I’m the first to admit it. We’re quirky. We have family meatloaf challenges and think finding a good parking spot is a competitive sport. The name Bob makes us laugh (I’m not exactly sure why but I laugh anyway). We make up names for each other, i.e. The Hair Monster (you know who you are), and we’re pretty sure sarcasm is a spiritual gift.
We’re odd but we’re proud of it. I’ve come to realize this plays a big part in how we connect as a family. While some families are great planners and rule followers, we’re more the let’s-fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants variety. I used to feel guilty about this when I heard other families talk about their planned-to-the-minute family times and their intricate family rituals. Those things are wonderful, if that’s who you are.
I know now that every tribe needs to figure out the rhythm that works for them, and it’s less about what you do and more about what happens when you do it. While each family is unique, there are some things that are the same:
Your kids need you.
They need to know you love them with a fierceness that never quits.
They need your time, your presence, your heart.
They need you to fly the family freak flag high and proud so it shouts above the noise of the world that this is their tribe and they belong.
For the Surratt’s, this looks different than other families and I’m okay with that. Here are a couple of things I’ve learned along the way.
We embrace the time of day that fits. Some families have sweet morning times over the breakfast table where cheery faces gather amidst the sounds of chirping birds and angel song. That’s not us. To say our family may not be morning people is like saying a skunk may not always smell like roses. With the exception of my husband, we tend to be a grouchy people in the A.M. For me, the morning makes me downright crabby, and I suspect God himself doesn’t even want to talk to me before I’ve had that first cup of coffee. Unfortunately, both of my kids inherited this monosyllabic one-grunt morning personality.
We tend to be more amiable (and lucid) at the dinner hour, so we roll with that. Our focus was never the food or an agenda, but the moments we laughed together over my son’s first attempt at making brownies with triple the amount of oil in the recipe (he earned the name ‘Oil Boy’ for that) and where we heard tales of the fourth-grade-classmate whose antics almost drove the teacher to say a curse word. These were also the moments when I noticed the look in my daughter’s eyes that told me all was not well in her elementary world and prompted me to trudge up the stairs for an after-dinner-talk, which sometimes ended in an opportunity to pray together. Not every meal held big moments, and some of the moments were downright frustrating.
Flexibility was our friend. Our kids both played sports and were busy with the church youth group, which meant that dinner was sometimes a burger or taco in the car. At first this bugged me, but I learned that just because we weren’t all together around a table, time with my daughter and her soccer teammates was like a front row seat to the mystery that is preteen girls and gave me great conversation prompts with her afterward.
The overwhelmingly stinky moments with my son and his basketball buddies as I picked them up after practice (I often hung my head out the window like a dog) were like gold when they forgot I was in the car, laughing about girls and school and the curious moments of their fifteen-year-old lives.
At first it was tempting to feel like our family times were ebbing away into nothingness, but then I embraced them for what they were, the opportunities to enter their world as it expanded beyond our family. As my kids talked and laughed with their friends, I caught glimpses of their ‘Surratt-ness’ as they shared a thought or opinion. I saw evidence that the messy, imperfect family moments had seeped not just into their heads, but into their hearts.
Here’s what I know for sure. These moments don’t just walk up and hit you on the nose. You have to watch for them and then grab them and make them yours. Don’t waste time regretting the fact that you aren’t like the Joneses down the street. Be the you that God designed your family to be. Quirky as that may be.
When does the best conversation happen for your family?
Why do those specific times work for you? How can you create more of them?