Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Intentional Family

by Lisa Hughey

I think everyone else has covered the idea of making your own family from your friends and comadres and fictive family (which honestly the Pens are well on their way to becoming), so I’m going to focus on the nuclear family and the idea of the intentional family.

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and extended family all lived far away on the East Coast. So we made our own traditions for holidays. I’ve followed in my parent’s footsteps and moved to California where we have no family close by. I am always envious of people who have 45 people over for dinner on Christmas because until I’m a grandma, that probably won’t ever happen.

Luckily, our family has something different, but just as good.

Years ago, someone recommended the book, The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties by William J. Doherty, Ph. D. The premise of the intentional family is to create family rituals that bind you together in an ever increasingly scattered and frenetic world. Some of Doherty’s suggestions we had already incorporated into our daily lives, like eating together as a family, which we do as often as we can, although between sports and work and travel schedules it is not an every night occurrence.

But there are many ways to make your own intentional family. Everyone needs to find what works for their family. I thought I’d share with you a few of the things we do in my family.

Every fall we go to our local pumpkin patch. The patch boasts a corn maze, a hay ride, pony rides (and boy did I shed a few tears when all my kids were too big to ride the ponies), an Indian village and various cut-outs for photo opportunities. We have gone to the patch every year since
my oldest was four.

We try to do Family Movie Night once a week but at least two or three times a month. We decide on a movie, which can take as much time as actually watching the movie sometimes, and then we sit together on our sectional sofa and watch with super buttery stove-popped popcorn and occasionally a box of candy Dots.

Once a year, we take a quick overnight trip to the Monterey Peninsula. Our standards, a hike at Carmel Point Lobos to take in the seals and the majesty of the Pacific Ocean. We spend half a day at the Monterey Bay Aquarium roaming the halls visiting our favorite, the Stingray tank and the kid’s touch pool, and gazing into the Outer Bay giganto tank to watch the sea life of the Monterey Bay. And, no matter how big my kids get, we spend and hour or two tide pooling, looking at the sea creatures trapped in the nooks and crannies of the coral.

I love Thanksgiving so when my kids were little and basically had a ho-hum attitude toward the day and the meal I knew I had to do something. My husband always does the turkey, because, eewww, I am so not sticking my hands into that. So I decided that each child would pick a dish and we would make that dish together which gave them a stake in the outcome. Thanksgiving has become a beloved holiday in our house. We pick out their recipe about a week before the holiday and then we make our shopping list. We prep and cook all day long and everyone enjoys the day.

Which just goes to show...that any family can develop their own rituals and become their own intentional family.


L.G.C. Smith said...

My mom did a lot of this deliberate tradition building when I was a kid because we moved so often and were so rarely near other family. I've often noticed what a fabulous job you do of it. And here I thought it was just your great good sense in operation, and it turns out you read a book about it. Hah. Books. They're our secret weapons in so many arenas.

Martha Flynn said...

As long as you make those kids watch Die Hard... :)

Unknown said...

LGC-of course i read a book about it. if I'm doing it I read about it first ;) and thanks!

M-not to worry!! we had our xmas viewing of Die Hard in December. :)

Gigi Pandian said...

That's awesome that you do a family movie night :)

Mysti said...

I think you just lowered my blood pressure ten points, Lisa, thank you for the lovely post.

My main dude and I have grown little rituals which the cat has subtly influenced. Good to know we're not crazy, except possibly the cat part :)

Juliet Blackwell said...

Great post, Lisa. Love the idea of creating traditions like that. Lucky kids!

I never did much of anything repeatedly with my boy...i was a little more by-the-seat-of-my-pants. Still, he took certain traditions from our time together.

Unknown said...

Gigi--it's one of the few things we have in common that we all love :)

Thanks Mysti! The beauty of the intentional family is that everyone's traditions can be different :)

Juliet-I am not very good at seat of the pants. I need just a little planning and prep time to figure out where we're going and what we're doing. But, I don't over structure everything!! And some occasions I purposely don't plan so that things can happen organically. :)