Have you and your family ever had one of those times where no matter what was going on there was some level of bickering, arguing, unhappiness….just plain ‘ol tension in the house through and through?
Our family has those times…..those moments. They aren’t all the time, and they aren’t even often, but we fall in the pit a few times a year.
When we fall into these not so pleasant situations, I as the Wife, the Mother, the “Feminine” of the home begin to feel as if I am failing my family. I sometimes, though not necessarily right, take on a great deal of the pressure and responsibility in trying to keep our house a home, keep our family unit a cohesive and happy one. Now, this is not ALL my responsibility, and I know this, but I do enjoy this “job” this “tasking” I have put on my own shoulders. I am a bit of a perfectionist and I hold high standards for myself and those around me….but I am most disappointed in MYSELF when I fall subpar to those standards I have set. So, when our family falls into this little rut, I can take it personally.
This past November began feeling a bit stressful in the home. I couldn’t put my finger on the reason why. Nothing was any different from other years. Financially we were ok….never where we “want” to be, but all our needs were met. Thanksgiving was coming in hot and heavy and we, my husband and I, knew that Christmas was right around the corner. I believe the normal pressure of those two holidays, along with our whole family’s displeasure with having to live where we were, and not being able to be where we wanted to be had started to mount. The kids were really beginning to miss their friends where we had moved from a year before, and we all just missed how much we absolutely LOVED our old “home”.
At one point, I became disappointed in how much I felt my children and husband were taking our lives and the things we had/have for granted. There was always a gripe about this thing not working right, or that they wanted a better of that thing, or even the persistent requests for more and MORE things that were so far beyond the norm of what any family really needs to live a happy life. The bitching, moaning, groaning, whining and complaining were just getting to me…..and I include myself in that part. So I came up with a brilliant idea and just prayed my husband would go along with it.
I went to the Dollar Tree one afternoon with a single minded goal….find four small journals or notebooks and four “special” pens for all of us. I went home from that shopping trip with four small spiral bound notebooks with little decoration on the front, and four “special” pens….I spent a total of $8. (some people believe they must have expensive, nice perfect ‘things’ to make a difference in their life. Me, not so much) I took my booty home, set it on the dining room table (where all things collect as we walk through the door) and started dinner.
When my husband got home, I was in the kitchen still cooking dinner. He came in to say hi, take off his boots at our smaller table, and tell me about his day. I listened and we discussed all that went on at work, then I turned to him and started telling about my day. I actually just told him about how I was feeling about the tension in the house; about the constant bickering and unhappiness; about how much it was stressing me out and making me feel very “blue”. He agreed with all I said, and said he had noticed it too. That is when I asked him if we could start journaling as a family after dinner. I wanted to start Gratitude Journals. The intent, I explained to him, was to help our family to get back out of a “gimme gimme, I want I want” attitude, and into a more loving, and grateful attitude for what we already have. He, to my great surprise, agreed to do it.
Our first entry was on November 22, 2015. We have not written in them consistently, but we write in them when it is needed. I will have to admit that I honestly thought our children would balk at this idea and fight us the whole way, but they didn’t. They have actually taken to it quite nicely. In the beginning it was slightly challenging because they would whine for the first few minutes about not knowing what to write about, even though I would provide verbal prompts, or short discussions before we began to write. When we finish our writing, we take turns sharing what we wrote if we wish too.
I have been quite surprised by the level of my children’s ideas and gratitudes. They are 12 and 13 years old, and when I decided to start this journaling thing, I was SERIOUSLY feeling as if I had created these horrible, greedy, ungrateful, unappreciative little monsters; I had been feeling like a terrible mother for allowing them to learn the behavior of taking things and people for granted. But, to my glorious surprise, I was completely wrong, jaded by my own expectations of them and not the reality of who they were. This journaling has opened up a window to a part of my children’s souls I don’t get to see much, actually at all. I knew it was there, I truly did. My babies can be some of the most amazing little people at times. My son actually gets upset when we can’t go to the local soup kitchen to volunteer because he has come to LOVE doing so, he truly enjoys interacting with so many of the patrons there. My daughter despises going shopping for her friends’ birthdays or Christmas…she always wants to make them something from her heart. But these weren’t enough for me to see that I wasn’t raising selfish, small hearted monsters…to my own shame. It was the opening of the door, the giving of permission, and the promise of a safe and sacred place that helped to highlight a very special place in my children’s souls.
Journaling as a family has also helped shine light on mine and my husband’s relationship. It has helped me to see him in a different light when it comes to certain topics or subjects. Where I sometimes feel my husband is cold, indifferent, closed off, uncaring, etc……I’ve found that, even though deep down I knew this was all BS in my head, his emotions and feeling are dug in deep. He simply doesn’t like the pain of “feeling”….he’s actually a very sensitive man, I have begun to realize, and getting all feely weely makes him uneasy. By journaling, he has been able to share those emotions and feeling he keeps deep down.
All in all, the idea of journaling as a family has been quite amazing. I am able to get my own thoughts down; we as a family share what it is we are grateful for that day and every day; we as a family get to share why it is we believe we are a blessed family; we share smiles and laughs; we have each been able to let our walls down and shed tears, be vulnerable and support each other during that very sacred time at our dinner table. I absolutely love our journaling time and do try to make it more consistent, but hey, life happens……my only wish is that I had started this many years ago.