All in the Family
by Dr. Josh Stowe
Families are always an adventure. As a child, I grew-up in a family of seven. There were two parents, four boys, and a girl. At one point in our history, we shared three bedrooms, one bathroom, one kitchen, one living room, and one television. Our saving grace was probably acreage. We lived in the country with room to roam. As an adult, my wife and I have two kids. Our daughter is a senior in high school. Our son is a senior in college, and he’s scheduled to get married in June. In many ways, life is really good. And in many ways, it’s really crazy. My wife and I have been talking about being “empty-nesters.” Now, our “nest” is busier than ever.
To say that things have changed significantly in recent weeks doesn’t do it justice. For many, life looks like three loads of laundry thrown on the sofa. It’s all a little overwhelming, and we’re not sure where to start or if we have the energy. It’s just ONE BIG MESS. Everything is thrown together. School and work. Parents and kids. My schedule, your commitments, their needs. How do we manage it all? Where do we begin? What can we do?
While it will take time to sort-out everything before us, here are a few suggestions to help soften or sweeten our time together.
Talk about It. Sometimes we need to talk about things. We all carry so much inside our hearts and minds: thoughts and feelings, questions and disappointments. Then, without notice, we run-out of room, and it spills-out. So maybe if we carefully share what’s inside with those who fully care for us, we’ll find a little more room.
- Have a daily check-up. Take 20-30 minutes to visit. Ask about each other’s day. What was enjoyable? What was stressful?
- Talk about it with the kids. We may need to be selective about timing and topics depending on the age of our children, but it’s okay to talk about “hard things” with kids. They sense the stress. They’ve experienced changes, and they may need to talk about it.
- Talk about it without the kids. There are some conversations that don’t need to involve the kids. If you’re married, you might choose to talk with your spouse. If you are single, a single parent, or in a troubled relationship, then you may need to call a trusted friend. It will serve you well, and it can serve your household well.
Time Apart. Having been told to “shelter-in-place,” we have been pushed together. Everyone in one place. Everyone together. For weeks on end. Even in the best of situations, that much time spent together can be stressful. We sense the walls closing-in. And it feels like we’re stepping on each other.
- Take time for yourself.
- Take a nap. Sit on the porch. Go for a walk.
- Listen to some music. Read a book. Watch a movie.
- Do something good and healthy that’s “just for you.”
- Give others the same kind of opportunity and space. It can be a gift!
Time Together. This suggestion may seem strange since many households are already spending so much time together. But how are we spending that time? Is our time together a mushy mess? Does everything and everyone blur together? My family and I get it. That’s where we live. The point here is simply to be intentional about how we spend our time together, to do things on purpose.
- Plan a date night. Send the kids to another part of the house and carve-out a couple hours for yourselves. Feed the kids early or late. Let them serve as the wait staff as you plan a special afternoon or evening for your significant other. This could even be a “double date” by inviting your friends to join through ZOOM, Google Hangout, or FaceTime.
- Just for the Kids. Let the kids pick something special that they’d like to do. Take a trip to Sonic for a slushy. Build a “fort” in the living room. Go fishing in a neighborhood pond. Color pictures or bake cookies together. Watch a movie. Or turn-off the television and play a game. These activities could be fun for the whole family or they could be focused as “something special” for “someone special.” Moms and Dads can even take turns with these activities to give the other person a little time for herself/himself.
In the end, we’re all trying to make sense of life right now. We’re asking questions with few good answers. We’re trying to balance family and finances, school and work, cooking and cleaning, laundry and leisure, time for me and time for others. It all runs together, and it isn’t easy. Some days may be pretty good, but others can be pretty rough. We feel overwhelmed and tired. And even though we may live in a house full of people, we can feel alone.
Yet, we’re not alone. This is one of the most powerful truths of the Christian faith: the nearness and loving presence of God. No matter what life brings God is nearer to us than we know. Consider the story of Jacob in the book of Genesis. Jacob is struggling. His family is a mess. His world has been turned upside-down. He has no idea what he’s doing or where he’s going. He is exhausted and alone. But he is not alone; God is surprisingly close. Listen to what God tells Jacob, “I am with you and I will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (NIV Genesis 28:15). Through it all, God is with us, and God brings us full circle in order to accomplish exactly what God desires to accomplish in our lives. We don’t have all the answers, and everyday doesn’t go as planned. But God has a plan, and God is watching over us in love. So be patient. Trust in the God who is closer than you know. And love one another.