After two weeks of the back-to-school routine, I told my husband, Philip, that I felt like I was a hamster on the wheel. Being the brilliant and thoughtful man that he is, Philip came up with a brilliant idea: “Let’s start having family meetings on Sunday evenings to get us back on track. I’ll write up an agenda this afternoon, and we can meet after dinner.”
After dinner, we had our first family meeting. Philip brought the agenda he had drawn up.
Family Meeting Agenda:
- Opening prayer
- Teaching time with kids (time to introduce virtues, life skills, read books about these things)
- Kid movie time while Mom and Dad continue meeting
- GodTeens, holy hour, prayer life, goals
- what went well last week, what to work on for next week, goals, schedule time together (weeknight date night)
- budget, to-do projects (schedule it on the calendar), goals, housework, maintenance, look at the calendar for the week together
- goal for each child, activities, enrichment activities at home with Mom during the day
- goals, friendships, hobbies, fitness
- goals, friendships, hobbies, fitness
We sat around the basement card table as a family. We silenced our phones and made sure we had everything we needed. We brought notepads, pens, laptop, and phones (for syncing the calendar together). Once we were settled, Philip led us in an opening prayer. He prayed that God would bless our week together and that each of us would work on becoming closer to Christ. Then, Philip explained to the kids that we would have a family meeting every Sunday night. That would be our special family time to talk to each other about how things are going and how we can become even stronger as a family.
After our family prayer time, Philip started a movie for Jane and Walt (ages 4 and 3), baby Harry played at our feet, and we went through the agenda together. As our kids get older, we will incorporate them more into the rest of the meeting. For now, we want them to know that we are all dedicated to making our family better.
I love how Philip structured our family meeting agenda. It mirrors the hierarchy of relationships we want our family to have. In our house, that means that God is first, our marriage is second, kids are third, and everything else follows.
I think Philip stuck “Home” above “Kids” on the agenda because our home life mostly revolves around making life run smoothly for the kids. Once that’s in place, we are better able to identify what each child is still needing–one-on-one dates with Mom or Dad, special enrichment activities, a change in schedule, etc. With a sense of what the week will look like, it’s easier to be realistic about how and when we can give them the specific support they need.
The family meeting made the week go so much more smoothly! Philip and I were on the same page about the calendar, we were more realistic about how much and exactly what we would accomplish, the kids’ love tanks were fuller with one-on-one time or special activities (so they were less whiny!), bedtime went more smoothly, and family prayer time happened every evening. Philip and I got more accomplished during the week, we were praying before bed, we completely cut out television on weeknights, we got to bed earlier, and we started reading more. The talking time before bed is encouraging us to troubleshoot through problems that come up instead of just zoning out in front of the television. It means more work in the short term, but it brings our home more peace in the long term. We are realizing the importance of regular time for hobbies, friendships, and fitness. We are working together to make sure that those three things remain regular fixtures on our calendars.
Perhaps the biggest lesson we learned is how to be on the same team on the weekends. For us, the struggle is balancing the need to get out and have fun with finally tackling the stuff we don’t have time for during the week. I stay at home, so I am constantly adding to the list of things that need to get done, and it stresses me out when our weekends fly by without tackling something on the list. Philip, on the other hand, is mostly outside of the home during the week as a doctor. His biggest priority is quality family time, and he tends to schedule fun stuff instead of tackling projects. This makes me feel like a fun-hating, bad cop nagging mother when I remind Philip that there are things that need to get done when he tells me he wants to go to the zoo, visit the museum, or head to the farmer’s market.
After talking things through, we agreed that our weekends need to be a “both-and.” Our family needs to get things done around the home and we need to have that holy leisure time together. Before, I felt like the family was always waiting on me to get out the door as I finished loading the dishwasher with the lunch dishes. It made me feel like I was a hindrance to them having fun. Now, Philip is working on enlisting the kids to help with things around the house so that we are all working together to get out the door and have fun. Making that one simple change last week made a big difference.
I look forward to our next family meeting on Sunday. It’s a fun time to connect with Philip as we work together to get our family to heaven and make everyone happier while we are here.
Reflect: How would a family meeting bless your family? Do you have the same hierarchy of relationships working in your family? What changes do you need to make this week?
Copyright 2014 Catherine Boucher