Growing up, I remember the weekends very fondly. At least I remember them fondly now. But not so much at the time.
My family was home schooled and for most of my childhood we had one income, and my Dad would not pursue or take promotions to keep his schedule as free as he could. This meant A.) We did not have that much money (although we were not poor, not trying to make it sound worse than it is), so B.) We had some time, so we tried to save money by driving older cars, heating with wood, gardening, and being awesome. The majority of them were spent around the house doing work, although I am sure we did other fun things on the weekends. I think. But what could be more fun than cutting and splitting wood, fixing cars and lawn mowers, weeding the garden, cutting off the heads of chickens and watching them dance, and in general having a grand old time? Again, that may be a little idealistic. It is more like my parents endured the horrible plague of my youth and barely got stuff done.
Let me give you an example. When fixing cars, I remember my primary job was to be the “Tool Getter”. I would stand around waiting for my Dad to either show me some part of a car’s mechanics that I did not appreciate at all or to go and get a tool he needed. When I was summoned to get said tool, I had a little routine. I would run into the garage, look for 10 seconds for the tool, and then spend a minute or two wielding the machete my Dad had hung on the wall, or grab the bb gun and point it at invisible foes, or hold the butcher knife that was in the top drawer of the old wooden tool box and just feel like the most awesome person, wondering at how a butcher knife could cut through bones and entire cows. Over time, this took more and more of my tool gathering time, because I had built up quite a list of imaginary enemies and I learned abstract thought, so that was time consuming and what not. Then my Dad would shout at me, and I would return and at least half the time tell him I had not found the tool. I had ONE job, and I was terrible at it. My Dad should have fired me a thousand times, and I would have gladly welcomed it to pursue my true calling of chopping at dead saplings with a machete, catching frogs, and any number of things to ruin the local ecosystem.
But in all seriousness, why is this such a fond memory for me when it was such a drudgery at the time? I think it came down to the way my Dad chose to value and care for his family. He chose to do things with us rather than for us.
Let me unpack this a little bit. Most parents tend to think that caring for and doing things for your family is the way to go. Typically, this means parents work harder, take care of things around the house, and provide opportunities in sports, social clubs, or church ministries that they believe will do something for their children. This is not an all bad thing, as it does come from a sacrificial desire to care for your children. We want to give our children better things and opportunities than we had.
But where this gets destructive is that you cannot replace “doing with” with “doing for.” Doing for allows us to in essence step back from the family relationship and yet feel like we still care for our family. I do not want to be harsh, but you cannot replace the time and difficulty of family relationship with the time and difficulty it takes to work harder and provide opportunities. I am not saying that “livin’ the country life” is the only way to do that, and since I grew up, economic circumstances have made it even more challenging to find a way for parents to spend time with their children. But that really is the key: time.
And not just any old time. I have been reading Think Orange by Reggie Joiner the past month, and I came across a thought he presented in his chapter “The Essence of Family.” Joiner describes how there are myths surrounding both quality and quantity time. He compares it to his working out at the local YMCA. The office he works sits right next to the YMCA and he can see it every day. He pays monthly dues and spends hours every day in close proximity to a ton of people who work out. Some times, he would even sit in the lobby and do his work on the computer. But the combination of proximity and time do not equal actually working out. That is the myth of quantity time. Joiner also describes how a few years ago, he felt really motivated to go work out. He went over to the Y, and started to make up for lost time. He went from machine to machine for a few hours, and felt really energized and motivated. The next morning, he woke up in excruciating pain. Like you cannot move your body pain. It took a few weeks to get back to normal after only a few hours of intense working out. It turns out that a short burst of really intense working out cannot make up for months of failing to do anything physically. That is the myth of quality time.
You cannot expect to build a healthy family just by being in proximity to them. You also cannot expect to build a healthy family just by condensing down the time to a few really intense blocks. Instead, it takes a quantity of quality time with your family. There are no substitutes or cheats in this area, and your family will feel the lack if you do not strive for both of these areas.
How you do that is up to you. And I really mean it is up to you and what is best for your family. Some of what I will be sharing on this blog will include ideas and experiences I have been through to help with that, but that is not meant to be “THE” only way. Too much of parenting advice today is judgmental and condemning, and does not communicate how tough it really is and how much diversity there is. My family made some tough choices that both negatively and positively impacted my life to spend a quantity of quality time with my siblings and I. What will make all the difference in your family is that you are motivated out of love in pursuing this kind of time with them.
I hope and pray this encouraged you to do things with your family and not just for. Remember, I am just a 26 year old guy. If I sound like a know it all, put me in my place and I will do my best to listen. If you want to share a thought on how your family spent time with you, or how you are doing that in your family, write a comment below. Thanks friends, and live well!