Growing up, my parents recognized the value of family togetherness. Sure, we argued and fought, but they always made it a priority for us to come together every evening for dinner. I always admired them for making this time mandatory because our schedules were hectic. Some days it might be the only time we saw each other. My mom worked nights and slept during the day, so there was usually only a few hour period we would see her before she was out the door again. Natalie my sister, was just as elusive. She was seven years older than my brother and me, and as most on-the-go teenagers, was either at work or with friends.
Dinner time was special because it was usually the only time my entire family was present. As an adult, I’m prideful in the fact that we still manage to get together often, and that us kids have remained so close over the years. Now that I’m a parent, I try to implement the same strategies my parents used to bring us together, as well as a couple of my own that have proven to be successful. Below are Mom Snippets’ 5 No-Fail Ways to Promote Family Togetherness:
1. Eat Dinner at The Table
As you probably guessed it, eating dinner together is number one! Don’t expect it to be perfect all the time though. Growing up, my brother Tony and I sat side by side. We would take turns injuring each other under the table or pushing our elbows together so hard the blood would leave them. Stoically we’d chew through the pain as to not alert our parents to our clandestine rivalry. Tony would smack his food in ways that made me cringe. I know this is why I have such an aversion to clams to this day.
There were times my sister behaved in ways that would give teens all across America a bad name. I’ll never forget when she told my parents to fuck off before storming out of the house and slamming the door. She was my hero. Sometimes, the TV was so loud you couldn’t hold a conversation. Other times we weren’t allowed to get up until we finished whatever God-awful meal my mom cooked (she’s going to be so offended when she reads this). Nevertheless, we were together.
While it wasn’t always dinner at the Cleaver’s, it was family time, through the good, the bad, and the embarrassingly ugly. I believe this is a large reason we remain so close today. My husband and I have adopted the same tradition and make it a point to eat at the table as much as possible. For more on the importance of eating at the table click here!
2. Family Vacations
Every Summer my family would pile into the Volkswagen Vanagon and make the 18-hour trip down to southern California. Most of our extended family lived there, so we filled our days visiting aunts, uncles, and cousins, and going to Disneyland or Universal Studios.
Hours were spent boogie boarding at Huntington or Newport beach until our skin was red and our fingertips pruned. Things didn’t always go according to plan though. We stayed in some pretty shady hotels and ate at questionable restaurants along the way, but that was all part of the adventure. At times, the fighting could get out of hand. My dad would threaten to “turn this car around”, but after so many threats, it lost its effectiveness.
While the long drive and bickering weren’t always pleasant, these trips remain some of the best moments of my life. I wouldn’t trade them for the world! The memories we created in that stinky van every summer will forever be etched in my mind. As soon as my kids are old enough, my husband and I plan to start our own summer vacation traditions.
3. One-On-One Time
Because my mom worked nights, we had a lot of one-on-one time with my Dad. He played video games with my brother, coached our sports teams, and wrestled with us on the living room floor. Yes, we stayed up too late and watched wildly inappropriate television under his supervision (i.e. Tales from the Crypt, late-night HBO, mafia movies), but we all turned out okay.
My mom went to our games when she could, took us school shopping, and created memories with us on her days off. Had she not worked so hard, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the vacations, Christmases, and other luxuries we had. For that, I am eternally grateful.
One-on-one time can be anything you desire. From storytime and trips to the park to baking cookies, doing crafts, or playing catch. The possibilities are endless. If you have older kids take them shopping, go to a movie, get a manicure, or go to lunch.
It doesn’t really matter what the activity is, when they’re grown-ups, they’ll just remember the time spent with you. Don’t forget about the hubby too! Kids are time-consuming, so it’s important to have some adult time every once in a while. A date night every few weeks is a must.
4. Start A Tradition
Traditions are a great way to bring families together and make life-long memories. Be it a movie or game night, holiday cookie baking, Saturday-morning pancakes, or visiting every national park in America, if they strengthen the family bond, they can be as unique as the family creating them.
Looking back, my family didn’t really have any “intentional” traditions, yet we watched football every week, had spaghetti Sundays, and vacationed every summer. These things just came to be over the years, and today are memories I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life. It’s hard to say what kinds of traditions my own family will adopt. Knowing us, they’ll likely be unconventional. Even so, I recognize the importance of starting them. I’m excited to see what this nutty bunch comes up with in years to come.
“The most treasured heirlooms are the sweet memories of family that we pass down to our children.”-Unknown
5. Support Each Other
Growing up, my family always made time for each other’s accomplishments and endeavors. Sports games, choir concerts, talent shows, and short-lived pursuits kept us busy. It seemed like we were always celebrating someone or attending some event.
Now that we kids have our own families, festivities often get grouped together. We still make it a point though, to acknowledge every birthday, milestone, and personal achievement. Don’t get me wrong, it can be stressful trying to accommodate everyone. Nevertheless, I love this about my family. I’m so grateful for the memories we’ve made over the years.
What I hope to demonstrate with this blog entry is that family togetherness isn’t always perfect. Sometimes it’s down-right shameful! Expectations almost never go according to plan, yet wonderful memories often spawn from chaos and disorder. The strategies I’ve listed above are sure ways to bring your family closer together. Try them out for your own family and see what works for you. Thanks for reading. Cheers!
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