Five Mirrors in My House04/18/2013
Being Happy by Meagan Francis
Recently a friend asked me, “What does your family like to do during the summer?”
I looked back at her, puzzled. “What do you mean, do?”
“Oh, you know, some big project you do together. Do you build things? Bake pies for the county fair? That kind of thing.”
I thought hard for a while. Over the years, the kids and I have shared lots of activities.
The year before last, we tended our first family vegetable garden. Last year we spent quite a few weekends camping. And this year is our first season as boaters, which has become our main family pasttime.
But when it comes right down to it – especially in the warmer months - we just aren’t a “project” kind of family.
What we’re really good at? Hanging out. And come summer – when the expectations and schedules of the school year fall away - that’s what we really want to do.
We’re kind of experts at hanging out, actually. We hang out around campfires, eating s’mores and telling stories. We tease (gently, of course) and laugh so hard tears roll down our faces. We make song playlists for grilling and dish-washing and road trips. We cruise around on the boat, look out at Lake Michigan, perhaps drop a hook in the water to see what’s biting.
We sip chilly beverages in the yard and wander through town to the beach, where we might stay an hour or a whole day. We sit on the grass and pick absentmindedly at bugs. We ponder the big questions of the universe and discuss potty jokes.
But when it comes down to it, we don’t really accomplish much.
When I told my friend that my family doesn’t really have a specific project we like to work on together, at first I felt kind of sheepish. These days, I think it’s easy to get the idea that as parents, we should always be doing something with – or for – our kids.
But when your kids span a large range of ages (ours run from 3 to 14) it’s not always easy to get everyone involved in the same things at the same time. Sure, the three oldest boys play tennis with Dad; the younger kids do crafts with Mom…but when we’re all together?
Well, we just hang out.
And I’ve learned to embrace that. One of my “rules” of happier parenting is to do what works. And what works for our family is relaxing, talking, and just being together. I consider it a huge “win” that my teenager doesn’t run away screaming when we ask him to sit down and chat.
So if you ever stop by our house on a summer evening, you might find me working on a puzzle with the older boys. Or maybe you’ll see my three-year-old daughter Clara and I bent over a garden plot, pulling weeds.
But if all seven of us are there? Chances are good we’ll just be hanging out. No objective, no project, no ambition besides enjoying one another’s company.
And I have to admit: I like it that way.
For more happy thoughts from Meagan, visit www.thehappiestmom.com.
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