Family. There are many thoughts that come to my mind when I think about family. Family for me is the core of who I am in. I was born into a large family, continued the tradition by having four children of my own, and work hard each day to be an involved parent. But the day to day grind is tough. We get caught up in the commitments of life - work, carpools, soccer practice, piano lessons, homework, room parenting, errands, cleaning the house, the list could go on and on...
As I move forward into the coming year, I have decided to be intentional with my family time. A coveted time for my children, husband, and myself to reconnect, teach, and learn from one another. Some people may be reading this asking, "just once a month, is that all of the time you are putting into your family?" No, of course not. I spend each day with my kids. We sit around the dinner table every night, I work to provide for the household, we do homework and assignments together, I paint fingernails and toes, give daily baths and snuggles and even - when I am completely exhausted after a long day - nightly reading. But if I am being completely honest, some days I am just going through the motions. I get trapped in my ever growing, never ending to-do list, and somehow get buried in the idea that my house always must be clean and I have to always have it all together. So in the quest for being a present parent, I am choosing to set aside exclusive family time once a month. I want to better myself as a mother, and I know that these 12 special days will push me in the right direction.
So what does this look like?
One of our New Year's "goals" this year was to make a monthly commitment as a family. Together, we would come up with a list of 12 things we would like to do together this upcoming year. Each item needed to be agreed upon, but also remembering that there should be a certain balance of "service" and "self" on our list. I encouraged and reminded the kids that not everything we do has to be extravagant and/or cost a lot of money. Having an outdoor play day and BBQ in the backyard is just as important and valuable to family time as going on an exotic vacation. It's also a gentle reminder to children that parents can be fun, uplifting, and engaged even when they are not on vacation. ***This is one that I need to personally work on. My children see me most relaxed and engaged when we are away from the home. I know that I tend to worry about the dishes, the house, and all the other "things" when we are at home. And I need to be better at being present at home.*** To help facilitate the list building, I tried to think about things we already do together as a family, and things that we have on our family bucket list.
Here is What We Came Up with for Our Year
January - Fun. Let's kick off the year with some fun? Shall we? Is there a better way to fight back the winter blues then fully embracing it? Snow Day here we come! Sledding, skiing, snowman building...you name it we are going to do it. Full disclosure - I don't do well with cold weather, but I will for my kids!
February - Knowledge. Night at the Museum anyone? Ok, well we won't be going at night, but we are going to visit a family friendly museum for the day and learn something new together.
March - Service. Let's give back. Spend a Saturday together at a neighborhood or shoreside clean up. This will be a great day for us to teach the kids about caring for our local community.
April - Health. The weather is warming up and it's time to get out for a family hike. Let's get our steps in for the day as a family.
May - Simplicity. You don't have to go far to have fun. Let's pack a picnic lunch and ride our bikes to the park together. Frisbee, baseball mitts, soccer ball...you get the picture.
June - Fun. Let's have a backyard campout. It's the perfect way to kick off summer and even better you do not have to load the car up to go anywhere.
July - Simplicity. Since we will be traveling during the month of July, we thought this would be a good opportunity for us to stay connected. Sitting down together and writing cards to our family and friends back at home. Let the kids take full control of this project. Who, what, where and when will be sending these when we are abroad will be up to the kids.
August - Knowledge. Let's learn something new/try something new as a family. We have not decided what yet...so stay tuned. I'd love to hear any ideas or suggestions.
September - Explore. Let's visit a new place together. Is there anything more exciting than going somewhere completely new? Destination TBD.
October - Tradition. Making caramel apples together from start to finish. Make the grocery list, go shopping, prepare the ingredients, create together.
November - Service. Write "Thank You" letters to your Veterans and Service Men/Women. Gather up our sweets and treats from Halloween, as well as some other requested items for Operation Gratitude. This nonprofit is dedicated to lifting the morales of US Military, Veterans, and First Responders. You can find more information at www.operationgratitude.com
December - Service. Host a charity event to collect for the Toys for Tots drive. Our daughter has hosted a piano recital annually in our home for this charity. It is always a success and we love planning it together. The little kids are in charge of handing out the programs and collecting the donations at the door. My oldest and I work together to pick the songs she will be performing and practice for the recital. We all bake cookies together before the recital that we are able to share with our guests after the show.
So We Made Our List. Now What?
Making your family list is step one. The next step would be to schedule these commitments into your calendar and plan them! By nature, I am a planner. I can easily put these all into our yearly calendar today. I have a pretty steadfast rule about our family calendar. Once it is in the calendar we are committed. However, with so many unknowns for other scheduling conflicts, it is easy for these to be pushed aside and then forgotten about. DON'T LET THAT HAPPEN! Make your family a priority! For those of you that are not planners (it's ok, I know many people are not!) could you write these down somewhere the whole family could see them? Could you set a monthly reminder on your phone to schedule your family day? How about writing the 12 things down on small cards that you put up in your kitchen/or office area for everyone in your household can see? I am a visual person and know that seeing it will hold me committed to it.
Making it happen.
Full disclosure: I've never done this. And by "this" I mean writing these down and being true to form sticking to it. This is a new journey for me. I am not one for making New Year's Resolutions...because let's be honest, do many people actually keep their resolution? That is why I am calling this a commitment. I'm making a commitment to my family and I hope that you find some way to make a commitment with your family this year too.
Share. Share. Share.
I'd love (really, love love) to see if you are planning monthly family commitments this year. Just like anything else - sharing great ideas is what leads to even better ones. Please tag me @flyingwithfour on Instagram if you are making family monthly commitments this year. I will be sharing all of ours this year with you...and I can't wait to see the positive impacts it has on my family. Cheers to a New Year! And a fresh start!