Family Dreams

Mr. RSG is off to work.

The kids are off at school.

I’m sitting here at my computer, cold coffee at my side (because I poured it an hour and a half ago) and Enya playing in the background singing Sail Away…(okay, you may hork now – it happens to be on my Pure Moods CD that I love so much) and I’m glancing at the book that’s the topic du jour today. The book is called Five Star Families: Moving Yours from Good to Great by Carol Kuykendall and I got it from a neighbor friend of mine.

When I looked at the back of the book and saw that it was a Christian book, I initially groaned inside. You see, it seems to me that a lot more lately, Christian-minded people give me strange books and tracts. I don’t have a problem with Christianity.  No, I think the concept is cool (after all, isn’t the Bible about how to get along in this great big dysfunctional family).

But the last time someone gave me something religious to read (and it’s more often than you’d think), it was my Catholic zealot sister who sent me three booklets after she screamed at me at a Tupperware Party and told me I needed an exorcism (really, she DID right after she followed me outside my sisters house to do so).  In lieu of a proper apology, she sent me a post-it note saying I’m sorry and these three booklets:

booklet #1: Heaven speaks about Depression.

booklet #2: Heaven speaks to Those Away from the Church.

booklet #3: Heaven speaks to Those Who Have Rejected God.

Needless to say, that recent experience and those books make me skeptical to read anything anyone says to me, “here, this might help you”.

(ooh, my favorite song is coming on right now. Adiemus – what a GREAT piece of music. I think I want that played in an endless loop in the background of my wake in the event I should die)

It’s occurred to me as I explore my feelings of insecurity, occasional bouts of ambivalence, and occasional generalized anxiety without a cause, I have come to point where I know I didn’t dare to create a long-term dream for my family and set down goals and aspirations. Part of the reason because with intense children, a husband experiencing panic attacks, and my own hypersensitivities we found it hard to keep getting through the days, let alone think too far into the future. We just fly by the seat of our pants, but have no vision for what we want our family to look like, just some vague “better than it is right now” feeling.

And I realized, after reading the second chapter of Five Star Families, this neglect of the big picture is doing our family a disservice.

Ms. Kuykendall asks some questions:

“Do you have dreams for your family? Are you intentionally aiming for some goals? Have you thought about your family’s purpose – or defined the kind of family you want to be ten years from now? If you don’t have a quick answer, you’re normal”.

And then that’s when it struck me. Yes, it’s normal to be in the thick of day-to-day living, fighting fires as they crop up, not doing much long term goal setting or dreaming. Sure, we have vague ideas of the future – we plan outings and educational experiences for the kids, and we want the girls to get along and play nice with each other instead of bicker. But we really aren’t doing much to determine how we want to grow as a family and how to encourage respect for each other and their privacy and their belongings. And I KNOW they know how. They are always kind and courteous and respectful to their friends at school, but when it comes to each other, they are bickering, selfish, and greedy.

What’s wrong with that picture?

Yes, some of it is normal developmental process. And some of it is due to having sensitive children. And some of it has to do with being closely spaced in age. And some of it has to do with relatively tight living quarters (we have one working bathroom with one sink).

But does it HAVE to be that way?  I mean really.  Just because my sisters and I fought like cats and dogs doesn’t doom my daughter to the same fate. And rather than simply looking for techniques on understanding or managing bad behavior (which no doubt, is a good start), what about thinking creatively about techniques on promoting GOOD behavior (and yes, Mr. RSG, that includes us too) and reducing the logjams (like the bathroom situation)?

And just because my mother never did anything more than the absolute minimum of mothering duties (making sure we were dressed and fed) and was otherwise negligent to our emotional needs, doesn’t mean I have to be (and in the back of my mind is the mantra:  Think Progress, Not Perfection).

And just because it’s HARD for me to consistently be attuned (but not smothering) to my daughters emotional needs, doesn’t mean I can’t keep learning all I can about what that looks like and feels like.

So, here’s some “Wonderings” Ms. Kuykendall has for me:

1a. In view of the way you grew up, name three ways you want your family to be the same.

1b. Name three ways you want to be different.

2. What is unique about your family? How does your uniqueness shape your dreams for your family’s future?

3. What are the dreams you have for your family? What words describe those dreams? Here are some questions to get you thinking:

3a. If you have more than one child, what word describe the relationships you hope your children will have with each other.

3b. What words describe the way you hope your family would respond to winning the lottery? An unexpected death in your family? An invitation to attend a family reunion? Fears about terrorists?

3.c How do you hope your family responds to the needs of people in the larger world around you? A friend’s needs? Your neighbor’s needs? A child in another country? How will you help them learn the responses you hope for?

My family of origin pretty bad, but not every part was horrible. There ARE some things I’d like to keep in our family.

1. Good, home-cooked meals.    Check.

2. Family outings – we did do some interesting things as a family – like going up into the mountains when we lived in New Mexico, and driving trips to places.   Check.

3.

Well, two’s all I can come up with.  Maybe Mr. RSG has an idea or two.

Anyway…it’s a start.  And I might try employing that Mind Mapping Technique from the post below, with Family at the center and all the good things that relate to family.    Maybe I’ll get a posterboard and hang it up right by the dining room table and see if I can’t, with  the help of the daughters and Mr. RSG, come up with some way to brainstorm some things we want to be/do as a family.

Do you have any family dreams?  Or are you just flying by the seat of your pants like we’ve been?

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5 Responses to Family Dreams

  1. Pingback: Family Dreams | Raising Smart Girls | Mike Spieles on Parenting Today

  2. Spacemom says:

    My girls are Jekyl and Hyde. Either they love each other and will do anything for the other OR they are strangling each other.

    It’s hard. A small plan is a good idea, IF you allow yourself to deviate from that plan…

    Panic attacks suck… I am sorry Mr RSG is having them. They really do come out of nowhere.

  3. raisingsmartgirls says:

    Hey, well at least the girls have their gracious moments. That’s a start.

    Mr. RSG and I have gone through a bit of a bumpy patch this past few days, and I think we’ve unearthed a few key insights into each other’s thought processes. And actually, that occurred with the help of a few articles from a magazine for psychotherapists our therapist loaned him.

    It’s interesting how a lot of our issues with the kids, with our parenting, with our choices in how we do things affect many areas of our life. I think this weekend, among some fall activities we have planned, I’m going to start on that family “project” to at least begin with the end in mind, so to speak.

  4. Heather says:

    Sounds like a cool book. I completely understand the “get through the day” survival mode. While I know I have some unspoken concepts of how I want my family to be, I never thought about a family dream. Recently we started having family meetings, and we started putting together a list of “core family values” to help us navigate.
    What part of New Mexico were you in? I grew up east of Albuquerque.

  5. raisingsmartgirls says:

    I used to live in the Four Hills section of Albuquerque. Isn’t that Southeast…I think.

    God, that reminds me to look something up – I remember a plane crash in the nuclear weapons story facility that was housed in the hollowed out hills behind our house.

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