I'm reading
How to enjoy your family
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
How to enjoy your family
Pass it on
Pass it on
I'm reading
How to enjoy your family
Pass it on
Pass it on
Articles
9 December 2015

How to enjoy your family

Enjoying your family is often the result of much cultivating, nurturing and tending.

Written by Berry Liberman

This story originally ran in issue #34 of Dumbo Feather

Families are often the robust arena of challenge. They are also the place where it is possible to find solace, belonging, joy and love. Sometimes though, being with family can conjure up strange and uncomfortable feelings of alienation from the very people you should feel most connected with.

Make no mistake, family is hard work. Enjoying your family is often the result of much cultivating, nurturing and tending. It can only happen with thoughtfulness and planning. If you can find ways to enjoy your family you can reclaim the best of yourself because you are reminded of what’s good about your tribe.

I come from a very large family. There is always lots of navigating, negotiating and food. What I have learnt is that bad things will happen without any planning required but to really experience the good stuff together, you have to actively create opportunities for it to be acknowledged and enjoyed.

Here are some of my basic rules:

Be Kind

I learnt a great lesson from a wise friend once, which has become our family motto—kindness trumps everything.

Life is hard and we all get overwhelmed with the hectic, plugged in, turned on pace of it all. Because of the lack of space and time for ourselves, our families are often the rubbish dumps of our emotional worlds. A space where we think we can get away with all sorts of reckless behaviour. It all adds up, over time, and can create tension where there could be pleasure, stress where there could be peace.

So what does it mean to be kind? Is it getting your wife some flowers just because? Giving your mum a call to say hi? Letting your kids finish their sentences? Holding your tongue in a fight with your sibling when you’ve got a deep reserve of harsh retorts to throw back at them? Ask the question that often gets looked over in families, “How are you?”. Then sit and really listen to the answer.

Define what being kind is for you and share the love. Being kind to one another, even when you would really rather not, is an inspiring start. It brings out the best in you and the other person. Every time.

Celebrate

Another key ingredient for enjoying your family is that you have to celebrate as much of life’s good stuff together as possible. The bad stuff will always get a hearing—but we often forget to acknowledge the small successes, the infinitesimal wins of our everyday lives. Creating pockets of memories where there is shared pleasure is what keeps you coming back for more.

My mother has been my greatest teacher for this. When I auditioned for arts college, she sat outside the door and wept as I sang my heart out. Immediately afterwards, she insisted we celebrate with a glass of champagne, regardless of the outcome. I had climbed a huge mountain of fear and she was proud. I didn’t get in by the way.

Now, with my husband and kids, we celebrate just about everything. We celebrate going to bed at night. After a hard day when everyone is grumpy, we emerge from bath time, turn the music on (granted it’s Disney favourites) and dance like nobody’s watching. It always makes us laugh and finishes the day on a high.

Which leads me to one last little tip.

Traditions

Create some family traditions if none exist. If it’s not regular pre-bedtime grooving then it’s always a great idea to break bread together. Preparing and cooking a meal for your family, infusing it with love, is a great way to nourish those around you and begin creating precious memories. If the weather is good, set a table up outside, put a vase of flowers in the middle, lay out some delicious food, put on some great music and then just be together. The key is to do these things regularly. Not just birthdays and bar mitzvahs.

If dinners aren’t your thing, head outdoors. Go walking in nature together at the beginning of autumn. Pitch a tent in your garden at the start of summer. Traditions bring us back to one another. Your kids will remember them. They are the touchstones of our lives, those moments when everything else falls away and we are compelled to return, to reflect, to connect.

Being with your family can be a place of renewal and joy. To achieve this you have to spend time together. Thoughtfully. Now go and make your own rules.

Berry Liberman

Berry Liberman, Dumbo Feather’s publisher and editor-in-chief, drives our passion and purpose. While she’s not immersed in the heady scent of old fashioned flowers, she’s also the Creative Director of Small Giants and a mum to the three cutest kids in the world.

Feature image by David Abraham Michael

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