This past week I made my main ring tone on my phone the theme from the old TV show Cheers. It isn’t that I was such a huge fan of the show when I was little, but simply because I love the idea of the song. The lyrics are:
Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn’t you like to get away?
Sometimes you want to go…
Where everybody knows your name. And they’re always glad you came.
You want to be where you can see, your troubles are all the same.
You want to be where everybody knows your name.
Those sentiments summarize the idea of what this topic is about: your home being a place where you are understood the most. Family Language is the utilizing (and intentionally creating) shared family experiences to give you a foundation for a language that you all understand fluently. And it is when you are speaking a common language that the comment made during the building of the Tower of Babel becomes a goal to attain.
“The LORD said, ‘If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.'” Gen. 11:6
How do you create a Family Language? I have several suggestions.
#1 Reading to your kids. I’ve written before about my passion for children’s literature and daily reading to your kids. Here is another reason to do so. Most stories create an adventure to be had or an emotion to be felt, and when you read the story together you share those adventures/emotions. You meet new people (characters), you travel to exotic lands (without ever leaving your couch), and you have shared victories or moral dilemmas to discuss with your family without the risk involved in either.
My eldest and I share a love of reading. We also share the reader’s joy of I-feel-so-proud-of-myself-for-finishing-another-book. In our house, we enact those feelings by getting each other’s attention and then slamming the book that we just completed. In that one action, we communicate all of the pride, let-down, accomplishment, etc., that finishing a book entails.
One summer, my eldest and I found ourselves traveling together, but in two different cars. As she rode in the backseat of the car ahead of me, she turned around, grinned, and slammed her book. I immediately knew exactly what she meant! I, then, did a lot of cheering from behind the wheel. Without exchanging one word, we shared massive amounts of communication. That communication was the result of having intentionally developed a shared language around reading.
Another Family Language aspect to reading is the shared friends that you have. We have always made it a point to know the friends of our kids; however, we didn’t have to work too hard to know the literary friends that our kids made. We all knew and loved Wilbur (from Charlotte’s Web) and mourned with him when Charlotte “left”. We celebrate with Anne Shirley as she was adopted and when she made her best friend (Anne of Green Gables). We went on an emotional roller coaster with Sara Crewe when she realized her fortune, and her father, were gone (A Little Princess).
Each of these characters became friends of ours that we discussed regularly. We knew the heart of gold that Heidi had (Heidi), we knew what Charles Wallace would want for his birthday (A Wrinkle in Time), and we knew when Bilbo Baggins (The Hobbit) felt out of his comfort zone and pressed on anyway.
These characters became points of similar conversation, and point of references when we were trying to communicate deep emotions for which the younger kids had no words. My oldest was, and still is, just like Anne Shirley. The way she sees life and the way she breathes in nature is Anne. When she was little, filled with huge emotions and a small vocabulary, we used to talk in Anne of Green Gables language. “Mommy, I feel just like Anne did when she found out that Matthew had really wanted a boy.” Or, “I want this as desperately as Anne wanted puffed sleeves on her dress.” It helped to put word to emotions that were difficult to describe.
OK. I’ve got to stop here. This post is getting as long as the last one! I’ve got a little more to write about reading to your kids, and a lot more about Family Language to share. Stick with me, and over the next few days, I’ll continue this concept. Please write if you have any questions, or any comments/suggestions. I’d love to hear them!