If your house is anything like mine, over the past months many different plans have been justified by two simple words: “It’s summer!” Bedtime gets pushed back? “It’s summer!” Staying out later than normal eating pizza and ice cream on a Tuesday night? No problem… “it’s summer!” If summer equals impulsive outings, longer days, weekends or vacations away, September means the return to schedules. School schedules, sports schedules, pick-up and drop-off schedules. With all the requirements of a new school year, our tendency is to rush back to a “routine.”
But how to make that routine meaningful? How can we bring the big issues in our lives to our kitchen tables? How can we talk to our kids and make connections for them that last? I think finding a meaningful family rhythm is more important than sliding back into a routine.
Routine is what you do yourself, individually, alone. Routine is how you get ready in the morning. It’s about when you brush your teeth. Routine is about when the coffee pot gets switched on.
Rhythm is something different. Rhythm is what we remember years from now. Rhythm is like waves in an ocean all moving together. It’s a song’s notes rolling to the same beat, or all the leaves on a tree, blown by the same breeze. And rhythm is what we want for our families. Not uniform routine, but a rhythm that has us all moving through the crazy schedules, together. Think about it this way: a rich, healthy family rhythm is what our kids will remember when they are grown.
So, how can we create rhythm for our families?
It all starts with values
Often in this space we talk about living our values, together as a family. How we spend our time, where we invest our attention, is all based on our values. Does your family value time together? Building a rhythm of family game nights, or “pizza & a movie nights” might be key to building a good family rhythm. Does your family value being active together? Taking family bike rides or going on long Saturday morning walks at a park might be the way to get started. Finding a good family rhythm assures that your values remain at the top of your household’s priority list.
Your “Yes” is a “No”
Identifying your values is so important to building a healthy family rhythm is because there are so many things competing for our time. To fully live our your values as a family requires discipline. And the best way I’ve come to think about discipline is realizing that your “yes” to one thing, is a “no” to something else. Being committed to family dinners together three or four nights a week has clear implications for what other routines individual members of your family can say ‘yes’ to. If you want to go on family walks every Saturday morning, saying “yes” to that, means you will most likely have to say “no” to the myriad of other Saturday morning opportunities. If your family wants to build a rhythm around supporting each other, saying “yes” to one child’s sports team might mean saying “no” to other activities. Our ability to say no to certain opportunities gives us a better chance to form meaningful rhythms for our families, with those choices rooted in our values.
So, as we move out of one season and into another, find a meaningful rhythm based on your values. And I hope you find the collective willingness as a family to say “yes” to what matters, and “no” to anything that might get in the way.