A parent participant in our Foundations of Family Leadership parenting course shared how her family found refreshment, joy and freedom while home-bound during their recent spring break. Here’s their story in her words:
In early March, our elementary school-aged children’s upcoming two-week Spring Break was top of mind. In years past, I’ve been able to put work on the back burner during Spring Break to focus on sharing time with our children while exploring regional attractions and doing home-based projects with them. However, I started a new part-time job this winter, and it did not feel right to take time off in March. My husband’s work projects were going to require his full attention at that time, and due to Covid-19 protocols, we had no childcare options. This question loomed largely: What will Spring Break look like for our family this year?
Early one Sunday morning, shortly before Spring Break, we held our weekly Family Meeting. I love that Family Meeting offers us structured time to appreciate each other, share what’s working well, and solve problems together, all while ensuring that everyone has a voice. It’s a time for connection, encouragement, and empowerment. Family Meeting is a space where we consider new views and identify solutions to everything from debates about chores to who will select the film for Family Movie Night.
During that Family Meeting, we added Spring Break to “New Business,” and each family member shared their needs and wishes for the upcoming break. After everyone articulated their needs and wants, our schedule-loving sons happily brainstormed what they would do while my husband and I worked during Spring Break. Their lists included school assignments to be completed during the break (reading, math fact review, Spanish vocabulary practice) and favorite activities like video games, outside play, creative writing, playing the piano, Lego and Magna-tile free play, art, coding games, snacks, lunch, etc. The boys then used their lists to create a schedule for their meaningful activities. I felt encouraged as I observed our shared planning process.
Spring Break soon arrived (in all of its cold, rainy weather glory). Every morning, the boys identified their plans for the day, my husband would go to his office, and I would go into my home office to work. Many pleasant moments and some fantastic learning opportunities ensued. Here are a couple of examples:
It was heartwarming to see how the children happily followed their self-directed schedules every day, and it was great that they were gleeful about being able to change those schedules to match the interests or needs of the moment.
I loved hearing our sons share how empowered they felt when they needed to independently identify solutions – like when one child had created a train, and his brother also wanted to make a train using the same train cars.
One of our sons described the experience by saying, “Of course, we had to problem-solve!” What fun it was to hear his account of how he and his brother worked out a solution that was far more resourceful and creative than anything I would have identified had they consulted me.
The kids were not the only ones living out moments of harmony and learning:
- During a Zoom work meeting toward the end of the first week of Spring Break, our children burst into my home office and asked me to help them with a computer problem right away. I felt frustrated about the interruption and immediately felt disappointed for responding accordingly. It was embarrassing that I initially responded with less grace than I would have liked and even more embarrassing that I did so in front of colleagues. I also felt silly that I had not foreseen the possibility that our sons might interrupt a work meeting. Later that day, the kids and I created a unique signal to know if they could visit me during work time. Growing together as a family means embracing ample learning opportunities, adjusting, and moving forward.
- I had another learning moment while scrolling through social media and seeing several families enjoying beach vacations. While I was genuinely glad for those friends, it was tempting to feel bad about not giving our family a similar experience. Was our family missing out on the good that other families were experiencing this spring? Interestingly enough, though, when I asked our sons how they felt about Spring Break, they expressed happiness and enthusiasm. They loved choosing what they did every day, knowing that my husband and I were working, too. They liked problem-solving and working together. They liked being independent while knowing that I was close by if a need arose. And they delighted in our shared adventures when I was not working.
This spring, I was reminded that the magic of family shines through when we connect with our household members and provide opportunities for working together and supporting one another. And even when it does not feel perfect or look perfect, perhaps especially when it does not seem ideal, the magic of family means we can pause and reflect together, make changes as appropriate, and move forward together.
This parent is a graduate of the Foundations of Family Leadership class. The ideas and solutions covered in the class are simple, yet have profound impact. What we love about this story is that these parents empowered their children to come up with solutions, trusted the children to see their ideas through, allowed for mistakes and learning, and ultimately created a profound sense of encouragement.