I didn’t see my dad much growing up. He was an Army Ranger with the 82nd Airborne Division. Rangers “Lead the Way,” and the 82nd goes “All the Way,” so with American forces perpetually engaged in some operation around the world, Dad led the way, all the way, all the time.
That meant many evenings without Dad at the dinner table. He missed a lot of opportunities to watch my sister and me grow. Mom missed him too. But we were a proud Army family. I walked around the house in Dad’s spare combat boots, pretended to shine them, and laced them up to my knees. I wanted nothing more than to be a paratrooper like Dad and so I routinely practiced my airborne techniques by jumping off the back of a truck bed with my pet chicken.
Because Dad was gone so often, and much of the time we never knew where he was or how long he would be gone, we made sure every moment he was home was spectacular. I remember one time, when we were stationed in Italy, that we had the rare opportunity of knowing when he’d come home. My mom prepared a skit for all of us to perform once he walked through the door. I can’t remember what we sang or all the movements, but I do remember two things:
1) My dad’s smile.
2) I felt uncomfortable and silly.
I was five years old.
I’m not sure why I felt this way, but ever since I can remember, family functions are odd for me. Maybe it’s because I’m more of a lone wolf. But none of that matters when you have a family. Now that I’m older and have kids and a wife of my own, I can see the importance of family time together and how that impacts our children.
This sort of quality time is a rarity among families today due to our high impact, high-octane society. There is always an event to go to. Soccer game, board meeting, late night at the office…
When was the last time you ate dinner at the table with your family? When’s the last time you played a board game or just chilled with your kids?
One very important component of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reminded me of the centrality our family should hold in our lives: Family Home Evenings.
Family Home Evenings were instituted in 1915 by President and then modern Prophet, Joseph F. Smith. He described them as a time set apart for “prayer…hymns…family topics…and specific instruction on the principles of the gospel.” These evenings with family were set aside for Mondays, however this day of the week isn’t a hard and fast rule. Any evening will do so long as it is consistent and with a defined purpose.
The LDS website has fantastic ideas for how to conduct a Family Home Evening, such as:
- Singing hymns
- Nature walks
- Arts and crafts
- Helping our neighbors
- Studying scripture
- Acting out scripture stories and events
- Take time to speak about family/household business
In other words, hang out together. I know, I know, it’s hard to slow down and step away from the grind. My day is hectic and filled to the second with tasks and chores–and that’s just with Project Conversion–not including things I need to do around the house. Right now, as I write this post, my wife and kids are in the kitchen having school (we home school). Why am I not in there?
My Mentors this month (the Elders or missionaries of the local branch) advised me that living the LDS faith means taking family seriously; that it is the most important aspect of their religion apart from Jesus Christ. So to honor that, we set up our own Family Home Evening. Ours is on Sunday evenings (as long as my wife isn’t called into work).
Because I’m the only honorary LDS member in the house, we take a different approach to our evening.
Back in February when I was a Baha’i, a wonderful lady offered me a book as a gift–a book she used with her own family. It’s called The Family Virtues Guide. What’s awesome about this book is that it covers a 52-week course in virtues such as assertiveness, caring, respect, passion, etc, and offers scriptural support from several world religions. No wonder a Baha’i carried this thing around! So, for our Family Home Evening, we decided to begin and follow this guide for the year.
Here, we go over the lesson and virtue for the week, and talk about how we can implement this virtue in our lives. From there we might play a game or make a pizza. The kids and I love cartoons, so maybe we’ll have a movie night. The point here is that you are spending time together, because in a world increasingly consumed by self-interest and egotism, family is all we have.
Do you think a Family Home Evening would work for your household? Do the math: how much time are you spending with your family compared to your career? At the end of your life, are you going to wish you had spent just one more hour in the office or one more afternoon playing catch with your child? I’m not the best dad or husband, but humility and recognition of an issue is the first step toward healing.