I can't hold back the changing season; our kids are moving on.
The sweet family days when every night was the same, when dinner was followed by baths and pajamas and reading books aloud are gone. (Have I told you yet to savor the time you're in? Please do.) Now they have jobs, and girlfriends, and college and all kinds of other things that pull them away each night.
We're a close family. And we've always talked about working to staying close, about choosing to live nearby so that we can care for one another's needs and continue building our relationships, but there are inevitable seasons of departure and absence and none of us knows which way God will lead us or what paths we'll eventually travel.
Before the lines trail out too far, Mark and I knew we needed an anchor, something to draw us back together on a regular basis. So this summer we started a new tradition: once each week, a family dinner.
Of course there's always some of us having dinner together on other nights too, but family dinner night is special. That one night a week you know everyone is going to make their best effort to be there. (And if you are far away? That's what Skype and phone calls are for.) That night there is extra food and extra place settings and you can invite anyone you want. That night there will be coffee and tea and a big dessert and we don't have anything to do but sit around and talk with each other.
It's the best night of the week.
One thing I've learned in raising a family is that good intentions are useless. Actions count. It's the things we do that build the actual structure of our life, and if we want relationship with our older children we must intentionally and constantly act. Everything in their lives is going to be pulling them out and away, so we must make the effort to draw them back occasionally. Family dinner is a simple way for all of us to be reminded where we came from, what we hoped for, where we want to go in the future.
There's no doubt about it, it's work. But someday, I imagine, there will be little ones around this table again, needing a bath afterwards and pajamas, and a story read to them. How glad I will be then that we made this effort, that we laid an anchor, that they came back.
P.S. I'd love to hear your ideas for building relationship with older kids.
(And what's for dinner? I'm still trying to keep up with my simple suppers project!)