(This is part one of three for the second topic in a series on the subject of balance. It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate. By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors. Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. In part one on the subject of family and parenting we address one question.)
What are the most important areas to maintaining balance in leading your family?
John: To get the ball rolling here, the three things that came to my mind when I thought over this question were discipline, communication, and values. What I mean by communication is that it’s consistent. Whatever we are communicating has to be consistent with our values. You can’t best determine your discipline and communication if you don’t know what your values are.
Tonya: Early on, we found Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. He gave some cool ideas about writing vision statements for your family, so we did that. You know, “What’s our compass pointing north for our family?” Communication was one of those important pieces. Making sure there were times we were sitting in circles, seeing each other eye to eye-couple time, one-on-one time with the kids-with the intention of making sure the kids knew they could talk. Those were helpful to us early on.
Mark: Early on in our family building, we were convinced a healthy marriage was foundational. This meant time away with each other as well as time away alone. We joked with the kids, “We didn’t choose you kids, but we chose each other. After you’re gone, it’s still going to be us choosing each other.” So there was the spousal marriage relationship first. The other thing that we were pretty convinced on was that we wanted to be family-centric not kid-centric. We had witnessed, while out grocery shopping and mall shopping and just being out in public, kid-centric families. We wanted life to be about family as a unit together.
Tonya: Covey talks about that, creating atmosphere where we are all for each other. We are helping each other reach their dreams. I like that mentality.
Mark: Yeah, as kids get older and they are getting pulled in various directions it is important to emphasize that we are here for each other. You know, there is no playbook or rule book to follow; it’s a little trial and error as you go. Having values established up front makes it easier when it comes to making decisions and choices down the road.
Tonya: Learning to live out of your values has been on my heart lately. That is important for the kids. Letting them see you walk the talk.
John: So while y’all have been talking, my brain has been focusing on the challenge to think about this question as a family of one. Two words are coming to my mind: contentment and respect. Maintaining contentment is huge for a single person. You can choose to be discontented for a whole bunch of reasons and look for it in many wrong ways. Being content in whether your singleness is lifelong or seasonal is part of keeping balance. And I say respect because there is a level of respect that a single person has to own for themselves, much like the respect you have both talked about relating to being family focused. Finding the level of self respect that keeps you balanced rather than seeking it elsewhere is also important.
Tonya: When you live out of those places of contentment and respect, you also live out of those places where you know how to say no, places that will be healthy for you.
John: As part of your role as parents, you are training your kids in what it really means that God loves you. It’s not just that you love them; God loves them. We all have that journey to walk through. Whether we are a family of one or twenty, every person in the household should live out of the fact that God loves them first. When I live out of that, whatever I get out of the rest of the people in the house is icing on the cake.
Tonya: That used to be one of the favorite things I said to my boys when they were little. When I’d tuck them in I’d say, “I love you as much as I possibly can, but I don’t love you the most. It’s God who loves you the most. He will always love you better than your mom and dad.” I always wanted them to understand that.
Mark: The idea of contentment resonated with me. There have been seasons in my life where I missed a previous one or am looking past a current one and I had to be reminded to be content in this one. I’m on the floor changing a nasty diaper, and I can’t wait until diapers are gone. And then I realize that what that comes with is this child has grown, and this phase is no longer here, and the child will be different. So that contentment concept plays in my life and certainly in a married context as well. I have chosen some of this, and it is what I want even if it’s not always glamorous or pleasant. I’ve always said, “Golf will always be there. My kids will not.” So I can be content in being an involved dad today rather than chasing that white ball around the course. That will always be there. The kid’s focus is where I need to be today.
Tonya: I think we’re reevaluating all the time. You get off track and come back and say you have to reevaluate. I remember one time when my oldest son was probably eleven or twelve years old and was playing ice hockey, which we did a lot of, and he said to me after practice one day, “Mom, I looked up in the stands, and you and dad are the only parents there. It makes me feel so good that you are there watching me.” It reinforced for us that the hours of sacrifice were the right thing. There were a lot of other things we could have been doing, but this mattered most. And now that I’m sitting on this side where he’s now twenty and in New Jersey and my youngest is seventeen and a senior, I’m going, “I would go back to diapers.” That time is so short.
John: You just gave us all a great illustration. The child of God is always looking for his father in the stands of life. As you said that I thought any child wants that from their parent, and as a child of God we are looking for that as well.