The summer we learned how to be a family

I have written a lot about the experiences my family had last year as we made changes to how we went about our day-to-day. Yes, we learned to find joy even when situations didn’t pan out in the most pleasant way. Yes, we learned how to relax and just let go. Yes, we learned how to find inner peace and happiness.

But mostly, we learned how to do those things in a way that bettered how the other members of our family experienced them. For this to really work as a family group, everyone had to be affected simultaneously or the negativity would quickly spread throughout the other members.

We had always been a family in the sense that we were related or partnered and more-or-less spent our waking hours together doing a variety of activities. Everyone got along fairly well and knew their role within the household.

But did we know how to enjoy those activities or roles, or respect each other through the differences? Not always.

At the start of every break, my family argued and fought as they learned how to fit in to the family structure again. The older children didn’t like to do the “baby” things. The younger children grew bored in the “grown up” world. The adults didn’t like the increased defiance or lackadaisical attitude to making it through everything that needed to happen in a day. The children didn’t like being shushed during conference calls or rushed to get more accomplished. Soon, the break would be over and we’d go our separate ways to work or school where things worked more smoothly.

That wasn’t true family.

We had to learn how to work with each other’s needs. That is what makes a family function best. Not simply co-existing or participating in group activities and outings. You have to respect each individual for what they bring to the family dynamic and love them through what they need from the family. This is crucial to make everything click into place.

For this to happen, we had to make a conscious effort to see the good and let only happiness show, especially when it would be easier to react negatively. Eventually, happiness trickled through to everyone.

We found joy in cheering each other through the tough times, knowing that we were stronger both as individuals and as a group when we could use each other for support. “Choose to smile” became our motto and we challenged each other to see each silver lining.

The end result is that we came out as a healthier (though still imperfect) family unit. We saw each other for our strengths and weaknesses and knew when we could lean on each other for support and when we needed to offer a helping hand instead. We grew in appreciation of each other as members of our little household community, and that, friends, is what makes a family.

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