The other day I called a “family meeting”.
On a laughable side note, I think the kids thought we might be welcoming yet another family member- in hindsight we’ve had these meetings before when something big is about to change, but I digress. This was not about a new family member, it was about US as family members and sometimes you just need to get everything said with everyone in the same room at one time and that doesn’t happen as often anymore. So we had to be intentional.
I called the meeting because Bob and I are not “an island” we aren’t a two-man show, we aren’t saints or martyrs and we don’t do this big family life all alone. I called the meeting because as parents we are well aware that we are raising adults –not children. We are raising them (we certainly hope) to be kind, and thoughtful, to be self-aware, and considerate of others. We hope we are raising them to feel successful (whatever that looks like to them) and to be happy and to love.
But we needed to step back for a minute when I realized their requests were becoming expectations, the disappointments were merely inconveniences, and the material things they so “loved” were ignored and unkempt because they become so quickly just -replaceable.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I look at my kids’ lives and circumstances and compare to “when I was their age”. There is probably some psychological term for that feeling but whatever it is, I am sure you’ve done it too. And often in spite of those feelings, I don’t always share my thoughts with the kids because it would be impossible to compare apples to apples.
Because when I was their age, I wished for a uniform heating system in my house. I wished for unannounced trips to the mall, prom dresses from a store- to grocery shop without restrictions and to know I was safe when I went to bed. My kids have a far different life than I had and sometimes I need to open their eyes a bit to that … sometimes I think it is important to break their bubble on purpose and open my own wounds a bit, so that we don’t get so far off in the clouds and bliss that we forget what was, what could’ve been, and who around us might be there now.
So we called a meeting.
We spoke about responsibility, and accountability. About finances – about need vs. want. And we discussed how different things could be, and how different they actually are for others around us. Here are some of the highlights…
“You are going to prom? How much will that cost dad and I?”
“I think the ticket is like, only $40.”
“So are you buying a dress? ($200) Hair done? ($40) What about transportation? Are you going out to eat or anything afterwards?…”
“Who here thinks that right now all dad and I do is cover necessities for them?”
No one raises a hand but they all start looking at each other.
“Who had braces (not a necessity, you’re welcome) or who has contacts? Your phones? The Wi-Fi? Your specific ice cream, or shampoo, batteries for your Xbox??? Even Hulu… for goodness sakes… You want to know if something is a necessity? It’s not a necessity if you can think of something and then consider -if mom and dad took this away their lives would not change. Because if we took away necessities the whole family would be impacted, anything else is fair game to remove from our budget & our time. We want to give you everything we can, we want you to be happy. But we have realized that you now expect it rather than see it as either a sacrifice on our part for you or a gift because we love you. So it’s time to check ourselves and recognize and appreciate what we have because if this continues, it will not lead you to being happy.”
In the end, we resolved to be more mindful, to help and care because we choose to, not because we have to or are made to- just like Bob and I try to do for them. We want to be helpful, we want to be considerate, we want to appreciate how good life is, and we want to be kind. So we have to choose that. And we have to train ourselves to think that way- it is not something that will just come naturally. Basic human nature will take us the exact opposite direction.
Bob and I realize that the years go fast- that there are only so many years to form these babies into adults. Sometimes you catch a teachable moment, and sometimes you have to intentionally call everyone into the room, create the moment, and have a family meeting. But no matter how you do it- make sure you do it mamas and daddies. Because the world is constantly sending messages of “more, more, more” and making you feel entitled at the expense of others around us. And that is wrong.
What makes us human, what makes us keep striving, and what makes this family work- is love.