As we approach the end of our conversation on creating memories for our children, (see the intro, part I, part II, and part III, as well as quotes and Scriptures on the matter) I will share some specific ways that we pursue particular routines & events to create memories for our children which we hope & pray will solidify the family culture we seek to create in our home & family.
CREATING MEMORIES, IV
how we pursue creating specific memories through
routines & events to solidify that family culture
Last summer during some power outages (two weeks’ worth, ten days apart from one another), I picked up piano playing again. My pretty little baby grand had been gathering country dust (which honestly is unavoidable where we live) but had also been largely unplayed and unloved in recent years. During those weeks with no cd player, no internet, no videos, no electronic anything… I returned to making music. I pulled out Beethoven, Debussy, Bach, Mozart, Rachmaninoff… along with some collections of other random composers both historical & contemporary… and I simply began to play. But it is hard to play during the day when other things call me… like children… or chores of all various & sundry types. Especially once the electricity returned, and I could cook and clean and launder and internet (can I please use that as a verb? thankyouverymuch) normally again, I found that finding uninterrupted time for music making is really quite difficult.
But the children begged me to play for them, and my husband is more than delighted when I play as well. I do desperately want my children to remember their mother as partly musician, and definitely as a true lover of music.
So it happened: bedtime serenades were born.
Now, after tucking them in, kissing them, praying for them, and blessing them, I scoot myself over to the piano. I play for roughly thirty minutes, and the children love falling asleep in the midst of it. I guess it’s been a habit for over nine months now, and it is definitely rooted in the evening routine at this point.
Recently, they have begun requesting harp in addition to piano. Sometimes I play one instrument per night, other times I play a little of each. There have also been occasions recently where I simply am too exhausted to play at all, and I beg their forgiveness even as their little pouty lips show me their true disappointment.
So I do my best to keep up with the tradition, and all three of my kids nightly remind me of my musical commitment to serenade them in their beds. It’s funny how such a joy for all five of us has become a habit, part of our evening routine, and now something I hope we will all remember in years to come as something which filled our home with joy, beauty, and melody while the crickets sang and the stars twinkled outside and little ones’ bodies fell into slumber in the comfort of their own little beds.
We don’t risk because it’s easy;
we risk because of hope,
because we see the promise of something better.
~Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place, p85~
~joy at the table~
We need to keep working on this one, I’ll just say honestly from the get-go. 🙂 I long for my children to look back at mealtimes not just as opportunities to fill our mouths and bellies with food, but to love one another and spend time with one another… especially the dinner table where all of us sit down together. Breakfast and lunch, at this point in our family’s life, are meals the three kids share together, but Steven is at work and I am bustling around doing multiple other things. So evening dinnertime is our daily hallmark to sit together, speak together, laugh together, and spend time in one place together. The dinner table is not a time and place to focus on ourselves or to suddenly become introverted and quiet while we stuff forkfuls of chicken and rice in our mouths. This is a time to feast together not only on food, but on one another. As the kids grow, I know our conversations will also grow… at this point, it can obviously still be pretty tricky to carry on much of a real conversation. But conversation, even if in fits and spurts, is better than all quietly munching on our food side by side. I try to pass questions off to each of the kids (preferably not when they have just filled their mouths with a big bite… but my timing is not always stellar…), and encourage them to tell their daddy about their day. We also try to teach the kids to ask questions of others, too, and encourage conversations that way. Sometimes jokes and giggles and silly sounds make their way into the dinner routine, and I can’t help but throw my hands up in laughter and let it go. Manners are definitely a work in progress, but joy is a more important work at this point, and we are eager to continue growing in this daily time together at the table, and hope that as our children look back on their life in our home, that it will be a blessing they count in their memories, and a place they long to return to for more feasting on all the best kinds of fat things together.
Get advice from people who are doing the thing
the way you want to be doing that thing.
It’s a universal law that can be applied to almost any situation.
~Myquillyn Smith, The Nesting Place, p92~
~Sabbath as a joy & monument, Christ everyday & in our everyday~
Have you ever read Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Farmer Boy” and been taken aback at the description of Sundays? As I recall, it’s the same in “Little House in the Big Woods,” and I don’t think the legalism and harsh realities of what “Sabbath” meant to people is really very far-fetched for most of us. But my boys, who are old enough to pick up on the nuances of these details we read about, find it absolutely unimaginable. They love Sundays! They happen to love dressing up, so wearing their Sunday best is anything but a chore (and I think that took some training, both habitually and watching their father learn to enjoy dressing up as well ~ because of course the boys really just want to be like their daddy!). They get leftover pancakes or waffles (because Steven has a tradition of making breakfast on Saturdays, and he always makes leftovers so the kids can have sweet goodness on Sunday morning that won’t take me a lot of time or work to prepare), and I often give the kids each a special treat like a piece of candy and say, “whose day is this?” The Lord’s Day! “and what do we do?” Be Glad In It! “and remember that it is sweet!” Then we head off for an hour of Sunday school before going to worship together. Our children learn from infancy about liturgy and participating in worship: they recite creeds and other liturgical phrases, they sing (at the top of their lungs when they know the words!), they kneel & pray, they pass the peace of Christ with the brethren around them, they partake of communion (and teach us adults so much through their attitudes of peace and abandoned delight as they kneel at the altar). We fellowship with other believers: whether in the church building or in homes, we love another with hugs and handshakes, over plates of food and cups of coffee, we seek the good of others, we ask questions and answer questions, we converse and seek to delve ever further into sharing life with these people who are our brethren. We encourage our kids even as little people that spurring one another on to love and good deeds is what church life really boils down to, and glorifying God through our fellowship, worship, learning, growing, sharpening, and sharing the Good News. We encourage multi-generational worship & fellowship, delighting in filling a pew with three generations as well as often going out to eat with my parents after church (which is monumentally exciting for the kids week after week!) if we don’t have people over or have not been invited elsewhere. We love to pray in public, and the kids frequently ask to do it. They never mince words or turn down the volume, and it’s winsome. If we aren’t spending the afternoon with other folks, we generally head home to read and play and rest and sometimes nap. We love reading by the fire in wintertime, sprawling on the grass in the summertime.
Then there is our Sunday evening family fun night, detailed under the next heading.
And after the kids go to bed on Sunday nights, it’s time for my husband and me to have our own little restful date night, usually with wine, cheese, olives, & chocolate.
We seek to grow continually in our Lord’s Day practices, and to engage the children in the process, so that our Sabbaths are simply joy-filled days of resting in the Lord & delighting in His world. We long for a truly robust habit of Sundays, which joy oozes out into the other six days we spend cultivating the world God made and loving the people He created for it.
So we don’t draw the line there, leaving our pursuit of Christ and His holiness on Sundays, of course. We pursue God’s Kingdom every day of the week, and seek by our words and our actions to lead our children in this way. We pray out loud numerous times throughout the day (we take turns doing it—the children love to lead in prayer, to speak to their Father in specifics), we read Scripture (I have Scriptures around the house in various art forms or presentations, and I try to read with the kids going straight through books of the Bible in conjunction with learning catechism together—we’re finishing Genesis right now before jumping to one of Paul’s epistles again), we praise God for both big and little things (like finding a baby’s heartbeat on the doppler! or finding a parking spot right next to the shopping cart return…), we talk of the fruits of the Spirit and sing of God’s grace and faithfulness. We discipline and disciple as diligently as we can, and grace with forgiveness are emphasized again and again throughout the days. We use catechisms and Scriptures the kids know to “hold them by their baptism” as one of our pastors would say. There is never a moment where they are not bound up in Christ, filled with His Spirit, and heard by the Father—so there is never a moment where we should not seek to act like His children, in thought, word, and deed. That is our endeavor, our pursuit, our hope, our prayer, our privilege, our delight.
~weekly family fun night~
As I said above, part of our merrymaking on the Lord’s Day is how we wrap up the day with family fun night: the intent being to do something fun and to eat something fun. At this season of our little family’s life, that means watching movies in Mommy & Daddy’s room while eating popcorn and ice cream. Someday, we look forward to developing it further with board games and blended drinks, for instance! We hope this weekly tradition (which the children adore) will grow and deepen as our kids do, and that its fun will continue to reflect our family relationships and the joys we find in one another.
Living is the same thing as dying.
Living well is the same thing as dying for others.
~N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, p84~
~love of learning, delight in playing, embracing of all we call neighbor~
Especially as a homeschooling family, but regardless of it just the same, we seek to daily inculcate a love of curiosity and creativity and learning. We emphasize that education is all around us, and that we should enjoy reading, uncovering, discovering, and continually attaining knew heights in our education all the time, every day ~ all of us, not just those who qualify as K-12. We love books, and try to give countless opportunities for reading fiction and non-fiction and Scripture and schoolbooks throughout the days. Trips to the library require muscles these days, as we bring home dozens of books filling a large basket, and we often renew them as many times as we can in order to best glean from them and love them. Our oldest son now often begs to go to bed right after dinner, just so he can read by flashlight for hours in the evening!
We encourage a delight in playing, especially playing together. Our kids do love toys (don’t all kids?), but they love their imaginations more. When the playing is no longer fun, the salt has lost its savor… so we encourage them to move on to new fun and different playing. They learn, they grow, they rejoice, they love life when they play together delightedly, so we try to have plenty of time each day where they can nurture their imaginations and play together with joy.
We also seek to embrace our neighbor in these things, especially as learning and playing coincide. When bringing cookies or Christmas poinsettias or loaves of fresh bread to literal neighbors, we remind our kids that we love in action in addition to our words. When we meet new families on fieldtrips or at the library, we remind our kids that these people too are our neighbors. In our church home, we teach our kids to embrace all of these people with all of these stories in all of these generations because they too are our neighbors. We try to help our kids come up with creative (or not) ways to embrace people: with handwritten or hand colored notes, with gifts of homemade foods, with various forms of opening our home & sharing hospitality, with smiles or handshakes, with grace and forgiveness.
If you were suddenly given more than you could count,
and you couldn’t keep any of it for yourself,
what would you do?
That is, after all, our current situation.
Grabbing will always fail.
Giving will always succeed.
Our children, our friends, and our neighbors will all be better off
if we work to accumulate for their sakes.
If God has given you a widow’s mite, let it go.
Set it on the altar.
If God has given you a great banquet than you can possibly eat, let it go.
Set it on the altar.
~N.D. Wilson, Death by Living, p110~