I shove a letter E block and a bouncy ball with the side of my foot, clearing a path between the door and her crib, so I don’t cripple myself later tonight in the dark. My eyelids feel like those heavy hotel drapes that require every muscle mustered to push them open but then keep sliding closed anyways.
After inserting the pacifier and clicking on the space heater, I tiptoe around baby dolls and markers to shut the door. Click. Peace. This is the moment I’ve thought about all evening, the fleeting hour or two between my toddler falling asleep and when we crawl under our own covers.
Shuffling back to the living room, I sigh a little.
There he is, arms folded beneath a fleece blanket, legs stretched out on the couch, eyes closed while Netflix plays on in the background. Real life evenings—our together time as a family and a couple at the end of the day—look a lot more exhausted and repetitive than I think they should.
When I’m scrolling through Pinterest skimming through articles called “5 Ways to Create a Stronger Family” or “8 Habits Close Families Have in Common,” I feel the door cracking for guilt and disappointment to slink in.
Let’s face it: there are many moments of motherhood where comparison or shame makes me disappointed that my family culture isn’t picture perfect.
In fact, many of our rhythms feel more haphazard and mundane – this is what seems to work, so this is what we do most days. Whether it’s Saturday or an average weeknight, we scan the fridge for leftovers, I invent something to eat, he cleans the dishes while I zip up our daughter’s footie pajamas, and then we click on our current series and let our eyelids droop till it’s 9 pm.
Everything we do seems to have casually evolved. We rarely discuss it. We just kinda live it.
I often think we should sit down and draft a family constitution to “fix” our habits. Maybe we should plan a schedule beyond Tuesday night Bible study. What if it was Mexican food Monday followed by Wednesday Game night and Friday date night? Would our lives feel more exciting and purposeful then?
But tonight, before I tailspin into an existential motherhood crisis about the meaning of life and building a family, I smile at the clean pile of dishes stacked beside the sink. I feel grateful.
I’m grateful for our very own family rhythms, the real ones—not the awkward family creed I could try to impose. For the fact that my husband powered down the TV earlier tonight and helped me bring our plates to the dinner table and not the couch. For the giggles and squeals, my daughter screeched when she refused to give us goodnight hugs, so we tickled her belly instead.
I’m glad for the way we talked about camping plans for this summer and found a new lake to pitch our tent near. For now, my husband will bust out the equipment and then strategically stack it all back into our tiny Civic at the end of the trip while I watch our baby enjoy the pine needles and dirt.
I’m content with the little traditions that we just do. The ones that we never formally discuss with a ten-step implementation plan. The habits that we naturally fall into because of our family DNA and where our own personal gifts tend to complement each other.
I’m thankful for the relaxed soul I married. The one who doesn’t fret over the fact that we watched too much Netflix this month as I do. The one who serves as the backbone, the driving consistency to wake us up on time each Sunday and then work his tail off at the office each week so he can come home, tickle our daughter and wash the dishes at night.
And I’m starting to realize that we really do have a bonafide family culture, relaxed and unplanned as it may be. The closer I look, the more steady, healthy habits I find that already exist and make me grateful.
So if there’s anything I want to be more intentional about these days, it’s intentional gratitude. Taking the time to stop and smell the roses of what we are getting right and what I enjoy about my family’s imperfect personality. Stopping to be thankful for us and kinder to us. Stopping to point out what my family does well and how we can build on those traits instead of nit-picking at our failings and our low energy evenings.
Gratitude encourages us to grow and press on.
We’ll be here, eating together at the table, pitching a tent under the trees or playing footsies on the couch while watching our show, cultivating the healthy habits that we want to see spread.
Alex Davies shares ways to make life beautiful on her blog www.SeeAlexWrite.com and Instagram. Her family of three lives near the ocean in San Diego and loves camping, eating and board games. She is passionate about inspiring creative moms to choose a heart-made life. Click here to get your Free Creativity Injection from Alex.
For April 2018, we are hosting a whole series about Intentionally Cultivating Your Family Culture. Check out Episode #37 with guest Lora Cook and members of the Kindred Mom team, and check back to read more essays in the series as the month unfolds. If you missed it, check out our completed March series on Becoming a Resilient Mom!
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Check out the most recent episode of the Kindred Mom podcast, Episode 37 on Intentionally Cultivating Your Family Culture!