“What day is it Mummy?” my almost four-year-old asks, while she rubs her still sleepy eyes and then stretches to her full height in her jammies.
“It’s Friday,” I state quietly, one eyebrow raised waiting for the reaction I know is coming.
“Yay!” She shouts and leaps up. The excitement builds as she rehearses with me what Friday means to her and to our family.
“Are we gonna have chicken and french fries?” She locks eyes, earnestly awaiting my answer.
“Yes we are! We always do,” I reply as I reach for her clothes.
In her excitement, she dances around and I can’t dress her until her inner wiggle-worm settles down.
The back and forth continues:
“Are we gonna watch a movie?!”
“And have dessert?!”
She settles into my lap, wrapping her arms around me, “It’s family fun night,” She says with glee.
“That’s right, it’s family fun night,” I reply with a bit of my own glee.
What it means to be a family is always changing, because we are a group of people with ever-evolving needs, morphing alongside one another. We are still new at this whole thing. Two little kids in two years—after only a few years of marriage—means the dust is still settling on our newly minted family unit. Though, in some ways it feels like we have all been a part of each other forever, we’re still establishing our identity together.
At some point in the last year or so, we have come to understand that we get to decide who we are and why it matters. Day to day, my husband and I can easily get distracted by everything that is outside of us. These outside influences are trying to shape our family and use up our resources. Some things we love and gladly give ourselves to. Somewhere along the journey, we began to realize that we need to pull back from all of that to realign our family, to unify us.
Enter: Family Fun Night. This was a tradition held sacred in my own family of origin, and it was easy for me to adopt the practice. We get one of our favorite take out dinners from an amazing Lebanese chicken shop and choose a favorite movie. There are sticky fingers and salty french fries, with the garlic dipping-sauce we all love. The kids sit at their little table, my son’s busy legs bumping against my daughter’s as they both settle in. My husband and I sit in the arm chairs behind the kids. They tune into the movie, and my husband and I get to tune into each other. We talk quietly behind the noise of the TV, reconnecting after a week of busy doing. We get back to being. Listening to him sharing his thoughts and his plans, debriefing with him about my daily rush with the kids. Our voices are often rushed and strained at first but, as we unburden ourselves, we slow down and find restoration together. We are still learning how to do it, and some weeks are more cohesive and restorative than others. Like a rest stop on a long road trip, we stretch our legs, and deal with our needs, and shake off some of that tired feeling that relentless movement leaves us with. We pull off the highway each week to be together because we love being together, and sometimes we have to stop moving in order to remember that.
Sometimes when the plates are empty and the bellies are full, I sit with my first born baby on my lap, her warm little girl body pressing into me, her hands gripping mine. It’s easy to transport myself back to that first year when she made me a mother. Looking back, we have both grown so much. Sometimes my little boy will repeat a line from the movie that he finds funny, making all of us laugh at his adorable attempt to repeat it. He has grown too, and his imitations remind me he still is growing. This weekly ritual gives us time to look back and see all that God has done in growing all of us, and to celebrate that we are still going, still growing and still loving this good gift of family that He has given us.
Looking across the room on a Friday night my heart is full to bursting with the blessing of family and the gift of love.
Shannon Anderson lives with her husband, who is the love of her life, and their two kids, in Sydney Australia. They are currently at Bible College while they are preparing for full time cross-cultural ministry in a remote Aboriginal Community. But, in the meantime Shannon is hitting up as many amazing Sydney coffee shops as possible and is kid wrangling full time and writing in the margins of life with a young family. You can catch her on Instagram occasionally.