March is always a time for me to reflect on family. It is the month in which both of my daughters, Emily (16) and Charlotte (10) were born. As we celebrate their birthdays, my wife and I can’t help but look back and think about all that has occurred since we started our family. We are proud of our family but The Laurances are far from perfect. Getting to where we are today has been a journey filled with joy, worry and plenty of hard work.
At Beechwood, part of our mission is to prepare our students to someday build strong families of their own. The best way we can do this is by modeling for them what it means to be a strong family. Here are a few things that I have to constantly remind myself of, as I strive to build my own family.
Patience. Children make mistakes. They lose things. They fight with each other. They tell lies. They forget. They show bad judgement. As adults, it is our job to hold them accountable for their mistakes, all the while understanding that growing up is a learning process. We don’t know when they will mature but we have to trust that it will happen eventually. In the meantime we must provide the kind of calm, considerate, guidance they need.
Be together. Sometimes a family can all be in the some house and be so far apart. The TV is on in one room, another person is on the phone and a third is in their room on the computer. More than ever, we need to make a conscious effort to come together, talk to each other, listen to each other and enjoy each other’s company. Family outings, family dinners, family projects: they take some effort to orchestrate but are worth the effort.
Be aware of age appropriate behavior. As our children move through the different stages of childhood, they exhibit new behaviors which may be unsettling for parents but are, in fact, completely normal. Two-year olds throw tantrums. Five-year olds want to show you everything they have done. Teenagers want to be alone or with their friends (not with you!). It is easy to take it personally or judge the behavior as disrespectful. Letting our children work through these changes can sometimes be the best approach.
Be constructive and positive. My wife and I have had to work through a number of family related issues. As we do, I think it is important for our children to see that we do this in the form of constructive conversation. We do not always agree on the best course of action but we always show respect to each other as we struggle to figure out the next challenge. We model hopefulness and a belief that together we can see our way through the difficult times.
Our children are watching us. They will take what we show them and they will carry it with them as move from childhood into adulthood. If we want them to be prepared to build strong families, we must show them how that is done.