*Be sure to check out my quick and simple Family Night idea at the end of this post!
I’ve learned something very valuable this weekend that I think will be a wonderful tool for my family and I. I have struggled my whole life with sugar and food addiction. It has always been an emotional thing for me. I eat healthy, then I binge on bad foods, then pledge to eat healthy, then binge, repeat, repeat! That’s how it’s been my whole life. But every time I would try to eliminate the bad foods it only left a hole that I felt I couldn’t fill and would soon be replaced again with the same bad habits. It has become utterly exhausting and now physically debilitating since I now suffer from health problems from it, thyroid disease, gallstones, back problems, hormone imbalance, depression. Fast forward to this weekend, I have now also been struggling with media and electronics in our home. I feel like they are destroying our home just as sugar and bad eating habits are destroying my body. I also seem to deal with it the same way. I take remotes and devices away and pledge to be a better mother and set better guidelines, then after a few days when life gets tough and I get stressed out with my kids I give in and let the media back in so the kids will get out of “my hair”! Just as bad eating habits have caused health problems in my body, bad habits with my children such as the overuse of media and electronics have caused contention and chaos in our home. What originally used to give me some peace and get the kids out of my hair is now having the opposite effect on our home.
So, why? Why do we always return to bad eating habits and why do we always return to our bad habits with electronics? I have finally realized that they are escape mechanisms-or in other words-ways to escape the stresses of life. When I’m stressed with the kids, I want chocolate or ice cream, or I suddenly have the urge to check my email and an hour later I’m still on my phone doing things that are completely unimportant in the eternal perspective. It’s my way to ESCAPE rather than face what I don’t want to deal with-the kids are fighting again, my 3-year-old is screaming again, my health isn’t what I want it to be, I don’t like what I see in the mirror, etc. Unfortunately I have trained my children to do the same.
The BIG question is, HOW to change? How do we reverse this endless cycle? I have been praying and pondering and I think I realized my answer this weekend. It was our city’s week to celebrate during the summer and we were excited to take the kids to the carnival and other events. During the carnival, my husband and I commented several times about the dirty and not very friendly environment. We were surrounded by people who were either seeking attention in all the wrong ways or people who’s lives seemed wrecked or turned upside down. Everywhere people not only wanted to take our money for rides or games or junk food, but they wanted to take A LOT of it. It was exhausting trying to explain to my children all night why I wasn’t going to pay $4 for cotton candy or $3 for a hot dog or mega money for more tickets (we bought ours early for a huge discount)
I was so relieved to finally be home and away from that negative environment. The NEXT night, was a stark difference. We took our kids to the annual family picnic in the park which is basically eating a picnic dinner with your kids in the park and then going from booth to booth of the FREE fun games they have for children. It was such a more positive environment! Lots of volunteers were GIVING their time for the kids and there were lots of wonderful people and families there. We decided that next year we will just skip the carnival all together and make the picnic our main event. Why? One event was a TAKER and one was a GIVER. Then…LIGHT BULB!…I realized it was the same way with our health and home. What we eat is either a giver or taker. Refined foods and sugar rob our bodies of essential nutrients because they are depleted to begin with. Because white sugar and other refined foods have been depleted of the vitamins and nutrients that they originally had, they ‘rob’ our bodies of these same nutrients and vitamins in order to be processed which leaves us eventually with health problems. When we were at the carnival, I felt like the environment we were surrounded by was “robbing” us not only of our money but our peace and sanity. The picnic had the opposite effect and only helped to enrich and uplift our family and bring us closer together. Healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables GIVE our body what it needs to be healthy and vibrant.
Media and entertainment are the same way. The time we spend on the computer, tablets, phones, and tv either robs us of our time together, our peace, & time we could be learning essential life lessons, OR it enriches, teaches , or motivates. If I am using food or media to escape the stresses of life instead of facing them then I am allowing it to rob me of time with my children or time to learn a valuable lesson.
So, to make a long story short, I have decided that in every decision I make whether it be about what will cross my lips or how I will face my daily stresses, I need to ask myself this question,
“Will this GIVE or TAKE?”
It’s about embracing what GIVES. Satan’s plan was to TAKE away our free agency, Christ wanted to GIVE it to us. When the Savior was on the earth he served and gave to others. He is our perfect example and the LIGHT of the world. Darkness only comes from the absence of light. Those in darkness stumble and try to find a way out. The only way is through the light of Christ. So, on my list of ways to make our home a heaven on earth: Embrace that which GIVES and avoid that which TAKES.”
***This post was originally written on Nov. 30, 2013. Fast forward to today. I’ve seen how invaluable this lesson actually has been. Since I applied what I learned, there has been so much more happiness in our home. We still have our moments but overall, we have been using media less as an escape mechanism, trying to eat healthier, and I look forward to the time I get to spend with my family. After all, they are the most important thing on this earth to me. Life never goes as planned and we never know how much time on this earth we will actually have to spend with our families. I’m grateful for this day. How could I not be, when the first thing I saw this morning was this smiling face?
Here are some simple ways to teach your children the value of GIVE or TAKE in a Family Night lesson:
Show your children some examples of things that GIVE. You can use real life examples or pictures. Some examples might include: family members serving each other, healthy food, the scriptures, lights, uplifting music and books, educational apps etc.
Now show them some examples of things that TAKE. You could let them practice role-playing with each other what it feels like to fight or when someone takes a toy. Other examples include: Junk food, movies or games that waste time and do not uplift, stealing from others, etc.
Have them tell you the difference between the two and challenge everyone, (including yourself) to look for things in the upcoming week that GIVE in your home.
End with a story like the Wise man and the Foolish Man
Watch the following music video of the song “Give Said the Little Stream”
Give, Said the Little Stream (Music Video) - Mormon Tabernacle Choir