20 Mar, 2013
The stories that bind our families together
A couple days ago Toronto-based blogger/writer/traveller Heather Greenwood Davis posted a link to a thought-provoking New York Times article that immediately sunk into my brain and has been percolating there ever since. It brings to mind something I often think about… and that’s my job as a parent and the Big Question that comes along with it. How do we, as parents, raise happy and healthy children?
It’s a biggie, and it’s almost too overwhelming to think about when you’re the parent of an infant who’s not sleeping through the night, and it’s almost too overwhelming to think about when you’re chasing your toddler around the house, and it’s almost too overwhelming to think about when your kids get older and you FINALLY have time to curl up on the couch and read the newspaper and drink your coffee WHILE IT IS STILL HOT.
But we do need to think about it, we do.
How can we make sure we reach our desired destination if we aren’t taking a moment to think about the journey?
This article gives us a peek at a road map that might help:
“The single most important thing you can do for your family may be the simplest of all: develop a strong family narrative.”
Part of this is defining what kind of family you want to belong to, and then letting your actions speak for themselves. Are you sporty family? Well, Just Do It. Are you an artistic family? Take in a concert or art show… bonus points if it’s totally weird and new and slightly outside of your comfort zone. Are you a green family? An outdoor family? A birding family? A literary family? All of the above?
The article talks about the importance of your family history. Your kids need to hear those stories because it strengthens their feeling of belonging. It makes sense. We all need to belong to a tribe. The number one thing you can do to strengthen your narrative is to share your stories. The other thing you can do is to let your visuals tell your stories and keep those stories alive.
We live in the perfect time to do this, technologically speaking.
- The vast majority of parents have thousands of family photos on their computers. Get them out of iPhoto and onto your bigger screens. Use Apple TV to project them on the TV. Set up a screensaver on your computer that displays a random assortment of family photos. Get one of those digital frames (I’d love one of those!) and get those photos rolling. You will be amazed at how many times your kids will stop in their tracks, point at the screen, and say “remember when…”
- Paper-based albums are good too. Every Christmas we give my inlaws a memory book that features a highly edited selection of that year’s photos. They have about 6 years worth now. It’s great to flip through them together and remember all the fun things we did together as a family.
- Display those photos around the house! The photo booth photo above is from a recent trip to Funhaven, but I need to be better at this part. I’m working on it, I just find it really hard to find the time to go through my photos and order those prints. The problem is I just have too many to choose from and it’s paralyzing. But there are companies doing interesting things out there. Posterjack.ca does metal prints for example, which I find intriguing.
I recently found another fun way to keep our stories alive. I found a neat kind of shadow box at Michael’s the other day. It slides open at the top so it’s very easy to put things inside. I’ve decided that we’re going to put all of our “souvenir” tickets in there. As we continue to clean out our office I’ve been finding more and more of them, so that’s where they’re all going:
It’s kind of like scrapbooking, but a heck of a lot easier. We’re going to hang it up in a place we can all see it and easily access it.
Right in front is a ticket from one of the stops on our honeymoon, and there’s another from a family visit to the top of the Empire State Building. There are ticket stubs from great movies we’ve seen, museums and galleries we’ve visited… all great stories I want to keep in the forefront, not buried away.
Anyway, I’d love to hear what you think about the article, and about how you’re keeping your stories alive.