Hold on to your pencil boxes, because the Back to School season has arrived! One of the annual activities at our house this time of year involves taking stock and stocking up. Whether it’s classroom supplies, school uniforms, or physical exams, the fall always seems to be the time to take an inventory of what we have, what we need, and what we can discard (we’ve currently got three working piles growing in our living room).
So in the spirit of taking stock, I’ve decided to put together another set of piles for the new school year. I’m calling them my family vision piles, based on the term coined by parent educators, Janis Keyser and Laura Davis. A family vision, they explain, is seeing the big picture of where you are going as a family, what values you most want to teach and model, and determining what is most important. Basically, by establishing a vision, you set-up the long-term intentions and goals for your family for the year. Here’s what my piles look like so far:
Discard Pile: Like the stained uniform shirts, and ripped 3 ring binders, what do I want to discard this year when it comes to our family?
1. The sound and quality of my voice during times of stress. This carping, droning, (dare I say nagging?) voice, usually heard in the morning rush or frenzied afternoons of homework and practices, tends to repeat itself in 5-10 second intervals, with phrases such as, “Come on!” “Hurry up!” or “Don’t forget..!” In addition to being both annoying and agitating to everyone involved, this voice and it’s shrill requests, become increasingly futile as time goes on.
2. The myth of being a perfect supermom. I’m also going to try and discard my unrealistic expectations that I can control everything and do it all. And in case I needed further motivation, two recent articles, aptly entitled, Why Women Still Can’t Have it All and Why Supermoms are Sad, confirmed that moms who expect that a work/life balance can be achieved easily (or at all), are more unhappy that those who accept that they can’t do everything, and tradeoffs will have to be made.
3. The blame and guilt I put on myself, my family, and the world in general, when life gets stressful. Like the supermom myth above, I will work to discard these negative feelings that seem to crop up whenever I am most stressed, and to replace them with compassion and forgiveness, remembering that we all are generally doing the best we can.
Add Pile: Next, what do I want to add to our family, along with the new lunch boxes and football cleats this year?
1. More interactive communication. I will make a conscious effort to add more interactive conversations with my boys and husband each week, with sentences beginning with, “What do you think of…?” “How was your…?” and “What are you feelings about…?” (as opposed to that nagging voice I hope to discard above). My goal is to stay as connected with them as possible, even when life gets hectic.
2. A weekly electronics-free time zone. This idea came to me one desperate summer afternoon in the midst of a computer game/ tv show/ web surfing binge our entire family was on. As I noticed our levels of agitation increasing with each successive sound and click coming from the machines. I desperately ordered a complete shutdown of devices for an “electronics-free” hour. And wow! After the initial caffeine-like withdrawal symptoms, a peace and calm descended upon our household that I hadn’t seen in a long time. Books were cracked open, lego towers were built, and actual conversations were initiated!
3. More time and flexibility during rush periods. Finally, in place of that supermom mindset, I will work to add more time to prepare and organize during rush hours, as well as giving myself flexibility and permission to let go when all doesn’t go smoothly (remembering that when my sons forget their water bottles or we arrive a few minutes late to practice, the world and my competence has not suddenly come to an end)!
Keep Pile: And finally, like the tried and true backpack my 11 year-old is using for his third consecutive year, what are the things I want to keep and continue in our family?
Those elements and activities that reflect our shared values of laughing together, slowing down when we can, nurturing ourselves and each other, and connecting in general.
Some, but not all, of the items in this pile will include:
- Family mealtimes at least 2-3 times every week (hopefully more)
- Unstructured family time, with no other commitment except hanging out
- Family movie nights with popcorn, whenever time permits
- Maintaining a sense of humor
- Continuing those activities we enjoy on our own, and together, that help us stay refueled and healthy
- Remembering an attitude of gratitude
- Breathing in, breathing out
- Letting go
- Did I mention a sense of humor?
So that’s where I’m starting. Although I’m sure there will be plenty of bumps and setbacks along the way, I’m hoping that keeping my family vision in mind, will enable me to make the best decisions possible in the midst of the action-packed and frenzied moments ahead. Here’s to a happy, reflective, and intentional school year for us all!