Last fall I read a great article by Orson Scott Card about developing your family’s identity. While the article was geared towards Latter-day Saint families, the principles involved are applicable to all.
What stood out to me was the idea that just because everyone signs their kid up for soccer, dance, karate, track, etc. doesn’t mean your family has to. He suggested finding a couple of things that you do because it’s part of your identity as a family – his family was theater people, for example, and other families he knows are distinguished by their passion for sports or even video games.
He writes, "Instead of taking our priorities from other families, as if we were competing in a hundred Olympic events at once, we can embrace our uniqueness and accept that we don't even want to do a lot of the things other families do so well."
I loved this idea and I’ve decided to look for the things we are passionate about as a family and then not let myself feel guilty about not doing all the rest. For example, I've always felt just a little bit like a failure as a mother because my kids have only ever done one disastrous, time-intensive season of soccer. Silly, I know.
So I’m working on figuring out what our identity is. For one thing, I'm embracing our identity as adventurous travelers. My husband loves to travel, especially since he has a very demanding career and works from home part of the time. He’s stretched very thin, and feels like the only way he can get away from work is to leave town. So we do often. He does daddy trips with the older kids and we also go as a family three or four times a year. I didn’t do a lot of traveling except to Grandma’s house as a child so it's something I'm growing into. And I'm realizing that this is becoming part of our identity: Bartholomews are adventurers.
I also recently signed my kids up for horseback riding lessons. The boys and my twins are sharing a time slot (so they each go every other week) and since the gal charges only $15 an hour for two kids, it is pretty economical. I’ve been so excited to see them do this – completely different from how I feel about a lot of the other activities we’ve done. Most things I sign my kids up for I take them to out of duty or a general “this is good for them even though it’s a pain for me” feeling. THIS is something I could take them to every day and not complain. At least I think I wouldn’t complain.
I’ll still have my kids do other things – piano, track, gymnastics, etc. – because I think there’s value in trying new things and developing skills that you can use to serve others. And as my kids get older, I notice that they choose to direct their own activities in ways I wouldn't have predicted and that are very good for their development. But if I can’t sign up for some of the many things offered because my schedule is too full, I need to remember the things we ARE doing.
We're developing an identity as a family of travelers who enjoys spending time together. We love hiking, swimming, and (so far) horses.
And that's enough, at least for now.
What things does your family do because they love to do it? What would you consider to be part of your family identity?