The Safe House
‘‘Twas the night before school began and all was solemn and all was sad”.
Well that’s how it felt in my house. Talisa and Eli were feeling nervous as they prepared for grade ten and grade five respectively. Eli, a little more so because he was also beginning his school year in a new school.
Worrying about who will be their teachers and if they will make friends in new classes is a real thing. The other struggle was to actually be motivated to work. After a great December holiday, activating to work was just not as easy for all of us.
On the night before the school year begins we have a special dinner. It’s a time to celebrate a new start and the opportunities that the year will bring us. We find it is helpful when all the children have a time to share their fears, their hopes and their goals. Just to be clear this conversation includes Savannah. She has the same experiences as we do and so too she has her own ideas for her life.
It is very powerful for the children to hear that Michael and I also have concerns and hopes and goals. Learning to live with the changes in Savannah’s health means that our life is unpredictable. (Savannah has had over twenty procedures done in hospital in the last 10 years and hours of therapy and teaching in between).
I had to learn how to keep from being consumed by caring and worrying. I learnt a little something about keep on keeping on while my heart was breaking and that I didn’t need to live in a state of fear waiting for the next health scare. I learnt to accept that life is unpredictable but that part of my story is not all that I am.
To Michael and I it is also vital that all three children are raised with an understanding that; while the needs that Savannah has means we design our family around caring and supporting her, it does not limit our individual dreams. We just have to find ways to give each other the space to achieve that.
So after dinner on the night before school began, we got to it and we wrote down our goals for the year (Habakkuk 2:2-4). It really can be anything from exercising to learning to being able to stand up for yourself to becoming better at time management to learning a book in the Bible to achieving over a specific mark in academics to speaking more kindly. It can be anything.
Our goals are divided into four areas:
Our Family goal.
Each person writes down their own goals under each category (you can download a template here). Again, Savannah too. One of us writes for her. We then discuss “how” to achieve our goals. What is it that we need to do as a family to support the individual goals and the family goal? What time frames if any, does each goal exist in? After we work those details out together, we pray together and commit everything we discussed to God.
Now as you read this, please know I’m not sharing this because I want you to think we are a great family. I’m sharing this because we are a family that has to deal with issues that many people cannot relate to. And our ability to thrive is dependent on the lessons that we learnt sometimes the hard way, in building our family.
Our family also happens to be involved in many things. And no, it’s not because we are trying to prove something or to compensate for our challenges or to keep up with anyone. We aren’t super human or special souls either. We just learnt the value of listening to each other, planning and making sure our family is always our children’s safe space to be exactly who they are.
It’s astounding and extraordinary when we listen to what our children value and what they hold as sacred to them. It inspires and motivates us as parents. It helps Savannah to remember that her life is worth living and it gives Talisa and Eli the opportunity to effect genuine change for themselves and for the family unit as a whole, and hopefully in the rest of their lives too.
My take away for you here is simply that life isn’t always sunshine and roses. It is also stormy and full of weeds. But that doesn’t have to be your view. You can be brave enough to feel the rain and see the weeds. You can be strong enough to accept that the ones you love see it too.
But when you work together, you CAN create a “safe house” amongst yourselves and you CAN decorate that house with the beauty that is within you.
P.S We also choose a theme song and a tag line to keep us motivated through the year. I’ll let you in on that in the next blog.