I read this article this week.
It's about a family that I think I'd really like. Go ahead, check out the link.
That lady looks just like somebody I'd love to be friends with.
It's a homeschooling family with 9 children (several adopted from China). They are traveling the country in an RV for a year with the goal of having a grand adventure and squeezing the most out of every drop of time they have together before their oldest leaves home. They have some sort of mult-million dollar business and work from home, so money isn't really an object. She said lots of people said this was their dream, so they said, "Why not? Let's do it!" Good for them.
My first thought was YES! I'd love to do that! I'd love to escape the ho-hum life of commitments and obligations and places to be. I love my big family and my oldest will be leaving soon. We love to spend time together and I love the idea of hardly any material possessions to worry about and care for. There are so many parts of the country-- the world-- I wish we could go explore with our kids. I want them to know what's out there-- that the world is bigger and different than our cozy corner of Utah. Sign me up for that kind of family road trip!
But then I thought some more.
I don't disapprove of this family's choice to pick up and leave it all behind for a year, but I thought about why it's not really what I want to do.
I'd like to make the case for staying put and sticking it out. Make a case for the "ho-hum" life of consistently showing up and following through with our goals and commitments in our realm.
1. The Miracle of Showing Up
I am a fervent believer that opportunities and accomplishments come by regular, consistent hard work. Scratch that. They come by regular, consistent work. It isn't usually that hard of work. As my sister-in-law described it-- "The Miracle of Showing Up". You just keep at it. Day in, day out. Go to the class, do the practicing. You are shaped and you become what you want to be. This is true for sports, music, academics, cooking, blogging, the gospel. You name it. Just consistently keep at it and miraculously you can become things and do things you once could not do.
If you take off big chunks of time to adventure, it's harder to consistently work at the goals you have. For our family, (and I understand other families have different goals), but for our family, our kids are expected to regularly practice at their chosen activities. The deal is, if we pay for you, you practice it. Bethany with her violin, Elinor with piano, Faith with gymnastics, Cannon with dance. For our family, a year's interruption to lessons and classes would be problematic in their progression and development.
2. We Have an Obligation to Those Around Us
When we were baptized members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints we covenanted with our Heavenly Father to keep his commandments and serve him. We believe that means, in part, serving our fellow men. For Abe and I, that means accepting callings in our local congregation and actively looking for ways to help those around us. Take a meal in, help move furniture, visit the sick and afflicted, mourn with those that mourn, comfort those that stand in need of comfort. Our girls help tend neighborhood children. I run a book club for neighborhood kids. Clark helps out with youth service projects to do yard work for those in need. I have the Cub scouts meet in my home each week. Clark coaches a youth robotics team. Abe drives a van load of kids to a choir rehearsal each Monday afternoon. I lead the children singing at church. Abe mentors young men at church. Clark, Bethany, and Elinor lead their youth group classes.
All this service is a blessing to our family because we love those we serve. We have deep, meaningful relationships with our neighbors and ward members. We are a part of a village that is invested in us and our children. Hopefully we bless them as they bless us. If we take off in an RV for a year, we miss opportunities to deepen the ties through service that bind us to those around us.
Family relationships are TOPS. They are eternal and everlasting, but the friendships forged through service are beautiful and fulfilling as well. I love my family very much, but I believe that good, strong, sacrificing friendships serve to strengthen rather that detract from family bonds.
3. Traditions and Roots
Game nights, carving pumpkins, piano recitals, putting up Christmas lights, Gardner Village, Bacon Wednesday, Temple Square, leprechaun hunts, pizza before trick or treats, town parade, visiting graves on Memorial Day, New Years Eve party, raking leaf houses in the front yard, teen Halloween parties. Just a few of the family traditions we look forward to each year. We have roots here. There is comfort in knowing what to expect as the year moves along. Fun activities that can be counted on to be bright spots in the daily grind of life.
4. Sometimes Life is a Grind. Endure It
Yep, sometimes life is B-O-R-I-N-G. Even in the most exciting and fun families, life is a grind sometimes. A lot of times.
You go to work, or you work from home. You study, you do chores, you change diapers, you sweep the floor, you drive the carpool, you wait up for teenagers, you scrub the toilet, you make dinner, you get after kids to do the dishes.
Remember this great quote?
Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. Most putts don’t drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey–delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.
I want my children to have memories of beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed-- happy wonderful times that they can look back on and cherish for the rest of their lives. And I also want them to be ready for the mundane parts. I want them to have experienced family commitments and be prepared to stick it out when the going gets tough. When they feel stretched thin as adults and the weight of family responsibilities press upon them, I want them to have a memory of parents who stuck it out day in and day out and tried unfailingly to provide a safe, stable environment. I want them to feel comforted by memories and examples of service and friendships, of hard work and showing up everyday. We won't be escaping in an RV for a year and for good or bad, we'll have to see the world through books. Our grand adventure will, for the most part, be taking place in our own backyard and our own neighborhood.
And while I'm sure we will miss opportunities that this good family in the article will have, (I'd still like to be her friend), I don't think it's the way for our family to get the most out of our time together. Rather than fantasizing about dropping it all and taking off across the country, I think our family will be most benefited by hunkering down and showing up.
Thank you (I sound like one of my teenagers giving a speech)