Last week we went to a local woods for a walk. We spent time dodging puddles (Goblin ponds) and smiling at Dog Walkers and other families out for an afternoon stroll all whilst having a giggle together and enjoying the sunshine. It was a really lovely afternoon and one that made me think in more detail that night about what a good family life we lead and how Daddy and I are lucky to have the sort of marriage and family that many people spend years trying to find and we just stumbled into.
Then I got thinking a bit more. Did we really just stumble into this happy life, or were there some rules that we followed that meant we actually worked at this fun family life? I came up with the following;
The Family That Eat Together Stay Together
Admittedly we might not sit at the dining table every night but we do share a family meal together every night. We are pretty certain that having time together to talk as part of a family and to share our thoughts, ideas and discuss what has happened and what is coming up is important in making us the family that we are. Plus there is so much research in the lifestyle and health benefits of people who eat together (higher academic results, better health etc) that it makes sense to eat together as often as you can!
Do Your Part
We all have a part to play in our family. It can be as simple as cleaning up the house, or cooking meals or even any of the other chores that we do but there can also be more to it than that. Each of us has a role in our family we compliment each other, we look out for each other and with everyone doing their part our family works well.
Talk To Each Other
Everyday Daddy and I make a point of talking about how our day has gone, what we enjoyed or what went wrong. We do the same with both Top Ender and Big Boy with each of us spending one on one time together even if it's just for five minutes. We try to have the sort of family that can talk about anything with each other and because we have such trust with each other it strengthens our family.
Enjoy Each Other
This is actually quite hard to do, enjoying each other when you have chores to do or bills to worry about or other places to be means that you aren't always in the moment. We try really hard to make time to spend with our family that is quality time where we aren't distracted. We treasure these moments because we know that Top Ender and Big Boy are going to grow up and not want to spend as much time with us but also because it's great to just spend time together.
Do Things Together
We love spending time together and doing things that interest us. It might be that we play cars with Big Boy, or that we make silly videos together. Top Ender and Daddy even have a project that they are slowly working on they are going to camp in every county in England together. Having these plans for our time together strengthens our relationships and allows us all to share our interests.
Put Family First
Putting family first is so important. We will cancel events if we need to in order to take care of our children, we will say no to opportunities if they don't work for us as a family, we won't agree to take opportunities unless we have discussed it with each other. This means that we all know exactly what is important to each other and we all know that we are important to each other too.
Don't Bad Mouth Each Other
I must admit this isn't one of the easiest to do. You should try to never say anything negative about any family member. Okay, so you might think at times that one member of your family needs to stop being negative or needs to do something differently but that should be expressed in private!
Know What You Are About
Before we got married Daddy and I talked about how we wanted to raise our children, the sort of life we wanted to lead. It wasn't just the big things we talked about but the small things too, we agreed what household chores we would prefer to do and what we didn't want to do! As Top Ender and Big Boy are getting older they do have a say, we know that we all love having time together and so that is an important part of what we are about.
Spend Time With Extended Family
They say it takes a village to raise a child, if your village isn't all that in to helping you raise your children then make sure you use the village you were born into. Top Ender and Big Boy love spending time with their grandparents and Aunts and Uncles and their cousins and we can see how their lives are being enriched with the love and support they are given from their extended family.
Have Rules and Consequences And Stick To Them
In our house we have certain expectations for everyone's behaviour. It isn't just our children that we expect good behaviour from or to eat the vegetables on their dinner plate but us adults too! We have rules for certain situations too and if the rules are broken or our expectations aren't met then there are consequences that are faced. This goes for all of us, if I swear (I know I shouldn't) then I can be "punished" just like the children can be and it is because I listen to my children when they tell me that I have misbehaved that they listen to me. They know that it is the same for all of us.
Have A Routine
We have long been told the benefits to children about having a routine, but the same can be said for adults too. If there are set plans that allow you to spend time together, eat, do chores then that and the knowing what comes next is reassuring. We plan in family fun, family meals, date nights and although we are flexible and can move things round if needs be it is having the routine that allows us the stability to know what we can and can't do as a family.
Work On Your Marriage
When you get married you don't immediately get a happy ever after. Marriage is something that always needs to be worked on, you need to talk to each other about everything. Yes, secrets can be okay we don't need to know your bathroom habits or what you have brought us for Christmas but everything else needs to be discussed! Spend time together, think about what your partner would like and as your marriage grows stronger your family life will do too.
Love Each Other
Showing that you love each other, by thinking of them and telling them, by telling them, by doing things for them, by doing what you said you would is so important as it helps everyone to know that they are secure in their place in the family. Just remember even if you don't like the behaviour of someone in your family, you still love them because they are your family.
For Daddy and I this was quite simple. We are both different denomination Christians, but there is more than enough common ground for us to find between each other and together we agreed how we would like our children to be raised. It might be that you aren't religious and that is fine too, but if you are religious then pray together. Read scripture together, worship together and this helps strengthen the bonds between you. If you aren't religious try to have a time together where you relax together and recharge your batteries as that is what religion is really for those who believe.
So there it is, having a good family life isn't actually all that easy. It takes a lot of work and effort but it really is worth it.