Creating Family Time: Viewing it from a Child’s Eyes.
It was going to be the perfect game night……
Our family of five was going to sit around our coffee table, eat lightly buttered popcorn, play a family game, and have a fun filled night where we would all laugh, get a long, and have a wonderful time. That is the picture I had in my head that became my GREAT EXPECTATION. Just to set the stage: My kids were still VERY young. I still had a preschooler, and my other two were not much older. Never-the-less, we had all finally reached a point where we could all participate, and it felt nice to enjoy a game where we ALL could have some fun. We had graduated from the days where I would have to STOP to take care of the baby while the rest of the family enjoyed a game or movie. We were past the moments where mom has to remove herself in order to change a diaper or tend to an issue. Not that I minded caring for my babies. I LOVED those stages. But….. it did feel nice and a little more care-free to be able to indulge in uninterrupted FUN. I was jumping head first into this new stage and creating an expectation, and was making the effort to establish “game night” as a family tradition.
I was determined to make a memory.
I made a memory alright….It did not take long (only several minutes into the game) before I realized my expectation was not going to be met. It was apparent that my youngest was tired and began to whine. Another was frustrated and acting out because things did not go her way. My oldest was distracted and jumping around the house, standing on his head, and quite frankly, making the game much more difficult to enjoy. Crying ensued, and I felt shear disappointment. This “family time” was NOT fun. I don’t know why I experienced such intense emotion. I am the oldest of four kids, so I know these things HAPPEN…I know this is NORMAL. Regardless, my mother-filled-sentiments got the best of me.
It has happened more than once. I recall a few times when we were in the car headed to a family destination when the kids begin to fight or argue. Complaining sets in, chaos ensues, and my hopes of a joyous family outing are doused with flames of frustration.
With a few words of wisdom, my husband helped me get back on track to look at these instances through a practical lens. Our kids were little. They were acting like kids, and little ones get tired. Many times our plans and expectations must take a back seat to meeting their needs and viewing circumstances through their eyes. Instead, we chose to be flexible, end our night early, and put them to bed.
I gained insight that evening. I needed to modify my “GREAT” expectations into “Little Expectations”. My kids were still young, and we would have plenty of opportunities to have successful family game nights. Moving forward, I learned to attempt these sorts of plans, and if it did not go accordingly, flexibility was key. If my plan did not work out, or we needed to shift focus, I tried to remember what that fun might look like through their eyes. If they are tired or uninterested forcing them with a stern hand would not train them to associate “family activities” positively.
Having “Little Expectations” doesn’t mean I should not expect my kids to behave, be respectful, or deal with certain life situations they need to learn to handle. There are certain expectations where we should NOT bend, and our kids will learn to rise to the challenge. However, there is a point when we can notice when our children have reached their limit, and we have to be fair and remember how their little eyes and minds view the circumstances.
My definition of “Little Expectations”: We attempted family time on a regular basis. If our little people crashed and burned it was o.k., and I would not get discouraged. We would try again next time. The point is that consistency is key in creating a family standard.
I learned to apply my “Little” expectations in other areas such as baking our annual batch of gingerbread cookies. Sometimes the prep work for this type of activity takes twice as long as it does to actually make and decorate the cookies. I realized….thank goodness…… that creating these moments to establish traditions does not have to last hours. Enganging children for even a few minutes can still be very meaningful to them. In these small moments, attempting these types of fun activities will help them set their own “Little” expectations to look forward to these fun traditions. It may be a lot of work at first, but as they get older their attention span grows, as well as their ability to join in and handle the work load.
I learned to created “little” moments that grew as our children have gotten older. The result? WE LOVE GAME NIGHT……and if our youngest gets tired and wants to watch a movie on her iPad, or needs to go to bed….THAT IS FINE! We don’t expect her to hang with our tween. My kids now crave our Gingerbread cookies, and we have reached a stage where family “outings” are REALLY FUN!
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT mean everything always goes perfectly…..but at least we all have a realistic expectation of what type of fun we want to have to gether.
Our little moments grow with our kids into longer lasting experiences we can all enjoy.
As parents, we set a standard of what our family time means to our kids. Will there be stages where they don’t want to spend family time with us? Of course! Nevertheless, we can create time together and relish in it at this age. I don’t want my children to feel the negative pressure of my “Great Expectations”. I want to set a flexible standard so our kids will look forward to our time together. I don’t want them to dread it because mom is going to be disappointed if family time doesn’t look picture perfect.
SIDE NOTE: I even learned to apply this standard to family pictures. Some of the BEST, my FAVORITES, and the most memorable pics are the ones that are not “PICTURE PERFECT”.
So for now, we continue to establish fun with “Little Expectations”. I want to see our time together through their eyes….and I want them to LOVE being together. I want to instill a “Family Standard” that is easy, loving, accepting, and flexible. One day, these dynamics will set the stage for our relationship with our adult children. When they come home for Christmas, I want them to know that if things don’t go according to plan, our time together is treasured no matter the circumstances. If we burn the Thanksgiving Day Turkey…. we will eat more mashed potatoes. If their flight does not arrive on time, or the holiday does not go according to our tradition……we will always make the best of it. I do not want them to worry that I will be disappointed, or upset because of an expectation I place on them.
Having FUN together is not about what we do, eat, or the activity we attempt. It’s about being together and loving every piece of one another.
May you and your family have a blessed Holiday season. May you love, laugh, and view life’s circumstances through the eyes of others.