe this for two reasons.
- If we don’t make our own choices, they will be made for us.
- If we don’t provide a family culture for our children, they will search for one somewhere else.
CHOOSE YE THIS DAY
Let’s tackle reason number one.
- If we don’t make our own choices, they will be made for us.
What does that mean?
Well, here is another example from my very chaotic life. My youngest son is turning 4 on Friday. I have not yet planned anything for his birthday. I know, that makes me sound like a bad mom, but hear me out! My calendar looks like a battlefield, there is so much red on it. Every hour, it seems, is planned out so precise that if I slack anywhere, it will throw off the earth’s orbit.
Yes, I am busy with many obligations, but I would be reacting to the fact that my son’s birthday is coming up if I don’t make time to prepare for it. Instead, I have to act and continue to build up our family culture of celebrating our loved ones by preparing for a birthday recognition of some sort, right?!
And that is just how it goes with building a family culture. You have to choose in advance what will be important to your family, and you have to make a plan and carry it out.
Even when it is inconvenient.
Like my husband and I discussed yesterday in the car, if we want our home to be gospel-oriented, we have to make a plan to make it happen. If I didn’t plan for scripture reading to happen every morning at 7:45, I might just forget about it when there are still lunches to be packed, teeth to be brushed, and homework to be done at the last minute.
Instead, I am upholding our family culture by choosing to ignore those other things and give significance to family scripture study.
By giving significance to family culture, we teach our children what “our” world revolves around. We teach them that even though life might be busy, we always come back to these core things that hold our family together.
(I am pretty sure that my sons think the world revolves around chores, church, rugby and football!)
THIS SPOT IS TAKEN
That leads me to the second reason for making a choice for choosing family culture.
- If we don’t provide a family culture for our children, they will search for one elsewhere.
Humans are always seeking for validation. We want to know that we belong. That we are special. If you don’t believe me, try telling one of your three children how awesome they are, and see how long it takes for the other two to pipe up.
“What about me? What about me?”
As parents, we owe it to our children to create a family culture that fills this need for acceptance. If we cannot provide it for them, they will gravitate to whatever group provides it. By choosing to create a family culture, we are actively providing acceptance. Performing traditions again and again solidifies belonging. It anchors a family together through shared space and time.
It is in this way that consciously building a family culture can shape a child’s reality.
If you want to build a strong family, create significance. Make the effort to build into your schedule shared activities that aren’t just fun, but meaningful too. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or cost money, it can be as simple as designating 7:30 p.m. as story time every night, or Saturday morning is pancake morning.
How about Sunday afternoons are reserved for reading from the family history? Connect your children even more to the family culture by anchoring it back further in the past.
I promise you, that if you make the effort to develop a family culture of your own, when the time comes for boys and girls to choose between family or friends, it will be that anchor to family culture that brings them back every time.
Note: It would be wise to note that as kids grow older, their needs change. Don’t hesitate to update your family culture as you see fit. This might mean a family pow-wow around pizza and popcorn, or even a walk in the park. Adding your children to the conversation will only serve to strengthen family ties.
THE SUM OF ALL THINGS
I have had the opportunity to study many cultures over the years. On the whole, the cultures I studied, though, served to support the society and not so much the family.
In the world we live in today, cultural barriers are so vague that we are left with hardly any culture at all.
But that does not mean that culture is still not important. In fact, it is even more important now than ever.
“If we don’t stand for anything, we will fall for everything.”
Life may be busy and hectic, but do not let that keep you back from building something that will last a lifetime–a family culture.
There is truth to the old saying:
“A family that prays together, stays together.”
But don’t just stop at pray–play together, work together, laugh together, cry together, talk together…anything! Just do it–together.
I am grateful for a husband who understands this and wants to build a culture with me. I am glad that for a wonderful conversation that helped me realize the importance of establishing a family on something, and not just anything.
Need some pointers on how to start building a family culture? Check out The Family: A Proclamation to the World and get started today!
They say that you can measure an animal’s fitness not by its offspring, but by its descendants. In other words, by how well the children passed on information to their own children. Think about your own family culture, what anchors you to loved ones from the past?
Jessica Clark is a wife, mom, writer, runner, knitter, and proud Canadian. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in Anthropology, and has been a student of people and cultures ever since. Right now she is busy studying the behavior and cultures of the people of Texas.