Thursday, January 20, 2011

Developing a Family Identity

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?


Courtney said...

What a great post. I need to think more about that- so often I am trying to keep up with what my neighbors kids are doing and feeling like we can't afford it. I shouldn't worry about what the neighbors kids are doing... we are are own family. Great insights.

Lisa6Kids said...

For our family I like to let them try things when they are younger but I have no problem doing something for a month or two and deciding it's not for us. I want them to do something they LOVE. For us theater is the one thing that unites us as a family. We love theater. We decided that none of us like doing sports. So even though we are in an area that is very sports-centric we are not signing up for ANY. People look at us weird but it's not who we are.

Rachel said...

I love the idea of your family being travelers. I'm going to have think about this one for our family, but I love the idea. The one thing that came to find is just how much we just hang out together.

Sat. mornings everyone jumps in our bed and we chill till we're ready to get up. At nights we all read together or watch movies. And then there is the tumbling....not sure if I like this one but's our family. There is a lot of tumbling and wrestling going on around here.

Lindsay Ruiz said...

Oh man, Ruizes are definately dancers. We always have spontaneous dance parties in the kitchen and basement. We always have to dance at the end of the movies when the credits roll. They dance to the Living Legend show they always air on KBYU. What's great is that I have a husband that isn't afraid to dance!

Misty M. said...

I really love this post. My kids aren't even old enough yet to be involved in much, and already I feel guilty because I know that neither me nor their father have the least interest in sports. I am an artist through and through and he is a musician and singer... together we are both computer nerds also. The whole family is already in to video games and the most fun we have seems to be playing together.
It would be really great to just accept these things as our family identity and not worry so much about the need to expose them to everything else they might be missing.
Thank you! I am going to really ponder this idea more fully.

Katie said...

We are outgoing people. We get together with friends and family several times a week and host several low-key, high-fun parties a year. We're doing a pretty good job teaching our children that there are good, fun people all around us, and most people really want to play---they just need you to make the first move. I'm also really, really happy that our family has lots of friends with differing belief systems than ours. We want our kids to see the good in people, not focus on the ways we're different.

Anonymous said...

I have a blog award to pass along and you immediately came to mind! :) Feel free to pick it up at if you want to participate :)

Mostly Diane said...

Funny, I was passing the same blog award on to you. You can find mine at:

Martie said...

Thank you for the food for thought. I have been thinking a lot about this lately.

I have an award for you on my blog. Come and get it!


Mrs. Miles said...

Hi Christina,

I've been blog hopping to all of our designers at SBE and adding my new "designing family" in my links at my blog.

I'm so glad I had the opportunity to come see you - your post was current, insightful and valuable.

I look forward to getting to know you and visiting you in the future.

~ Barb

Dana said...

Needed this today...Oh to only find and identity!! I am off to read the article! It is funny because (amoung other things and comparisons) I have beening thinking a lot about how my neighbors all go skiing at Bogus and why don't we?? Are we a skiing family, do we want to be or do we want to "keep up"? I could go on because the neighbors also do piano (and many other instruments), sports (in all their varieties), sining, family/friend parties, and I could go on and on. I feel the pressure often.
As you know, I grew up without neighbors and really had no one to look at/compare to. Having neighbors this close is really nauseating sometimes. The other reason I think I constantly compare and contrast myself to others is because I am a twin. Don't let your girls get in that habit.
I need to figure out what our family can be identified as!!


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