I chatted with a sweet friend the other day about family days. Why is it that those seem to be the most stressful, argument filled days of the week? Or is that only our house? OK, not every family day is like that, but it does seem like that day, of all days, has a much higher stress level than it should. As she and I were talking, I was able to think of (and thank God for) some of the things we have learned as we attempt to make memories and take time to do things together as a family. We aren't perfect. Some of our days are more "it's the thought that counts" days than "what a beautiful family memory" days, but we learn, grow, laugh, and love each other. I often have to remind myself that while I feel like everyday is family day (because I am with the kids practically 24/7), we aren't together all day every day as a WHOLE family, as Kevin is usually busy working and we're doing school. And as much as I would like it to some weeks, school does not count as family fun day! ;) So, I thought I would compile a list of ideas that we use and that I've seen other families use to make some great memories during family day. Hopefully they will give you hope and inspiration, if needed, to enjoy your family!
1. Be intentional. Let's face it, in this day and age, if you don't put it on the calendar it's not going to happen. We are probably one of the least busy families I know and we are still pretty busy, so I know lots of other families out there are running ragged keeping up with all the schedules in the house. Get a calendar and mark the date. Mark it on your phone. Mark it on your spouse's phone. If you have older children, mark their calendars/phones. It may help to have the same day or night each week so that it's set in stone and everyone one knows there's no doing anything else during that time. The earlier you start this the better it will be when they are older. (Though my children are only 8 and 5, so that's not a real issue for us, yet.)
2. When possible, have no schedule. I know, coming from me this is really weird. However, I have found that when we have a schedule (mainly a TIMED schedule) we all end up rushed and frustrated and that's when the whole thing comes unglued. There are events that you will want to do that will have an obvious time attached (seeing a movie, attending a festival, seeing a theatre production, etc), but many times you can be flexible and just take your time. Once you get used to this it's really quite refreshing, especially if members of your family run on a schedule all week long. It's like a huge breath of fresh air to not be rushing out the door. This works really well for us because our family day is also usually our only rest day for the week and, really, who wants to be rushing around on your day of rest?!?!
3. Don't make things too complicated. Sometimes the simplest things are the most fun. Staying at home having a movie day, game day, silly pictures day, etc, can be just as fun as piling in the car and heading out on an adventure. Again, with the rushed pace of our lives these days, sometimes we (parents and kids alike) just need time to stay in comfy clothes (or even just stay in those jammies all day) and chill out together. There can be just as many laughs in a game of Sleeping Queens (am I showing the age of my children?) as there is in a trip to the movies.
4. Make some traditions you can all look forward to. I find this easiest to do by season. All year long we look forward to the month of October where our goal is to visit a different corn maze every weekend. All four of us love this and have such a good time. (Of course, living in MO, this is easy for us because there are like 50 corn mazes within an hour of us in any direction.) Maybe there is a yearly festival your family can look forward to attending. Apple picking? Pumpkin patches? Theatre productions? Family game nights once a month? It can be anything, really.
5. It's OK to split up for a bit. There have been times this has worked well for us. Sometimes Kevin and Ethan work on a project while Sophie and I do something together and then we switch. Sometimes we will each do a small date with one of the kids and then get together for dinner or something. Admittedly, since we only have two children, this is a little easier for us because it's always one on one when we split up. This might also be a good way to give each of the parents some one on one time with the kids. Mom can take all but one kid while dad has a "date" with the other and you end with family movie night. You can do this until both parents have had a date with each of the kids.
6. Household chores DO count as family time. If you've seen any of my Facebook or blog posts you know how I struggle with getting housework done. And I am home ALL DAY EVERY DAY. I can't even imagine how difficult it is for those who are working to get it all done. So, divide the family into teams, split up the chores, and race to see who can finish first while finishing well. End the cleaning fun with Blizzards or a Root Beer float. This not only get housework done without Mom and Dad doing it all, but it also give you a chance to train your children in how to properly take care of a home. Bonus: you'll probably have some great conversations as you work alongside your kiddos. (Disclaimer: for us, this also means one on one time with our kids, as there are only two of them and two of us.)
7. Do some service together. Part of your job as a Christian parent is to disciple your children. At some point, this must go beyond just book knowledge to stepping out and putting all that you are teaching them into practice. There are so many options out there for serving together that you could probably do a different service project every week all year long!!! Be creative! Have fun!
8. Be on the same page as your spouse. This is also an area where many family days fall apart. Get together BEFORE your planned family day and talk about what you would like to do. Make a plan (though it doesn't have to be super detailed.) Decide ahead of time that, no matter what, you're going to have good attitudes and go with the flow. The kids will have whatever attitude you choose to have, so it's important that you choose wisely.
9. Ladies, let your husband make decisions. I know it seems like this should not need to be said, but ladies, let's admit it, we like to be in control. For many ladies I know it just comes naturally to take charge and go for it. Sometimes this is great, sometimes we need to push that urge aside and defer to our husbands. Most days we moms make the majority of the decisions for the family (what we're having for lunch and dinner, who is taking who to what events, etc). This is a great time to truly work alongside our husbands and let them make decisions on what the family will do. Do this and you'll be amazed at how smoothly things go and how much more loving and confident your husband becomes in other areas.
10. Search out fun things in your area. Thanks to the Internet, you should never be without an option for something to do. From Pinterest to Facebook, the ideas are endless. Want to head out somewhere and actually do something, as on Facebook where other families have gone and had fun. In minutes you'll have hundreds of ideas. Pinterest has all kinds of great project ideas. There's always something going on and somewhere to go, you just have to get up the gumption and do it!
11. Unplug. This one is so hard for me. I love Facebook. And email. And Twitter. And Instagram. One of the biggest blessings God has given us in the last month was our change in phone plan. I cannot do any of those things unless I have a WiFi connection, which has not only saved us $100 a month, but has also forced me to put the phone away and just enjoy being present with my kiddos. I still probably take more pictures than I need to (one thing my husband is always saying, "Put the camera down and just have fun!"), but I've had a lot more laughs and good times with my family since I haven't always had the option to post things RIGHT NOW.
I know there are hundreds of ideas that could be added to this list. So, help fellow families out and share your ideas with us. What do you do to make the most of family time?