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One blip of a moment that showed why simple traditions matter

In our first year of marriage, Steve played on a church softball team. One crisp Friday night, I sat on the bleachers cheering him on. A group of teenagers surrounded me. They were discussing Friday night plans. We had no children yet, so naturally I leaned in to spy on their conversations.

Lighthearted laughter, bantering back and forth. I smiled. I hope my teens have sweet spirits like this one day, I thought. A girl called out to one of the guys. “Hey, we are all going out to grab something to eat tonight. Want to go with us?”

“Not tonight! It’s Friday. Chicken and rice Friday. I never miss mom’s chicken and rice.”

My heart melted right into those hard as a rock metal bleachers. A teenage boy declining a Friday night out to go home to his mom’s meal. Because that is what Friday nights held in their home.

That was a turning point moment for me as a not-yet-mama.

I saw what I wanted to create in our family. I wanted a connected family. One filled with simple, yet meaningful traditions.

Start with the end in mind.

When an architect draws up a house plan, they ask their client what it is they want. The client will tell them their dream home and what they envision. They may say things like “I want to host large parties. Entertaining is important to me.” And the architect will draw up a plan that includes a design fit for their dreams and ideas.

When building begins, the builder works from the plan. The plan lays out the steps needed to reach the end goal and final result. Each step is intentionally taken to create the vision cast by the client.

In the same way, creating a family culture and establishing connected relationships involves looking down the road and deciding what is most important. Then you make a plan. Not a perfect plan. But. A plan.

With our families, we start with the end in mind too.

 

Here are a few ideas:

  • read aloud together. Start early and keep going when you think they’ve outgrown it. We are never too old to listen to stories. Some of my favorite memories are around books we’ve read together as a family. We’ve laughed and cried and celebrated.  We have a collection of memories around stories. It’s a favorite summer tradition in particular.
  • a simple weekly meal – like chicken and rice Friday. Taco Tuesdays are pretty popular. It’s simply nice to have something to all look forward to together. It’s steady and sure. Taco Tuesday arrives each week without much hurrah. Just a regular meal everyone counts on in a world that often is filled with setbacks and disappointments.
  • family dinners – sitting together to eat is important to me. Creating schedules to make that a priority is hard but worth it. For some families this is exceptionally hard. Try for at least one night a week. Or 2 or 3. Just set what works and stick to it.
  • weekly family night- Pick a night of the week for some family activity. Game night. Movie night. Go get ice cream. Again it’s that repeated activity that everyone counts on and looks forward to.
  • holiday traditions – The simpler the better. You don’t have to consult Pinterest and go over the top. Kids are typically quite pleased with less than we adults realize. It really is about the little things.
  • birthday traditions – My motto is always simple. I have a birthday banner from Zachary’s 5th birthday I saved. I hang it for everyone’s birthday. They all expect to see it when they wake up.

We have so many traditions, but they are super simple. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they are so simple, my kids wouldn’t call them a “tradition”. But to me a tradition is something we repeat together and come to expect we will continue to repeat.

My almost 16 year old son was invited to something recently. When he told me, I quickly said, “Go! You should go.” He responded, “No mom, that night is the same one as our annual tradition. It’s a tradition. I don’t want to miss it.”

And my heart did that melting thing it did some 18-19 years ago as I eavesdropped on teens I didn’t know realizing that I wanted to be a mom who created simple moments and meaningful traditions to foster connected relationships.

Traditions are a reminder of belonging. They connect us one to another.

You may remember I wrote a Christmas devotion titled Seeking Christmas. The heart of the book was to provide families with simple family traditions tied to the true meaning of Christmas. While the book is no longer in circulation, the spirit of Seeking Christmas, along with the ornaments and hide and seek activity, are alive and well.

I created Seeking Christmas to counter the materialism and consumerism of Christmas, while simultaneously creating traditions centered completely around why we even celebrate. My kids rarely remembered a material gift from year to year, but they never forgot the simple moments we built into our holiday season.

It was the experiences and activities they asked for. Not the presents.

So here it is. A 7 day Christmas ornament hide and seek activity. 1 ornament a day you hide, let your kids find it. Then you open the Bible together and read the scripture. Over 7 days you unfold a small part of the Christmas story.

It’s simple. It’s effective. It’s a tradition. It’s for the busiest of busy families. It’s made to stand alone or build upon however you choose. It’s flexible. You don’t have to start on a certain Sunday or December 1st.

You can buy the download to create your own ornaments for $1. I will also be loading some printed, ready to ship ornament sheets on the shop so stay tuned for those. I only have a few sets leftover from my recent Pop-Up shop. So grab them while they are here.

 

 

A generation screened to death

(9 minute listen)

When life loses its wonder

When one of my boys was young elementary, I chaperoned a field trip to an aquarium. Everything we encountered was magical and enchanting, yet a little boy in my group continued to complain, “This is soooooo boring.”

Initially, I ignored him. But he wouldn’t stop.

“When are we leaving?”

“This isn’t fun.”

Each comment he made sucked the joy right away from all the other kids. The rest of the group quieted down their own excitement. I saw these other kids question what they thought was cool and exciting.

Negativity is like that. Spreading like the vicious cancer it is.

I asked the little boy, “What do you think is fun?”

“Video games.”

A rock wrapped my heart and pulled it straight to the depths of my stomach.

Of course this kid was unimpressed with life. His brain was being rewired. He was being screened to death.

Video games seem innocent. They are not.

The goal is to addict

Dig in, do some research on how these games are created. The goal of the developers is to addict our kids. This should be common sense to us. It’s a business. If they can’t hook you, they lose money.

Many tech developers send their kids to tech free schools and their kids aren’t living on screens. They only put them into the world for our kids. Not their own. What does that tell us?

It’s only getting worse. Each new fad game released has to up the bar. It has to beat the game losing its grip.

These games do NOT have your child’s best interest in mind. They have a mission to entertain all the way to addiction.

We are screening our kids to death.

We are killing what could be in them and our families. You may think I’m being overly dramatic.

Listen, satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy. And he comes as an angel of light. And he’s a master deceiver. In other words, we will see and encounter life threatening choices and see them as no big deal.

Parents, we are modeling peer pressure to our kids.

I can’t tell you how many parents have said to me the reason they give in is because all the other parents give in. Lord, have mercy on us.

We are stronger than this, parents. How often do we tell our kids, “Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to.”?

Yet, what do we do when we see all the other parents letting their kids feast on these games? We follow the masses. We let peer pressure decide.

We need to be stronger than we are.

Do you know what I’ve never heard a parent say to me? “I wish smart phones and video games were this popular when I raised my kids.” Never, not once have I heard this.

I am constantly overhearing conversations on this topic. I have to literally bite the sides of my mouth to keep from piping into a side conversation. I listened to a mom and a dad (not married to one another) discussing the problems they were facing with their kids’ attitudes and behaviors they believed linked to video games.

The mom ended by saying, “But the games are really good for them. It teaches social skills because when they go to school they have something to connect over and talk about with each other.”

We’ve bought justifications.

In the history of the world has social skills ever been a mainstream issue? Nope.

You know why? Because we were created in the image of God for community and relationship. This is what we were made for!!!! We don’t need to be taught how to connect with each other. Especially kids. Kids are so natural and innocent as they enter friendships and relationships. They talk about everything and nothing.

Screens are killing our ability to connect socially.

Screens are creating death in so many forms in the life of our kids, and we must wake up before an entire generation is lost.

Kids need to be bored.

Boredom is a friend of childhood. It is not our role to remove boredom and keep our kids entertained, occupied, and busy. Yes, they drive us crazy when they are bored, but so what? If they see we don’t budge, they will figure out their own boredom issues.

Kids can’t solve problems because we are too good at solving the problems for them. Oh, you are bored, here watch You Tube, play the XBox, watch movies.

In this state of constant screening:

  • imagination dies
  • invention never gives birth
  • insight lies in a dark cave never discovered.

A mind screened to death.

Something powerful happens in boredom. We become still and quiet. Inventive and creative. Deep thinking begins.

A mind never bored never has the opportunity to discover deeper insights. And we all suffer for it.

We are exchanging long term joy for short term convenience as parents when we put a screen in the hands of our kids.

It’s not easy to grocery shop with babies and toddlers. But how else do they begin to learn the world doesn’t revolve around them and their needs and their entertainment. So much life to see at the store, but more often than not all I see are glowing faces of kids head down in a cart.

They don’t encounter the smiles of strangers or small talk with the bagger. They don’t have to worry about developing patience in a long line. They can simply bury their head in a screen, entertained as the subconscious thought develops that their needs, their entertainment is of utmost importance.

As these kids are screened to death, they are numbed to real life. We all lose in the long run.

We are setting up patterns of addiction.

Kids are living on dopamine hits they are saying are as powerful as any drug on the market. We can’t live with our head in the sand over this issue any longer. The research is available. The resources to understand what is happening to their brains is astounding. The question is – do we want to know?

We are partly living not wanting to know. When we know, we suddenly are faced with making choices and decisions we’d rather not deal with.

When we know, we can’t un-know.

Say cocaine was legal, yet I know the ramifications it would have, would I allow my child to enjoy it simply because all their friends were? That’s ridiculous. Of course, I wouldn’t.

Screens are legal, but lethal in many ways. Over time, they kill so much of what could have been. They kill moments. They kill memories. They kill relationships. They kill creativity and imagination. They kill passions and desires.

They are killing families. Suicides and teen depression at record highs. When will we pay attention? When it’s our own kid? Then will we care more?

We have a choice.

  • We can choose to create a culture of connection in our home.
  • We can share with our kids the whys behind our choices. When kids understand the why, everything changes. They understand.

It’s never too late to make a change.

It’s easier to set healthy boundaries and patterns when our kids are young, but it’s never too late either.

The last thing I’ll say in this post. I get many letters privately on this topic. I’ve cried over some of them. It’s why I just can’t stop talking about it. One theme I hear repeatedly is that mom and dad aren’t on the same page. I don’t have an answer to this. All I can say is pray. God desires unity.

 

For more posts on this topic, browse through the Electronics category of my blog.