Written by Sarah Reinhart
Originally published on her blog Little White Whale on March 11, 2015
I make no bones about it. For as much as I am able I’d like my family’s life together to be a happy one. Less anguish? Less agony? Less moaning and whining and wretchedness? Sign me and this crew up! Certainly there are things out of my control that cause some unhappiness. Certainly. I know that. You know that. And it seems the more I force things into my control, generally the more shit falls apart around here. Trying to control everything often results in me controlling little to nothing. If someone wants to lose it over lumpy sock seams when we’re already running late for school? I mean, sometimes you have to say screw it. We’re gonna be late. Let’s twist this sock seam into place until it’s tolerable for you to walk, m’kay? Good thing I wasn’t being all controlling and shoving you out the door where you’d ramp it up and completely break down on the sidewalk thus prolonging time and energy and mental space spent on a sock seam. Yes, sometimes monster mountains of unhappiness can be squashed while they’re yet sad, wee little molehills. I’ve learned.
I teach my children it’s good to relax. Eventually sock seams won’t matter as much. And that for the most part (not always, but often enough) we choose our own happiness. Or we don’t. Occasionally Mitchell and I wonder aloud, How are we? Are we happy? Are we doing this family life thing well?
So when I read a piece in Time recently, 6 Things the Happiest Families All Have In Common, I found myself nodding yes yes we do do that! Maybe we’re on track after all. High five. Fist bump. Excessive touchdown celebration. Or whatever the hell the kids are doing these days.
Share family history, check.
Hold family meetings, heck yeah.
Do family dinner, well duh.
Actively try? For sure.
Negotiate? Lawd, all five of my kids could pass the Bar now. Even the baby. Put them in a court room! Objection. Over ruled. They win.
WE GOT THIS IN THE BAG, REINHARTS. Happy family indeed.
Except for one bulleted item. One we hadn’t done. One we’d never talked about. This one: Create a family mission statement. And that made me think, let’s do it. Because that’s smart. Businesses have mission statements. Businesses know companies need direction. Plus, it’s a great opportunity to remind us of why we as a family exist. What’s our purpose? You know? What is our purpose?
That night I brought a notebook to the dinner table. I explained “Mission Statement” as something that tells what are family is about. Like a rule? No, more like a goal. It’s something that describes us and what tells we aim to do. Beforehand I’d broken the task down into 4 questions I felt confident my kids and husband could answer. I jotted down as they spoke. Then I strung their responses together to make the full mission. Ours went something like this:
1. What does our family do together?
They said, “We go places. We go on road trips. We do art projects. We laugh. We play electronics. We play games like Hide and Seek and soccer and basketball. We have dance parties. We watch movies. We love each other.”
2. How do we want to feel when we’re together?
They said, “Good. Happy. Loved. Comfortable. Annoyed. (Annoyed was suggested by Leo, my oldest, who at that point was ready to get up from the table and go back to playing outside. I said annoyed might not make the final cut, but I’d still write it down. Boom. There it is. The follow through.)
3. What’s most important to us?
They said, “Each other. Sticking together.” (Nice and concise! Bravo, kids.)
4. In what do we believe?
They said, “God. Love. Kindness.” (Have to admit I was impressed with the rapid fire of those three. Then again, I know at that point they all just wanted to get up and go play, not just Leo. I even got a, “Mom, enough of this inspirational stuff.” Sigh, and fine. Go and go. Peace out all of you.)
Off the big ones went to enjoy daylight savings time in the driveway and I arranged our/their thoughts together like so:
The Reinhart Family
In this family we PLAY. We LAUGH. We DANCE. We CREATE.
We BELIEVE in GOD and KINDNESS and GOODNESS.
We FEEL HAPPY when we’re together.
We LOVE ourselves. We LOVE each other. In this family we do LOVE.
Later I read it back to them and it was unanimously approved. Now to print it out big and display it near the table where we sat when it was forged. After all, it’s why we’re here.
Do you have a family mission statement? Tell me about it. Or use the prompts above and generate one of your very own!
Enough of this inspirational stuff?
Never enough of this inspirational stuff.