By Joe Degen, Founder, 20 to Life
My husband and I have a large family. Where I come from, “weird” would aptly describe having so many kids (I come from New Zealand). Where we live now, “normal” would describe it – but if I was asked? “Perfection” would be my reply.
Since we’re a large family with differing schedules, we have a standing appointment on Monday nights to be together as a family. We play games, make jokes, eat treats, laugh, bond. I think it’s so important to make family time, especially today.
Our family also has a tradition that once a year my husband will clock out, absolutely lose his mind and only start to resemble the man I married after one month. It’s known as “hunting season” elsewhere.
We have another yearly tradition, too. There is a special mountain that every year we lay claim to (much to the delight of the locals I’m sure) called “Marysvale Mountain.” It’s beautiful: large trees, running rivers, rocks for hiking, plenty of outdoor game for the boys – but best of all, solitude. At night, there are no lights, you can see every single star in the sky, you can hear every whisper of the wind through the trees and you can hear what your children have to say. There are no cell phones, TVs, cars driving by, nothing to distract you from your family, and that’s the best way to actually “see” your kids.
One year when we went and the whole family was there we decided to hike up to the “top” (which isn’t really – but it’s close) where a beautiful waterfall is. It’s amazing. The funny thing is, it bonds the family but no one is speaking, everyone is too winded to utter a word. There are different types of bonding, and these are my favorite, when no one says anything but you feel closer.
When we get to the top you have a ‘do or die’ moment down a slippery, angled dirt mountainside to get to the waterfall – but trust me – all worth it. There it is, a beautiful waterfall falling into a small pond with rocks all around, and we all just sat. No one spoke, no one needed to, we just breathed it all in. The good things in life are definitely worth fighting a winded hike to achieve, including kids. That was a small example of how close our family is, but there is nothing better than taking your family outside and getting closer through seemingly small things such as hiking, but every one of my kids will remember that walk for the rest of their lives. Nothing worth gaining is ever easy – sure we could have zipped up the mountain, stood and admired the view for a few minutes, turned around and gone back down, but we didn’t. We sat, we caught our breath, we listened to everyone around us, we interacted. We were a family. A family growing closer and building lasting memories. I’ll never forget that day and it’s etched into my heart forever.
Take the time to spend with your family. Go somewhere, go outdoors. If I can get a diva who adores clothes and a little girl who will not go without her provided comforts to hoof it up a mountainside then you can, too! Family is so important – take the time while you have it. Pretty soon they’ll be talking about their own kids and you’ll be too winded to make the hike.