"I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life;
to put to rout all that was not life and not when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived." ~Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, July 31, 2011

No Empty Seats

W e had a very important and meaningful FE lesson a couple of weeks ago. It's something that I had been planning and conjuring in my brain for quite some time. Anyone who knows me knows that I am the ultimate planner and organizer. Now, my plans and don't always come to pass, but I love the process nonetheless. Cody and I love dreaming and scheming about our family and our goals. Often times our best talks happen when we are making long road trips as a family. The kids will be zonked out in the back of the van and Cody and I will talk and talk as the miles pass. We LOVE talking about our family and where we are going. Where are we headed? What is our long term vision for our family? Where do we see our family in 5, 10, 50 years?

For Cody and me, our family's vision is summed up into our family motto: No Empty Seats. Most of the time when we say our family prayer (especially morning prayer), after we say "amen" we put our hands into a pile and say "No empty seats!" and then throw our hands up in the air. Yup, it's way cheesy and Cody rolls his eyes when we do it like that, but the kids love it and even twenty month old Devin loves to do it and always has a huge smile on his face as he tries to say the words with us. The kids know that this means we’re headed for the Celestial Kingdom together and we want everyone there. Hopefully, by saying it every day, we’re reminding ourselves of the big picture and that all of our other goals and plans need to, in some way, help us get there.

So one Monday afternoon, the kids and I worked together to make this family timeline. Well, I did most of it because the time consuming part was brainstorming the whole thing...looking back over journals and making sense of where we have been since Cody and I started our family together. When it was finished as much as it could be at this point, I unveiled it that night for FHE and we had a lengthy discussion about what it was and what it meant to us as a family.

Each child in the family has their own colored line. Each child’s line starts on the year that they were born. On their line we’ve filled in all important milestones and when they will take place… a mark on their line for when they’ll start kindergarten, be baptized, receive the priesthood, go into beehives, Mia Maids, Laurels, Deacons, Teachers, Priests, start to date, go to college, go on a mission, etc.

Above each child's line, are all the important family milestones we have reached together. Places we have lived, schooling, jobs we've had, cars we've driven (yes, even details like that are important to us), car accidents, hospitalizations, church callings we've held, deaths in the family (writing in Joseph's death about broke my heart all over again). All of these things seem trivial to other people, but to us, they are all significant paths in this beautifully intricate quilt that we've made over the years.

It’s our family PLAN. We want our children to know what the plan is… and that we EXPECT it to happen. We don’t say IF you decide to go on a mission, they see it actually on their line like it’s part of the plan. And it's not to take away their free agency, but hopefully that by looking at things like that on a regular basis, it will help it feel more real and manifest as a reachable goal. Another neat thing about this timeline is seeing how the kids lines match up. How old will Garrett be when Ethan goes on his mission? How long will Hailey and Lauren be in young women’s together? How many kids will be in elementary school at the same time together (and the answer to that is four kids. Devin will be in kindergarten when Ethan is in sixth grade!) When Mom and Dad have their 35th wedding annivesary, how old will Garrett be? Ha, if you look closely, you will see that if Lauren and Devin both go on missions at the typical time, their missions will overlap by seventeen months! That stuff is very neat to look at.

Part of developing a good relationship with our children is creating that vision together. Cody and I fully plan on and expect that we will have great relationships with our children as they grow older… and we’re working towards that every day. I spend a lot of time talking with the kids on a regular basis about what their futures can look like. Sometimes while painting one of the girls' fingernails, we will start talking about life and I'll say something like "Lauren, I can't wait until you go on your first date and we sit here at the kitchen table and I give you a manicure and help you get ready..." Even though she isn't quite four years old, talking about stuff like that is exciting to her. And in turn, it leads to all other kinds of questions. Because of this, the kids and I seem to constantly be in discussion about what lies ahead and things that our family has to look forward to.

Just this afternoon while I was making lunch, Ethan was asking me about college and what goes on there. "Where will I sleep?" He asked with concern. "Silly, you know you sleep in a college room!" Said Hailey, in reply. And then we talked about Student Union food and classes and how much fun college can be. College? Really? It'll be here before we know it.

I want them to envision or EXPECT that having a great relationship and talking to your mom and dad is just what you do. We talk about how exciting it is going to be to go to kindergarten and how good they will be in their class, about how proud we are that they will be choosing to get baptized, about what it will be like when Ethan starts passing the Sacrament at church, about what it will be like when we drop each of them off at college, about how it will feel when we take each of them to the temple for the first time, about recieving mission calls, what I will feel when I am in the bridal room at the temple, helping my girls get dressed in their wedding gowns...just writing these things is making me tear up. You name it, we talk about it, and I think it helps our kids envision our relationship throughout their lives as well as build the necessary communication skills for a successful close relationship.

So this timeline that we made is rolled up in a safe place in our house. I expect that once in a while we will unroll it to record important events that have taken place, and to check and see where we are in our plan. Hopefully this simple tool will help bring us one step closer to reaching the goal of being together in the Celetstial Kingdom when we pass from this life!


Sabrina said...

That is so cool!

paulandjenthatcher said...

I love it! Thanks for sharing, Veronica! That must have taken forever to make the time line, but what a great idea to help them get an idea of what lies ahead. And I agree with you--it's not an attempt to take away their agency, but to teach them. In the end, they will have their agency to choose a mission, temple marriage, etc, but if you teach them right now to plan and prepare for it, then there is no reason why they shouldn't attain that goal. This was fun to get a glimpse into your family and see what kind of parents you and Cody are. Your children are blessed to have you, and they are good kids!

Mike, Jules, Gabee and Izee said...

Wow, I LOVE a good theme, and "no empty seats" sounds like the Snarr's new family motto. SO LOVING THOSE THREE WORDS!!!! Thank you for posting this. When you have another 10 hours of free time, feel free to put together a time line for my kids also (laughing)!!! LOVE YOU HONEY!

Mike, Jules, Gabee and Izee said...

"V" I TOTALLY LOVE THIS!!!! What amazing-simple, yet profound three words. No Empty Seats. This is now the Snarr family motto. Appreciate your posting this. Love it!!! And when you get another 24 free hours of time, I give you permission to put together a timeline for my children also. HOLY HANNAH that must have taken a long time to organize!!! You're truly amazing!!! love you, V... xoxo jules