When my husband was little (he’s going to love that I’m sharing this story!) his mama dressed him in a blue leisure suit and took him to the mall to go shopping with him. Being the little boy that he was, he quickly got bored and found a fountain to play around. In one moment of insanity, he got up on the edge of the fountain and began walking around. (I’m sure you can see where this is headed…) Before he knew what had happened, he fell into the fountain, soaking himself and his blue leisure suit.
Because this story was told in our family, when the kids were little and about to do something foolish, we’d simply say, “Blue leisure suit.” Those 3 words were enough to stop thoughtless actions.
That is an example of Family Language.
Family Language is the idea that you can create and capture moments in your family that become reference points in communication. It is the movement of returning back to moments in your family’s history to create a sense of unity and understanding.
In my last post I ended with talking about how to create a Family Language by reading together. I have one more benefit of reading together as it relates to Family Language. When you read together, you travel on various adventures together, creating shared activities together.
I grew up near the Platte River in Nebraska. As I take my kids back home every summer, we go to a bridge that spans that river. The first thing the kids ask to do is play Pooh Sticks. If any of you remember having read A.A.Milne’s Winnie the Pooh series, one of the games that Pooh and his friend played was Pooh Sticks. Everyone gets a stick, stands on one side of a bridge, drops their sticks into the water at the same time, and then runs to the other side of the bridge to look in the water; whoever’s stick arrives on the other side first, wins.
This game was inspired and reenacted because of a shared reading experience together when they were very little. And yet, even now that they’re teenagers, they still play the game. In our house, when someone mentions Pooh Sticks, we all know what we’re talking about. It is a shared experience because of having read together, and because we’ve created family moments with great memories around a silly little game.
#2 Family trips. Most families take vacations (even if just to visit family), but few families put the thought into capturing moments while on the trip to create words in your Family Language.
One of the benefits of living in the Northeast is the relative closeness of so many major cities. We are 1 1/2 hours from New York City, 2 1/2 hours from Boston, and 3 1/2 hours to Philadelphia, and 5 hours to Washington, D.C., etc.
On this particular trip, we had decided to scoop up our family and make a quick weekend of Philadelphia. My husband and I were SO excited to see the historical places, things we were seeing for the first time, and introduce our kids to the energy and strategic moments that came about in the creating of our nation. We took them from historical landmark to historical landmark, sharing with them the knowledge that we had about each place, stopping to read every plaque aloud, and asking lots of questions of our tour guides.
It quickly became apparent, however, that our kids were mostly focused on the pool in the hotel.
As our energy dwindled and our enthusiam was dampened, we gave in. We walked right past a few places that my husband and I thought would be interesting so that we could to get the kids to the train that would take us to our hotel.
As the kids splashed, laughed and played, my husband and I had great conversations about what divine guidance must’ve been involved to bring all of these amazing people together at that moment in history, each willing to give their lives and their talents to fight for independence and dream bigger than anything they had previously seen. All the while, we were thinking about how our kids had missed a great opportunity to learn from an historic city.
No sooner had we returned to our home than our kids came to us asking if we could create a family government fashioned after the government they’d seen in Philly! They had offices that they wanted to fill that would give our whole family a system of governing ourselves. They had decided that we must have a president, a senator, a mayor, a treasurer, a governor, etc. and they wanted to have elections to fill these positions. Within a few weeks, we had held our first family elections.
To this day, we still hold family elections, complete with campaigning that happens weeks prior to election day. And there are very few weeks that I don’t get a document that begins with, “We the People” and ends with all of their signatures to ask for permission for a special exception to a family rule (for example, extending a child’s bedtime, or taking a day off of school because it is a gorgeous day), or to ask for a new law to be accepted.
This trip that my husband and I drove away from thinking had been nothing more than a drive to a hotel with a pool, had long, long lasting effects. It shaped who we are as a family, and gave us a whole new language with which to relate to each other.
I have one more post to wrap up this series on Family Language. There is much more to be discussed, so hang with me. Again, in the meantime, I’d love to hear what you have done to create a unique family language.