Last night was family night for us. Though I am not a Stephen Covey fan, one time I picked up a copy of his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families at a thrift store. It was a better read than I'd anticipated. I let the concepts he shared percolate for a few years.
Yes, a few years.
Then this January seemed to be just the right time to implement one of his recommendations and write a family mission statement.
My brother-in-law sells beautiful pre-made family mission statements. I considered supporting his endeavor, but decided not to because I wanted something into which we'd all invested ourselves. I knew that a lovely piece of art would look good on the wall and would probably inspire me and maybe my husband, but it would still be nothing more to my kids than a lovely piece of art. I wanted something messy, less than poetic, and really ours.
Last week we got to work--with the promise of brownies, made and decorated by H4, sitting in the background, luring the kids into cooperation. We had a productive discussion.
This week we picked up where we left off, but it was a disaster. I2's "choice" of fresh butterscotch oatmeal cookies did not inspire the kids enough to cooperate. Side discussions, elbow digs, falling off chairs, and tantrums prompted me to give up almost before we got started. In addition I was having some sort of belly pain that did nothing toward helping me to lead and inspire discussion of our family goals.
At 7:23 I looked at the clock and debated just closing immediately or starting one new strand of thought.
I decided to go for it.
I hated ending the evening feeling like a failure.
I opened a new document, chose a new font, and typed out the header for the kids to see: "What are the individual strengths, talents, and abilities of each family member?" Then I typed "Dad."
The kids jumped all over it. We banged out a list of Dad's wonderful skills in no time.
I tentatively typed out "Mom" next. In spite of my impatience and frustration that evening the kids (and Dad) were quick and happy to respond.
We moved name by name through the rest of the family, calling out qualities and talents we admire about each person.
Well before the end we were laughing, encouraging, happy and focused.
As I typed the last word for I2 (the youngest) I asked the kids, "How are you feeling right now?"
"Great!" they answered.
"Do you know why?"
"Because people said nice things about us."
"I don't think so, " I countered. "I think it is because you were focused on saying nice things about others. When we look for the good, we find it, and we feel happy. Wouldn't you like to feel like this all of the time?"
"Yes!" they chorused.
My husband and I were ready to keep talking about how to encourage good family feelings, but we quickly checked ourselves and let the spirit of love do its own work. It was enough that we drew attention to it. So we closed with prayer and ate cookies.
Then I stumbled off to bed early and let Dad run the bedtime show.
He's pretty excellent that way.
(And I'm fine this morning.)