Making Room For The Family
Almost all of my favorite memories from my childhood and my adolescent years include my parents and my younger brother. Sure, I had plenty of friends who I spent time with, but even most of those memories involve my family, too. Since as far back as I can remember, my parents made it a priority to spend time with me and my brother on a regular basis, and we were included in almost everything my parents did. Actually, I can only remember two occasions when my parents went out of town that they didn’t take us along. The amount of time my parents invested in our lives and our interests also spilled over into the lives of my friends and my brother’s friends. Our house was the place to be on the weekends – from pool parties with the youth group to sleep overs with my four best girlfriends, our house was always busting at the seams with people, and my parents were always right in the middle of the action. They swam, played volleyball, grilled hamburgers, played board games, organized scavenger hunts, and put up with really late, loud nights all because they wanted us and our friends to have a fun and safe place to be kids. This didn’t stop once I left for college; in fact, I still host get-togethers with some of my hometown friends at my parents’ house when I go home to visit, and my parents are still really invested in the lives of many of my friends from high school.
As a child and even a teenager, I didn’t realize how special my relationship with my parents was. I just thought that everyone grew up in families like mine, full of people who just couldn’t get enough of each other, but I eventually realized that a lot of people thought I was weird because I enjoyed spending so much time with them. I also didn’t understand how much my parents likely had to sacrifice in order to spend that amount of quality time with us. They sacrificed their own free time for hobbies and travel; they sacrificed money that they could have spent on themselves; they sacrificed sleep and comfort and solitude. Looking back, I’m incredibly grateful that my parents made our family a priority. They are still my favorite people to travel and spend time with.
Aside from being a tightknit family, my parents also had other priorities for us, as a whole, and for me and my brother, individually, like cultivating a love for the Lord, learning how to serve others, getting a good education, and learning how to be responsible and productive members of society, to name a few, and these expectations were modeled for us by our parents from the start. Attending church as a family and participating in church-sponsored events was always a priority in our home. My parents even made it a point to chaperone as many children’s and youth events as they could so that we were all experiencing those moments together. We usually took a big family vacation for one week out of the summer, but some summers, our family vacation was replaced with everyone attending a church camp or a church sponsored mission trip together. My parents also voiced their expectations of us to appreciate learning and to take school seriously. We were expected to get certain grades, and we were held to a high standard, but my parents always set aside time to help us study and do homework. In fact, I still studied with my mom all the way through graduate school, as did my brother who just graduated with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree. She was always willing to sit down and call out definitions or let us practice a presentation, regardless of what she had going on at the time. Knowing what was expected of us and seeing those qualities modeled by our parents really helped to create a blueprint for how to achieve the goals of our family, but it also helped my brother and me to learn how to arrange our own priorities and how to set and reach our own goals.
Deciding your own family’s priorities is something that every family must do, and there are different ways to go about that. For Brad and Traci Campbell, it’s always been important for them to model a Christian example for their daughters, Taylor, 20, and Aubree, 16. Traci says that their biggest priorities for their girls is that they serve as Christian examples to others and that they become responsible, contributing citizens of this country. Traci also added that because they are both “females, we want them to be able to provide for themselves and not be reliant upon others following college.” As far as leading their daughters to reach these goals, Brad and Traci feel that their environment plays a major role. It is important to the Campbells that they are rooted in a Bible-teaching church and that their daughters surround themselves with friends and influences who share similar values regarding belief and work ethic. Brad and Traci also require Taylor and Aubree to work to ensure that they are prepared to understand and manage their own finances once they leave the nest. The Campbells also have several day-to-day expectations for their family such as attending church together and investing time and work into the family and the home. To achieve this, Traci explains that everyone has responsibilities in the home from doing laundry to taking care of their pets, and they also make it a point to eat dinner together, at the table, every day.
Brad and Traci find that the best way to communicate these priorities and expectations to their daughters is to be the example that their girls can look to. They also find it important to allow their girls to see them fail and mess up when it comes to achieving certain goals because they don’t want Taylor and Aubree to think that their parents are perfect. Traci feels that it’s important to let your kids see you make mistakes because then your kids know that it’s okay and normal to miss the mark sometimes. Some of the best wisdom that Traci offered was about making mistakes. She feels that parents often expect way too much perfection out of their children and end up putting a lot of undue stress and pressure on them. Traci says that parents often forget that it’s okay to mess up and that what really counts is how you handle those mistakes and what you learn from them, and children need to see that display of grace and understanding modeled for and extended to them.
The Campbell’s have also had to make sacrifices in order for their family to be able to meet their goals, and the biggest way they’ve had to sacrifice is financially. Brad and Traci have chosen to forgo luxuries like fancy cars and extravagant vacations to prioritize the needs and even the wants of their daughters. This also helps to model for their daughters the importance and necessity of working hard to earn rewards. Brad and Traci and their girls have also had to make more personal sacrifices to keep their top priority, loving and serving the Lord faithfully, and that sacrifice came in the form of leaving a church that they had attended for eighteen years in order to follow God’s leading to FBC Starkville. Traci says that while it was difficult at the time, “we quickly realized our decision was one of the best things for our family,” and FBC Starkville is fortunate to have this family on board.
As you think about your own family, ask yourself what your priorities and goals are for you and your spouse and for your children. Maybe you’ve never really taken the time to map those out, but there’s no time like the present. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have kids yet or if your kids are already in high school and looking forward to college, it is never too late to set goals for your family and to communicate and model those expectations for your children. Perhaps one of the best places to start is by just spending some real quality time together and talking as a group about what is important to each member of your family. There are so many things you can do as a family to prioritize time together. The Campbells enjoy travelling together, eating out, watching movies, and playing games like Monopoly or Apples to Apples. Sometimes just breaking out of the normal routine can really jump start good conversations. Try going for a picnic or taking the whole family out for ice cream after dinner one night. Serving others together is also a great way to model for your children the expectations of the Lord for his followers. Get involved in one of the many great mission opportunities, local or abroad, offered by our church, or just go next door and offer to clean up your neighbor’s yard together. What’s most important is not how you spend time together, but just that you do spend time together and that you use that time to let your children know what you wish and hope for them and how they can accomplish all of that and more.