A Date With Your Family
How we learned to not lose our minds and keep hope alive with e-z family meetings.
Somewhere around when Enzo hit middle school, we realized we needed to up our game if we were to keep up with the demands of a busy family of THREE. (Don’t laugh, oh you mighty mothers of many…! If you count my five careers and thrill-circus family of origin, it feels like more.) We had tried talking about our week every Saturday morning, or Sunday night, but we always forgot or were too busy or too tired. Finally Enzo pointed out the obvious: we should have our family meetings on Monday nights, after we’ve all been back to school/work for a day and know what might happen in the week ahead.
We brainstormed on all the bases that need to be touched each week, and I sat down and made a Word doc and got totally into making the Best System Ever: down the left side of the grid, a checklist of topics to be touched on; across the top, WHO would facilitate the meeting on the first, second, third, fourth, and sometimes fifth week. We put it on a clipboard with a pencil and hung it on a pushpin stuck into the kitchen door.
So every week at dinner (which we decided a few years ago would also be Meatless Monday, for better or worse), Enzo’s dad “Dave” gets the clipboard out. (It is highly recommended that you have one person in the family who can stick to a routine remember this.) We go down the list and talk about each item, checking each one off once the activity has been recorded in the proper place, on one of our personal calendars or devices, or on the main family calendar. The details have been changed and finessed over the years, but the structure has, amazingly, held together for nearly a decade!
First you have the must-dos: Educational, Professional, and Personal. This is where we report the tests, haircuts, and meetings that are on each of our radars. Then we have the social obligations. (We just like this word, even though we are clear that socializing can and should be fun.) After the must-dos, we have a list of may-dos. Once we see what the week looks like, we sketch out what to have for dinner each night, or who will make it. At the bottom of the chart, we note all the birthdays of that month, special projects, and who is going to do what on chores day. After the first year or so, we got wise to the system and put “Family Fun” on the checklist. Now we always try to make a plan on a Monday to take a bike ride or go see a movie on Saturday, so we have something to look forward to all week long.
Once we realized we were on an ADHD roller coaster, we added a “Coaching Checklist” at the end, to remind us to look at the white board where Enzo’s goals and plans for world-domination are sketched out or listed or crossed off.
The problem with this system was, at one time, that it felt too structured, too obsessive. But the beauty of this system is that you can change it at any time you like (but the beginning of the month is the best since you start with a fresh page). We have added lines for “Sunday Reflection” and “Sports” as we’ve learned what each family member values and wants company with. Our best new addition was suggested by Parenting Coach Lisa Fuller (if you sign up for her newsletter you get a free guide on family meetings): the first thing we now have on the list is “Things We Appreciate.” It keeps us on the up and up!