While playing violin for a live Nutcracker production a few weeks ago, I was struck by something a friend said during one of our breaks. She commented how she saw my pictures on Facebook and how perfect my family seems to be all the time. When I thanked her and responded that while my family life is really wonderful, but I am not perfect, she said, “Well maybe you should share that too.”
To be honest, her response shook me a little bit.
Why would anyone want to see when I screw up? Why would they care about the times I “fail”? Don’t they see life as a series of learning moments verses failures? Do we relate to others more when we see their mistakes?
Then I started wondering..
Is my family really that unusual?
We laugh, we love, but we also get annoyed and short with one another. We make mistakes, but we also grow every single day.
It took talking with a dear friend yesterday to realize that it is not the mistakes that people want to see, it is the how.
He said most people think raising a family is hard, that it is full of frustrations and flare-ups and hurt feelings, but when he sees our family, he feels the love and is inspired by how we are able to raise a family that radiates so much love and easily moves through the many mistakes that are inevitable in life.
It was then that I realized just how different our family might be. We place love first. In a world that thrives on being busy, on having drama, on blaming others and aggressive communication, we buck the norm.
But I also realized that every family has the power to radiate love. It’s all in the how.
It’s how you choose to live your life, not manage it.
It’s how you greet each other when you see one another first thing in the morning.
It’s how your face lights up when your kids come home from school.
It’s how you take time to say goodnight to one another.
It’s how you listen when someone has something important to say, no matter how big or insignificant it may seem.
It’s how you learn to be still when someone gets mad, verses fighting back with emotion.
It’s how you hear their words and see their actions when they are having a hard time and instead of lashing back or shutting them out, you bring them closer into your world. You offer a hug. You offer to listen when they are ready.
It’s how you apologize when you make a mistake that impacts them.
It’s how you work as a team and know that everyone in the family is vital and important.
It’s how you encourage someone when they need it and teach them to be the first to encourage someone else.
It’s how we know that somedays our best will be incredible and other days our best might be a little crappy.
It’s how you treat your spouse.
It’s how you treat yourself.
It’s how you take time to realize that we all have our own filters and perspectives and that while they might differ, they each matter.
It’s how you react when something gets spilled or broken or worse.
It’s how you realize that the only power in a family should be the power of love.
It’s how you are patient when you really want to run and scream.
It’s how you talk with, not at each other.
It’s how you see the glass half-full, not half empty.
It’s how you engage everyone in the family by having dialogues at the kitchen table or as you snuggle on the couch.
It’s how you talk about and work through emotions, verses just reacting or shutting them down.
It’s how you respect one another and give each other space when needed.
It’s how you trust one another.
It’s how you believe in the good of others, even when you can’t see it at the moment.
It’s how you approach things they are interested in with enthusiasm.
It’s how you compliment them on how they are working towards a goal and stick with it even when it’s tough.
It’s how you set boundaries, not out of power and control, but out of love.
It’s how when you could easily do something for them, but realize that they are totally capable of doing it and encourage them to try it on their own.
It’s how you say “I love you” for the millionth time, even though they already know it.
It’s how you give them a bear hug, for no reason at all, but just because.
It’s how you leave the to-do list to play a game of ball or game of scrabble.
It’s how you encourage their creativity and differences.
It’s how you take time to cook a meal verses shove something through a window.
It’s how you take time to do the little things.
A few days ago my 10 year old son asked me if I was going to meet him after school to walk home with him and his twin brother. I replied, “Yes, I will surely try, it depends upon if your sister is sleeping. Why?”
“Well, because even if you try, it shows you care.”
This instantly made my heart melt. At 10 he is fully able to walk himself to and from school with his brother, but he doesn’t care about that as much as he cares that I care enough to be there.
It really is the little daily things that kids notice and care about. It’s the how we do things, not the things.
Just yesterday one of my sons got angry at me because he didn’t want to clean his room. Instead of barking at him to do it, I took time to talk with him and explain that I was helping him build a skill. We went to his room together and talked about what would make the biggest impact first and then started it together. Within 5 minutes he was whistling and happy because the progress in his room was visible. Less then 30 minutes later he gave me a hug and said, “I love you mom. I’m sorry I got mad at you. Will you forgive me?” I responded with, “Yes, do you remember how I got short on the way to church yesterday? I apologized and you forgave me.”
With that he smiled and bounded down the hallway to go play with his brother.
While most parents are off trying to get their kid in the best soccer league, get their kid a mentor at school, get their kid the newest clothes, get their kid to a play date, get their kid an A on the science project, or get their kid this or that, all kids really care about is our time with them – how we spend that time with them.
It’s the little things, really, that are the big things.
It’s through the hows that love is built. It’s through the hows that love radiates. It’s through the hows that mistakes are easily forgiven.
The love we have is real, the bond we share is amazing. The mistakes we make along the way are just another chance to grow and share our love with each other.
May you live in love~
P.S. My parenting mantra is this Love. Trust. Listen.
Read here how the most unusual place inspired this…