Yesterday my husband and I were shoveling out from our second snow storm in 2 weeks. As the sweat was dripping and freezing off my brow, the tendinitis in my elbow, and the pain in my lower back screaming, and the town plow going by undoing the last hour of shoveling, I wondered, "where the hell are all the kids?" Back in the days of my childhood( god I sound like my 88 year old aunt telling me one of her stories of yore) just as the snow started falling, the neighborhood would be filled with kids, mostly boys, going from house to house with their shovels looking to make some cash by shoveling walks and driveways. Ah...the 50's. My brother, 16 years old, would get up at the crack of dawn, put his snow blower in the back of the car, and head off to his customers for a day of snow clean-up. Very entrepreneurial he had smartly bought a snow blower, knowing that he would be able to pay it off from a few storms. He did and then went on to make extremely good money in the winters. Spring, Summer and Fall, he turned away from the snow blower, and bought a lawn-mower, and off he would go all over town mowing lawns. The rest of our family headed out to shovel in winter and rake in the fall. I have some very visceral memories of the family all out there together working towards a common purpose. I'm sure I was complaining the whole time, and whining about the cold, but the idea of a family working together really resonates.
It got me a-thinkin about how much has changed. How few opportunities there are now for families to work together like this, side by side as equals toward a common purpose. Most families are busy, and look to hire companies to do the work that families used to do together. We have the landscapers for the lawn and leaves, the snow-plow company for the driveway, and the house cleaners for the house. Then kids looked for opportunities to make money, not afraid of working hard, boys would go off with their rakes and shovels to earn some money, and girls would line up babysitting jobs.
Mary Pipher, the author of The Shelter of Each Other talks about the most important ingredients for what she calls "sheltering families": time, rituals, celebrations, stories and connections. You'll notice that most of these require active, face to face activities, far from the glare of the computer or the IPhone screen. These are the kinds of things that we remember fondly from our childhood and then try to recreate in our families. It just seems like its a lot harder now, so many gadgets, distractions and busy schedules. This becomes especially hard as children who clamor for these opportunities when young, now as teens shun them. Even family vacations become somewhat splintered affairs, teens texting away, maybe a parent off on the golf course, while another is off at the pool. Not much family time really.
The challenge here is to find those moments of connection. Maybe it isn't shoveling out together after the next storm, who likes shoveling anyway, nothing romantic about that. But figuring out together a time for everyone to hang and be equals, pursuing a common goal. Maybe its eating, or walking or watching a movie, or cooking together, or maybe cleaning out the garage together, or a basement or attic. The goal is not to "make" your teen want to do something with you, as in "you are part of this family, and you WILL spend time with this family", but try to find something that everyone can and will want to buy into.
Family can be a heavenly shelter from all kinds of storms. These are the moments that your kids do remember and cherish, and that you can call on when things get tough. Remembering those moments of connections helps to transcend those moments of crisis.