“I have two hands but I cannot get you two fish,” said my youngest son in the middle of the year’s first family meeting. We all stopped talking, wondering what he meant. This is my youngest son’s trademark, his own little quirk, to say things, or do things, out of the blue.
“What?” I said. Though we had the “talking spoon” out, everyone was speaking out of turn until J.J. said this.
“I have two hands but I cannot get you two fish,” he repeats. Then he adds, “It’s a Vietnamese proverb.”
“Where’d you hear that?” said my husband.
“From my teacher,” he said. “It’s about multi-tasking.”
“Do you know what multi-tasking is?” I said.
“Yes,” said J.J. “It’s when you try to do a bunch of different things at one time. And you can get frustrated. Like right now. Everybody’s talking at one time and I’m frustrated. BACON!”
It was true. We hadn’t had a family meeting in over a month—and it sure felt like we were back at a point where we were all multi-tasking and we were all frustrated. Everyone was talking out of turn and interrupting one another. In the past month, rules slid. Star charts had been put away and never brought back out. We were retreating back into the old routines we had as busy people who ran in and out of the house we shared, not really connecting. Even this meeting had to be broken into two smaller segments on separate days in order to allow for everyone to meet. It brought a realization for all of us; the family meetings had been doing something good for our family. We needed them.
It was hard to get back into our new routine. We had to remember our “talking spoon” for taking turns in the meeting. We had to remember the roles we created to take turns in the meeting (leader, scribe who writes about the events of the meeting, other note-taker for writing down our ideas rather than the scribe, mediator who calls out “BACON” when we all need to be quiet and calm down, timekeeper, and reader who reads back and reviews notes). We had to remember our guidelines that we had all created for our family life, such as the use of positive behaviors over negative behaviors (this time we decided to print them out and post them on the refrigerator). But it was worth it.
We created new chore charts for who does what chore each week (and decided we’d rotate it to allow everyone to learn and do different chores). We created separate “star” charts which have only one box to “star” for chores, one box for academics, one box to “star” for self-organization, and then we discussed resolutions, goals, and action plans. We made individual goals and put a box on the new star charts for those. For example, my daughter decided to face her fear and work towards being a goalie. My oldest son wants to improve his swimming. My husband and I both chose to improve our health, but with our own action plans. Then, we decided we wanted to do a family goal. The kids talked about the good things in our family, and the things they want to improve. They decided they wanted to make our family even better…and on top of the action plan they started? I’m not kidding…after all that “hemming”and “hawing” from the past, they decided we should continue family meetings. Now we have a box on our star charts for working on our family goal.
As usual, we finished with our favorite part--choosing who would get to pick a family activity for next week. This time everyone had new ideas of what they’d like to do when it was his/her turn to pick. Who was picked? What did that person choose to do? Well…I guess I’ll have to say… that’s for another post! May you have a wonderful day with all the wonderful people in your life.