Question: Dr. Dobson, my family lives together under one roof and we share the same last name.But we don't "feel" like a family. We're so rushed and stressed by the routine pressures ofliving that I sometimes feel I hardly know my wife and kids. How can I begin to put asense of togetherness into this harried household? How do you put meaningful activitiesinto your family?
Answer:I've written and spoken extensively on the dangers of overcommitment and"routine panic," and I will not repeat that warning here, except to say that you shouldmake a concerted effort to slow the pace at which your family is running. Beyond thatadvice, however, I would emphasize the importance of creating special traditions in yourhome. By traditions I'm referring to those recurring events and behaviors that areanticipated, especially by children, as times of closeness and fellowship between lovedone.
For example, one of the most important holiday traditions in our family centers aroundfood. Each year during Thanksgiving and Christmas, the women prepare tremendousmeals, involving the traditional holiday menu of turkey and all that goes with it. A greatfavorite is a fruit dish called ambrosia, containing sectioned oranges and peeled grapes.The family peels the grapes together the night before Thanksgiving.
The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are wonderful experiences for all of us.There's laughter and warm family interaction through the day. We look forward to thatfestive season, not just for the food, but for what happens between loved ones whoconvene.
We not only attempt to serve traditional Thanksgiving and Christmas meals, but we try tohave specific foods on each holiday throughout the year. On New Year's Day, forreasons which I cannot explain, we enjoy a southern meal of pinto beans cooked at leasteight hours with large chunks of lean ham, served with cornbread and little onions. It's sogood! On July 4th we invite thirty or more friends and serve barbecued hamburgers andbaked beans in the backyard. This has become a prelude to the fireworks display.
Obviously, many of our traditions (but not all) focus on the enjoyable activity of eatingtogether. Another example occurs immediately prior to the Thanksgiving dinner. Afterthe food is on the table and family members are seated, I read a passage of Scripture andShirley tells the story of the Pilgrims who thanked God for helping them survive theravages of winter. Then each person is given two kernels of Indian corn to symbolize theblessings he or she is most thankful for that year. A basket is passed and every memberdrops in the corn while sharing their two richest blessings from God during that year.Our expressions of thankfulness inevitably involve people—children and grandparents and other loved ones. As the basket moves around the table, tears of appreciation and love are evident on many faces. It is one of the most beautiful moments of the year.
This brings me back to the question about harried homes. The great value of traditions isthat they give a family sense of identity and belonging. All of us desperately need to feelthat we're not just part of a busy cluster of people living together in a house, but we'reliving, breathing family that's conscious of our uniqueness, our character, and ourheritage. That feeling is the only antidote for the loneliness and isolation thatcharacterize so many homes today.