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  • Lisa Popcak

Principle 9: I Know Family Life Is Our Most Important Activity

When we were first parenting young children, my husband had an office that

backed against a peaceful and serene cemetery. Since we only had one car, I would

drop him off at the office in the morning, use the car for errands and appointments during

the day, and then pick him up at the end of the day. Sometimes, if I arrived a bit early, the

children and I would stroll the cemetery pathways to get some fresh air and keep them

from being cooped up in the car.


As I walked through the quiet and peaceful grounds after a busy day with little ones, my

eyes would scan over the headstones. I became aware of the theme that summarized

the most important fact of these lives now at rest. Almost all read Beloved Husband or

Wife, Father or Mother, Daughter or Son, Sister or Brother.


These people were not identified by their jobs or the committees they served. Exceptions were if they had served in the armed forces or were first responders.


This fascinated me. So many people strive to leave a lasting legacy of some kind. But

here were the facts for all to read; the people we genuinely matter to and who will

remember us are those we are called to love and serve and work on relationship with,

our family.


The world lies to us all the time. It tells us that everything we do outside of our family life

is essential and will give us fulfillment. But those things can never fill us to the depths of

our hearts and souls if marriage and family life are the vocation to which we are called.

There is no other place where we will have more importance and lasting impact. In any

other situation, no matter how important we are, once we are gone from it, something or

someone will replace us and fill the gap we leave. But no one and nothing can ever

close the gap we leave when we pass from the lives of our spouse and children. I can

speak to this personally (having lost both my parents) and professionally. I talk with

people every day, on More2life, who still deal with the pain and consequences of losing a

family member, either from death or desertion, even many decades later, or are carrying

pain from a relationship that isn’t as close as they long for it to be.


Truly grasping the truth of our importance to our family can lift us out of our false

perception that the ordinary moments of family life are mundane or insignificant. We can

instead knowledge that each moment of presence to our family matters to them

profoundly. Instead, we can choose to embrace each moment and create more good,

positive, and upbuilding ones for our family.


Principle 9 encourages us to stop thinking of family as just something we have or as

something we will hopefully get around to if we have enough time at the end of the day,

week, or year and instead think of family as our primary place in the world, and the place

where we grow closer to God’s love and each other while we help each other become

everything God created us to be. Therefore, we give ourselves permission to prioritize

creating time to be a family and build up our relationships.


Once we prioritize family time, we must figure out how to make it happen. As with any

goal, we need a plan to make it happen.


First, we need to (as a family) schedule times to focus on family time. We need to get out

our calendars and find times, small or big, to spend time together. This can be difficult at

first if you are each involved in a lot of activities already. As time goes by and schedules

change you can be more intentional about what to take on or not as you begin to make

family time a top priority. Start small if you must. Can you fit in 15 minutes at the end of

the night before bed to share a warm drink and catch up on everyone’s day, or read a

chapter of good family read a-loud? Could you all get up earlier on Saturday morning to

have a big breakfast together before heading out to activities? Could you all go to brunch

at a family restaurant after Mass on Sunday? Could you do a 5 minute family prayer and

blessing time before everyone leaves for school and work? Look for any minutes you

can turn into family time and write them in red on all your calendars so they are no

longer mere wishes, they are prioritized plans.


For bigger chunks of time we need to generate ideas for what each family member

would enjoy. We can choose different ideas for different times so that everyone’s needs

get met over time. It’s ok if not everyone likes the same things. We can grow in love by

stretching ourselves to do something someone else likes. Teens won’t die from playing

Candy Land, and little ones can roll dice and move pieces around a game board as

part of mom’s team for harder games. Once we’ve got a list of ideas, we need to

schedule them on our calendars. Some families may choose to set aside the same

evening or day every week for time together so they always know that Sunday or

Thursday night or whatever is always for family and no one will schedule anything in its

place. But in busy lives that can be hard to do. Looking ahead at the schedules before

the beginning of each new month and scheduling at least one family connection time for

each week that month can be really helpful.


Next, fit times to work, talk, pray and play together into the flow of your day. For

example, clean up the kitchen together after a meal (work ritual). While doing them, you

could turn on fun upbeat music and dance and sing together to add some joy to your day

(play ritual). Turn off the radio/screens on the way to school or appointments and talk

and catch up (talk ritual). If everyone is in the car driving home at the end of a long day

of school and extra-curriculars, pray on the way home (prayer ritual). Share your

gratitude and concerns with God and each other, intercede for one another and friends

who need prayer. This can be a great alternative for nights when you know everyone will

be too tired and grumpy to pray once you get home. These are just simple suggestions

to get you thinking about ways to connect during those crazy busy seasons. Remember

the goal is to create a loving, positive connection. Don’t use these times to discipline your

children or complain. The goal is to be building a warm, loving, connected family one

intentional step at a time.

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