Over the last month, I have been helping to plan a one-day retreat for my neighbors. This is a savvy group of individuals of varying ages – several households who helped to develop the community around us and many others who have continued on the good works. These are intelligent and progressive thinkers, and as with any group of people there are also challenges in communication, dispute resolution, and the trust in day-to-day situations. Exercises need to dig down to the honest feelings, and also raise people up to feel encouraged to work on those challenges.
The energy and insight I have gained have had me reflecting on whether I put this level of energy into my family. If not, how can I start to?
Five of us have struggled with this task of retreat planning. So how many people plan in my family? (This has been a big question for me lately since I had been generating a great deal of stress trying to parent with another lingering illness.) Effectively, I am the sole planner during the weekdays. My husband joins in on the weekends, and then we also have regular interaction with his parents. We have never really taken a parenting class. I remember pouring over books during my pregnancy with my husband, and also in the infant stages but we’ve stopped the book-clubbing trend.
Early on in the retreat discussions, the five of us discussed whether we should facilitate ourselves or hire an outside facilitator. It quickly became apparent that whomever would be facilitating would be removed from contributing his or her personal feelings, so the cost of a competent and engaging facilitator was justified. This is touchy for me when applied to my family. I would be interested in sitting down with a family therapist and talking through the dynamics of my family, but we just don’t have the expendable funds to do this. Then I question that. We make funds available for medical check-ups and all the things that keep us going strong physically. Is it not equally important to seek outside help to get perspective on how the family is doing emotionally?
To stay on top of the planning, the retreat planning group has been meeting once a week for once an hour. When do I really check in with my husband? I text him during the day with little things that come up, but most discussions are had while dinner is being cooked or after the kids have gone to bed. My husband and I switch out having personal time on weeknights, and spend more time as a family together on weekends. And yet, I am feeling that there is a deficit in the time my husband and I spend on discussing joys and concerns in our family. I admire the people who stick with a regular “family meeting” each week, but I also appreciate the flexibility of being more spontaneous and reactive to situations as they arise.
Now I am left with three questions: How many? Who? When? Are these even the best questions to be asking at this point in my family’s development? I look back to the retreat planning and see that we have started using the community’s Shared Values to frame our conversations. Does my family have a set of shared values? What are they?
This is going to be a homework assignment for me this week. What are my family’s values? Once I have that then at least there is a way to frame the question, “How are we doing?” Let’s see how this goes…