This past week was a special one of giving thanks for myself and my family and it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time.
It began with a Saturday of volunteering with my girls. I have the good fortune of being able to live, work, and play in the same community so when colleagues from my job decided to get together to make thanksgiving meals for families in South Fulton, not only was I on board but I also wanted to know how I could involve the girls. It turned out to be a great bonding experience and a teachable moment about the power of giving in a season of thanks. Afterwards, we went and finished up our own giving project purchasing snacks for families in need for a donation drive at our church.
Monday was a day of running errands and great down-time because it afforded me the opportunity to finally put in writing an idea I’ve long had about educational mapping for families. Now I’ve just got to find a way to test it. That same day I even squeezed in some time to play a game of basketball during which my wife called me and I couldn’t help but muse, this is what having margin must feel like. Creating margin in my life is definitely something that I’m starting to prioritize now as I head into 2018 because if this week has reminded me of anything, it’s that life happens at the margins too.
Mid-week I traveled to SC to pick up my neice and nephew who joined us for Thanksgiving. During the week we went to Skyzone, visited the fake snow at Atlantic Station, and went ice-skating, but my favorite part was simply enjoying the fun times with family. We hosted Thanksgiving dinner at our house for all of our Atlanta family (including my sister in law, mother in law, cousins and their family). It was fun and the children outnumbered the adults! Turns out the best conversation of the night was when my cousin (who is an Atlanta Police officer) shared with the kids some of the positive aspects of law enforcement and then the adults had an important conversation about helping our kids have positive interactions with officers. Now that’s a real #thanksgivingwithblackfamilies debate (by the way- I love that viral hashtag- every year it cracks me up and so perfectly depicts many a family gathering).
By the time Friday rolled around it seems the week had flown by and we were headed back to SC. Going home is always a complicated trip, there are so many people to see, and you don’t want to miss anyone. Our first stop (after my sister’s) was my Aunt’s house where she and my uncle just celebrated 27 years of marriage. They’re definitely an inspiration to Samantha and I and it’s always great to soak up their wisdom when we get a chance. Afterwards, we spent time with my mother and grandmother before heading back to ATL. Unfortunately we did miss a few folks (there never seems to be enough time on these short trips!), but this trip did leave us reflecting about the importance of making time for family despite the challenges.
I have strong positive memories growing up visiting all of my family members, despite the fact that as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned about the various tensions and divisions that exist. It’s remarkable how my parents were intentional about shielding us from the family drama while protecting the ideal of family bondings. I treasure those times as a child and it’s a large part of the reason why I pursue this ideal as a parent now, despite the tensions that exist. Even the family members who we didn’t get to actually see in person I called and had the kids speak. (If thanksgiving isn’t a time for family reconciliation and bonding, then when is?)
I’m convinced that parenting is an intentional act, and one of the areas where I have to be intentional is how our kids view our extended family. Families have the ability to drift over time. They require people with the commitment and capability to keep bringing them back together, despite the inevitable clashes that occur over time. I hope my kids will be able to look back decades from now and express the same type of appreciation for their family, and I hope that we’ve molded them into the type of people who will carry on the tradition of bringing family together.