One of my favorite things is to write up a plans or schedules when I’m excited about some new goal or life change. I have been making charts, calendars, schedules and lists since I was a middle schooler (or sooner?). As a homeschooled kid I had the freedom to work through my math textbooks at whatever pace (as long as I met my parent’s expectations too) so I planned (and raced) to get ahead. I had calendars with countdowns to our favorite days – church camp, birthdays, Christmas, etc – marked in the lower corner of each square, months in advance. I made school schedules, kept reading logs, and counted to make sure to get everything done. Let’s just say I’m a bit competitive and an epic planner. I like to know when, how, and why things will happen. I love structured freedom with the freedom to create my own structure.
I still do. But these days, with all my people, I have to take into account a little more before I scribble out a schedule or a plan and expect it to work well for all of us. Instead of just plugging goals, expectations, intentions, and ideals into the hours of they day, I really need to gauge the undercurrents of our life together before I try to change anything.
Here’s a little of what I’ve learned.
Before we even venture into the tangible details of life in your family, you have to slow it down and simply listen. Listen to the undercurrents in your home right now. Don’t worry about what is getting done, what is happening tomorrow, or how it compares to your someday ideals. Take into account your right now life with all its troubles, annoyances, whining, and fighting. Slow it down for a week or two and just listen. You’re taking stock of where you’re starting, learning how your family works right now, and listening for moments that might tell you a little more about what your people need.
Start with yourself. Learn to listen to how your heart and soul and body feel on a daily basis. Get to know what to feels like when you are overwhelmed, physically tired, soul tired. Listen to the ebb and flow of peace and anxiety in your own life. Notice how you feel when you need more food or sleep or exercise.
Learn to trace your feelings back to the beginning place. Maybe not all the way to a root place, but feelings start somewhere and sometimes it’s not obvious if your mind rethinks social situations after the event is already over. I’ve found looking for the starting place of a feeling can help me stop feeling ill at ease or upset. Look where it started, name it and decide if you need to do something. Sometimes just naming it is enough and the pain lessens enough to move forward, sometimes more digging is necessary and you have to learn to speak up when people treat you poorly or speak truth to yourself if the voice in your head is unkind.
This kind of wholeness in yourself is yours to address with God’s help. As you learn to listen to your own well-being, you will become better at reaching out to your people with empathy and nurturing wholeness in your little family.
Listen to your people. Are they happy, healthy, growing in all manner of ways? Is there are a lot of fighting? Are you able to tell why? Is everyone getting attention? Do you all have enough opportunity to try new things or to pursue what you are most interested in? Do you prioritize unstructured time? Are you outside enough? Are there outer signs of stress and can you pinpoint the sources? With kids it can be a little difficult to figure out what is going on, but often it is easy to tell when they are struggling. Whining, fighting, and crankiness often get ignored as just part of being a little kid and maybe it is. They’re still learning how to moderate all the feelings about all the things, but additionally these outer signs can help us to see if we need to make some adjustments to our family life to better accommodate our family’s needs.
Take into account your family energy, time, and resources. Where is the family energy going? Is there a specific stress that is draining you all or just one of you? Is there too much going on or not enough? What takes the most resources – bills, fun, mom’s stuff, dad’s stuff, kids’ stuff? What could use adjustment? Is there a natural give and take or is it less equal than ideal. Don’t worry about making everything fair. It doesn’t exist. There’s always an ebb and flow of time, attention, and resources. Different people need more or less of everything at different times at different times. It is impossible to measure, but it’s important to notice.
Even if nothing in your practical situation changes, knowing how these undercurrent effect your family and that they exist can help you to provide a better base for each of the people you love. Knowing what is going on under the surface helps you to see space to change and motivate you in the process. Chances are if you find some place with room to adjust, you’ll want to change as much as you can to make your family more whole and free.
Next week we’ll take another step towards updating your whole together family routine. :)
Will you pay attention to the undercurrents this week? What would you add to watch for in your family undercurrents?