Part 2 in my walk through the core pieces of Simply in the Suburbs. Part 1 was ‘Simple Faith’
A simple family is characterized by margin and purposeful intentionality (that phrase might be redundant, but I’m fine with that). The less margin we have, the less we are able to enjoy being a family. The more margin, the more breathing room, the more we can enjoy each other.
The Problem (As I See It)
Suburban families, from my observation, have very little margin. There is little margin in schedules. There is little margin financially. This lack of margin will sap energy and derail even the most well-meaning parents.
As a result, we have little margin relationally. Our tempers flare more quickly. Our patience leaks out more swiftly. We look forward to getting everybody to bed and vegging on the couch for an hour a two before turning in and doing it over again.
My children are still relatively young, and even now I’m feeling the internal pressure to get them involved in sports, dance, gym, computer skills, etc. etc. ad nauseum. I mean, if we don’t, then won’t we miss finding out if we sired the next Bill Gates, Peyton Manning, Serena Williams, Carrie Underwood, or Matt Damon?
Comparison becomes the parenting method of choice and margin is the casualty.
So we join this that and the other thing. We schedule our worlds around leagues and recitals and practices. We wear ourselves out.
I wonder how much of it our children love? I wonder what it is that we’re trying to accomplish?
Why ‘Simple Family’?
Just like with any other area of our lives, the less clutter we have, the more effective we’ll be.
Having a ‘simple family’ isn’t about physical clutter (we’ll get there). It’s about being selective, as a family, about our commitments. It means that I can’t continually punt family time for work. It means we do not over-fill our schedules. It means we have goals and core values through which we attempt to filter how we live our lives as a family.
My particular family is made up of five distinct people, yet we are a single unit. We would love it if our family, over time, shows clear, healthy core values and guiding principles.
Haven’t you ever seen a family and said, “That family is so ________________”?
Perhaps it isn’t a bad goal to have that blank filled in by “Generous” or “Loving” or “Fun” or “Committed”.
So far, we are not completely clear on what this will look like over time. I do know it won’t be easy. Most attempts at simplicity are not ‘easy’. You know – simple, not easy, like getting up early and going for a jog. Simple idea. Tough to execute.
Here are some things we’d like to have characterize our family (we ain’t there yet):
- Generosity: I want to be a family of givers, not takers.
- Margin: I want us to have room to be spontaneous with our time.
- Discernment: Although I don’t want us to be involved in 15 different things at once, I do pray that my wife and I hear and see the things that my children might be excited about and create space for them to explore those interests.
- Grace: We must encourage growth in all areas, but with a heart bent toward grace, not pressure.
- Peace: Anybody with small kids knows that this is a tough one to pull off. Children are loud. Sometimes parents get loud. Sometimes the TV gets loud. But generally, our goal is to learn to respond to stress with kindness and gentleness.
- Adventure: There is no sense being boring. Simple family means being guided by clear values, not being guided by doing only boring stuff.
This list, just like my ideas around simplicity in any category I’ll write about, will change. Growth means two things:
- Improvement on commitments and values
- Discovery that certain commitments or values or guiding principles need to shift
What does living simply as a family mean to you?
Maybe a good filter for the question is this: When your children hit the 18-22 age range, what do you want your family to look like?