Monday, April 29, 2013

A Word with You: Same

When I was little, my world was pretty finite. I had experience in one small little sphere, and I pretty much assumed that everyone else's experiences (and traditions, and opinions...) were the same as mine. Sure, I understood that there were big differences- my parents were divorces, which I knew wasn't the case for everyone. And we did enough multi-cultural studies in girl scouts to teach me that there were little kids all over the world that had lives very different than mine. But when it came to the little things of life- the routines that were so routine that we barely noticed we did them anymore- I figured those were all pretty constant for others. 

Every house has a rhythm of what's normal, and once you're in that groove, there are a lot of things that happen without conscious planning. You just do what you do because that's what you do. In my house, some of those things were: 

  • Sitting down to dinner together nightly at 5:30 (or almost every night). 
  • Driving to Florida every Spring Break, sleeping in the backseat while our parents downed Yoo-hoos to stay awake for their shifts at the wheel.
  • Visiting Mr. Bulky's Candy Shop on a regular basis to fill up our kitchen gumball machine and stock up on jawbreakers.
  • Going out to dinner to celebrate getting our grade cards each quarter
  • Eating cereal for breakfast, and mom-packed lunches (unless it was hamburger day in the cafeteria- can't miss out on that!).
  • Recording dorky messages on the answering machine (one involved singing the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann" in 4 part harmony....and no, I don't remember why.)
  • Leaving notes for each other on the counter whenever we left- giving details of where we were, when we'd be back etc. (life before cell phones! Imagine!)
  • Playing kick the can every night in the summer with all the kids in the neighborhood (who, for various reasons, I would barely see during the school year).
  • Watching pretty much limitless TV (or if you were my sister- listening to music nonstop, at a near deafening level- for real- Her bedroom door had to be soundproofed.)
  • Having "pity parties" when one of us girls had a bad day, where we'd eat pretzel rods with sour cream and just allow ourselves to be bummed.
  • Participating in band, orchestra, dance, choir, and drama classes.
  • Playing at SAAC (School Aged After Care) in the afternoons at my mom's school until she was ready to go home.
  • Attending church every Sunday (plus daycamp every summer, and eventually youth group every week). 
  • Hosting all kinds of guests- sometimes for weeks or months at a time if a friend (or friend of a friend) needed somewhere to stay. 
  • Throwing big themed birthday parties.
  • Drinking Diet Caffeine Free Pepsi- straight out of the can, no ice. (we kept it in the coat closet).
  • Shopping for a full day spree each August for a new "Back to School" wardrobe.
As I grew up, and gained more perspective, I found that these things were not necessarily the way everyone did things. When I slept over at friends' house, or ate dinner with them, or heard their weekend plans, I learned that there were parts of "their normal" that didn't match mine. Some of it was subtle- friends who ate dinner at 8pm...and some were bigger- families who weren't involved at a church.....

And I began to see that differences weren't limited to what we did....many were related to what we didn't do:
My parents never drank (alcohol...or coffee, actually. But no, we weren't mormon. I think they just didn't like either one very much). We didn't have much family close by (only my one set of grandparents was local). We always drove on vacation. We didn't do league sports outside of school (no weekend t-ball, or nightly soccer games). We never had music on in the house (again- except for my sister). We didn't watch TV during meals. My parents never had to travel for business.

But none (or very little) of this is make-or-break stuff. If your family wasn't as into candy as ours (and not many people can rival my mom's sweet tooth)...that's cool. If your birthday parties were all at Chuck-E-Cheese...that's cool too. Sure, there are some merits in a lot of our habits- like eating dinner as a family, or shunning TV in favor of talking at the table. But there are a ton of other traditions that are equally bonding and healthy that we might never have done. 

Now that I have a family of my own, (and a husband with a childhood pretty much the opposite of mine in every way) I realize that there isn't just one way to do things. Dustin grew up with family all around him, and sports were a huge part of their routine, so I can't relate to him a ton on that. And he remembers a fair number of McDonald's trips as a kid, whereas we were strictly a Wendy's family. (He has happily converted to my side on that issue). But he also had divorced, working parents, so we understand what that looks like in a household. 

There seem to be a million ways to make things work, and we now have the opportunity to craft what is normal for us. Some of that we do without even thinking....But some of it, we're able to talk, and dream, and (sometimes) argue our way through. Should we both work? Can we have dinner together at the table every night? What do we want our weekends to look like? How do we divide the labor around the house? Will we be able to take family often...?

It's important to me to live intentionally. As much as possible, I want to take things off auto-pilot long enough to examine our choices and habits- to make sure we're building the life we want. A life we can be proud of. A life our girls will remember fondly when they've moved out to start lives of their own. 

But it's also important to me to allow our routine to ebb and flow. We can pick and choose what works for us...and we can change it as soon as it stops working. There will be dramatic changes over the course of our life as we move through different seasons with different needs.

Our life may not look the same as yours. Or the same as what we were accustomed to as kids. Or even the same as our own life a month ago or a month from now. And that is just fine by me.


Meg and I would love to have a word with you.  
Join the link up below to share your thoughts on "Same".
Then stop by some new blogs and say hello!

We're contemplating taking a break from the series next month...but if you are all clamoring for more:   link up, comment, email....somehow let us know and we'd be delighted to keep it rolling. (And if you have a suggestion for a word you'd like to focus on- shout it out- we're all ears!



  1. I loved reading this. Despite some differences, I think a lot of the little details of our growing up years had a ton in common...
    I especially loved the back to school shopping spree - we did the exact same thing. I've been trying to talk Sean into instituting a similar pattern in our house now...haha

    1. I've always thought our childhoods were pretty similar....I think our moms think alike (which might be why I like yours so much!)