February is the month of love. The month we celebrate Valentine’s Day and show others how much they mean to us. But, as I sit here trying to decide what to write for Valentine’s Day, I cannot help but remember the years when my sons were little. I am looking at the pictures of “my boys” that sit on our computer desk. The pictures range in age from toddler to college age. There are smiling little preschoolers, brothers giving each other a hug, college students laughing wildly.... memories captured on film of days gone by. Each picture captures a moment of time that seems both a long time ago and just like yesterday at the same time. How often I would hear “it seems like just yesterday....” and “in the blink of an eye” when older parents would be talking about the childhood years.
As we continue to grow and change I reflected on our family: How have we, as a family, grown up together? What have we done to nurture the best in each other? Now that they are adults starting their own families I remembered a time, sitting around our dining room table, when we had a conversation about academics and how they enjoyed learning new things. I asked Joel, Nick and Luke (their close friend) what they thought our two families had done that allowed them to develop that desire to explore and engage in all sorts of learning activities. They had some interesting insights. They were positive that reading was vital for developing a love of learning. All three agreed that reading to them as children, and then to themselves, had been a pivotal point in their early learning. We all agreed that having a support network of loving adults that modeled a love of learning was important as well as having opportunities to build experiences such as visiting places like zoos, science centers, aquariums, the symphony, plays, the opera, libraries and traveling had enhanced their knowledge and these experiences added to the desire to learn more, read more, do more. Then they said two things I had never really associated with their success in school and their desire to continue to learn outside of the classroom.
The first was confidence -- Confidence in themselves and confidence that their family was there for them no matter what. If they needed to ask a question someone would be there to help them find the answer, if they needed help with a project someone would be there show them how they could accomplish the task (not do it for them but help them do it on their own), an awareness that they were not in this by themselves but that they had a family support network that would always be there for them – no matter what. They knew that there were adults in place, the ones that they had been developing trusting relationships with since they were toddlers, that would support them when they needed it most. These people would cheer them on, hug them when they needed one, listen to them, congratulate them on a job well done, be there to acknowledge the disappointments in life and help them find the positive out of the negatives. These people were there to encourage them and instill the confidence that they could accomplish whatever they set out to do.
Second was eating meals together. I was surprised to hear this one. We always ate together as a family. It was hardest in high school when we had to juggle meals, sports, homework and meetings but it was a priority. Luke said his father always made them have “spirited conversation” and Joel said he remembered that he felt respected when we listened to what he had to say at dinner. Nick liked the laughter at mealtimes. Both of our families had a no TV rule at meal times. Meals were more than time to physically feed our bodies they were a time to feed our minds and develop relationships. We listened to each other, laughed at our experiences and respected the thoughts expressed during the conversations. Now our mealtimes are quieter but when the boys come home we still have interesting conversations, lots of laughter and enjoy the time being together.
This February while you think of ways to express your love for those in your family take the time to look back on the positive experiences your family provided for you.