Building cohesive family, 1997

During the first two weeks in Dec. 1997, NCO teamed up with the Healthy Community Initiative (HCI), KYMN Radio, Northfield News, and NTV to sponsor a community forum titled:

Building Cohesive Families in a Hurried World

The forum in the Web Cafe began on Wednesday, Dec. 3 and continued through Dec. 17.

The forum was based on a recently published book titled, “The Intentional Family” by William J. Doherty. Doherty is a practicing family therapist and Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota

For Doherty, “intentional” means deliberately using strategies in the typical rituals of family life — family meals, vacations, bedtimes, holidays, civic and religious activities, etc. With some planning and creativity, well-executed family rituals can strengthen and nourish our connections to one another that are easily eroded by the stresses and strains our culture places on families.

Doherty participated in panel discussions in the NCO Web Cafe, and was interviewed for an NTV special broadcast. Other participating panelists were:

Mary Carlsen – Chair, Department of Social Work, St. Olaf College

Kathy Galotti – Professor of Psychology, Carleton College

Will Healy – Pastor, Emmaus Baptist Church

Mary Loven – Parent Educator, Family Education Center

Len Witt – Director, Minnesota Public Radio Civic Journalism Initiative; Family Strength Project

The forum was moderated by Griff Wigley.

BridgeSquare.43.1: Griff Wigley (griff) Tue, 02 Dec 1997

NCO is pleased to team up with the Healthy Community Initiative (HCI),KYMN Radio, Northfield News, and NTV to sponsor a Northfield communityforum titled: Building Cohesive Families in a Hurried World

The forum is based on a recently published book titled, “The Intentional Family” by William J. Doherty. Doherty is a practicing family therapist and Director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program at the University of Minnesota

We’ve invited a few other folks to join Bill on a panel here in topic 43:

Mary Carlsen – Chair, Department of Social Work, St. Olaf College

Kathy Galotti – Associate Professor of Psychology, Carleton College

Will Healy – Pastor, Emmaus Baptist Church

Len Witt – Director, Minnesota Public Radio Civic Journalism

Initiative; Family Strength Project

The discussion will begin here on Wednesday, Dec. 3 and continue through Dec. 17.

Just like panelist-type forums IRL (in real life), I’d like each of the panelists to briefly introduce themselves.

[Moderator tip to panelists: It's best to use a conversational tone here, even for the self-intros. What would you say about yourself to a small group of people gathered in your living room for an evening salon? In other words, hold the curriculum vitae, please!]

Once all the panelists have posted their intro remarks, I’ll open with a question or two to get things rolling. Shortly after that, I’ll open it up for questions and comments from anyone. Until then, however, this topic is read-only, i.e., only the panelists are allowed to post.

BridgeSquare.43.2: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

Ok, all the links are in place and we’re ready to roll. Panelists, please introduce yourselves. Why on earth did you agree to do this forum? I know the financial rewards are remarkable but what interests you about the topic?

And since we’re going to be talking about family rituals quite a bit, maybe say a little bit about your experiences with the Thanksgiving holiday last week… pros and cons!

BridgeSquare.43.3: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

The Northfield News has a front page piece by Evelyn Hoover in today’sissue (Wed, Dec 3): Building Cohesive Families: Web forum addresses ways to enhance family time

Panelists Bill, Mary and Will (and yours truly) are quoted in the piece.

I’ll link to it as soon as they put it up on their web site.

BridgeSquare.43.4: Mary Carlsen (serine) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

Hi, folks. I’m Mary Carlsen, and I go by a lot of roles in my life,most notably spouse, parent (Rachel, 6 and Nathan, 2), sister, teacherand social worker. I said yes to Griff’s invitation to participate inthis discussion because I viewed it as a challenge to get into using the Web and NCO, and because I just the other day asked the students in my social welfare and social services course what it would take to slow down the pace of life in this country. I was clearly asking the question out of my own frustration with living my life in seven minute increments! I may share their responses later in the discussion.

Thanksgiving was wonderful. We all slept in, sorted through our games and toys, I baked a pie, and we went to my brother’s for a quiet dinner with his family. We then stayed overnight in Minneapolis for a change of routine. The rest of the weekend was relaxing, so much so that our two year old has asked everyday this week if it is Saturday, and he cannot understand why we don’t have time to lie in bed and read books to him EVERY morning. I’ve read the first section of Bill’s book, and look forward to the conversation.

BridgeSquare.43.6: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

I thought I’d post a few friendly tips about forum protocol for allparticipants here, both panelists and pedestrians! – avoid lengthy posts, i.e., anything longer than a screenful. It’sthe equivalent of standing up in a living room conversation and giving a lecture. If you do have a long piece, e.g., an article, put it in a “hidden” post, explaining in a separate post what it’s all about.

- use lots of white space, i.e., paragraph returns, to make your posts easier for others to read. Paragraphs should be no longer than 8-10 lines, preferably shorter…. even if it violates what you were taught in grammar class.

- since we’ll be discussing several issues “simultaneously” here, all piled in one topic, learn to make use of the linking ability of the software, especially the word “post”. For example: “Mary, you talked about your Thanksgiving weekend in post:4. Could you….” See how just typing the word “post” with a colon and number after it automatically creates a link? Cool, eh? It helps others to know what you’re talking about and makes it easy for them to follow the link back to see what was actually posted.

- Of course, avoid personal attacks on others who disagree with you. But also: 1) avoid sarcasm; and 2) use people’s first name when referring to someone else who’s participating here. Avoid saying, for example, “Will seems to be the type of guy who always….” It’s insulting. So try to talk (write) as if others are right here in a room with you. “Will, you seem to always be…”

I’ll assess reasonably small fines to offenders. ;-)

BridgeSquare.43.7: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

BTW, I have the permission of Bill’s publisher to put the entire text of chapter one up on the web site we’ve built for him. But we don’t have the text file for it so someone needs to type it up – 13 pages.

If you know someone who could help us out, please email me:

BridgeSquare.43.8: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

Hi everyone. I’m Leonard Witt. I use “Leonard Witt” for the web so I am more searchable. It is a vanity thing. Any how, you all can call me Len. I am executive director of Minnesota Public Radio’s Civic Journalism Initiative. Which means we bring together people to talk about public policy issues and then amplify what they say via radio, print and online.

I am also a family man. My wife Diana and I have two children. One just left the nest in September for the University of Chicago, and the other is a junior in the Minneapolis Public Schools.

My mom, who had a stroke five years ago, is now out here in a nursing home after leaving Pennsylvania. Her head is in good shape, but the stroke confines her to a wheelchair. Still she is doing okay. I mention it because I am now an official member of the sandwich generation.

I have been invited to participate as a panelist because of the Minnesota Family Strength project of which MPR’s Civic Journalism Initiative was a partner. See November’s Minnesota Monthly for the 36 page Families Talk Families Listen special section or go now to www.mpr.org to see an edited version and listen to the radio that came out of the project. We have reprints for all who want them. Just email me.

Maybe I will get my brother in Florida to participate too. That will add a little sibling rivalry spice. Time to sign off, too many words.

BridgeSquare.43.9: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

Hey Len, good to have your here. And I’m delighted that this forum can piggyback on the Family Strength Project’s recent work. I plan to introduce here many of the issues raised by the Project… as well as point to many of the great suggestions and ideas that the Project generated.

Can you say a little about the Witt Thanksgiving last week? Given your mother’s condition and one child recently gone to college, I’d like to hear how it’s changed from previous years, if at all.

BTW, the link to the Project no longer exists from the MPR home page. You have to go to:

http://access.mpr.org/features/9710_family/index.shtml

This topic’s header and footer has the link.

BridgeSquare.43.10: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

Griff, having my mom in a nursing home causes all kinds of holiday logistic problems, especially since she is dependent on Metro Mobility mini vans, and gets car sick since the stroke. The vans are such that one never knows exactly when they will arrive so we really have to mobilize to get her from one place to another.

At Thanksgiving we solve the problem by having two Thanksgiving meals. One the night before at a restaurant relatively close to the nursing home with my mom and immediate family, and then one on Thanksgiving with friends at our house. This year three families came for a total of 12 people.

My mom is still raving about the 12-pound turkey we had at Shelley’s Woodroast so that worked fine. Less intimate than we would have liked, but still it works well for my mom. On Thanksgiving I saw her in the morning for an inter-denominational service at the nursing home.

We had a wonderful time with the families at Thanksgiving. My son was home from college. It went well until the six kids retreated to the TV room after the meal, leaving the adults to talk among themselves, mostly about the kids who left the room.

Any suggestions for overcoming that gap and kid retreat in big gatherings? Five of the six kids were older teens. Any suggestions for using turkey leftovers from two Thanksgiving meals?

BridgeSquare.43.11: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

Ah, the dilemmas of older teens! I know it first hand with 3 sons, aged 16, 19, and 21 here at home, Len. One ritual that we’ve sort of fallen into on Thanksgiving and Christmas that seems to help is playing the game Taboo. We’ve done it about 4 years in a row now.

It appeals to a wide age range, it’s active (people are changing chairs all the time), it provides a ton of spontaneous laughs… and the teens mix right in with the grandparents, friends and other relatives. I remember doing a similar thing as a kid with big card games.

We only do it for about an hour and a half but that’s long enough to get everyone feeling good about interacting with one another. And then nobody minds if the teens retreat to doing their thing afterwards… tho I try to nag some of the adults into joining the teens for some pool and ping pong in the basement – mixed success on that one.

BridgeSquare.43.12: Bill Doherty (billd) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

I am delighted to be participating in this conversation about building cohesive families and family rituals. Actually, this is my first time using the internet in this chat room format. I look forward to “talking” with you.

BridgeSquare.43.13: Bill Doherty (billd) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

I urge folks to write about their dilemmas and experiences in finding time for nurturing family relationships in a world that often pushes us apart faster than our family bonds can pull us back together. My book is about using family rituals of connection, celebration, and community to resist the forces of “entropy” that move us away from one other: overly-busy and over-committed lives outside the home, and the distraction of television (and computers) inside the home. My basic point is that a family that is not “intentional” about its life together will drift slowly apart over the years–like floating on the Mississippi without paddling and steering.

My own family consists of me, my wife of 26 years, and two young adult children–a 24 year old son and a 22 year old daughter. Although we’ve had our share of typical family problems over the years, we have gotten good a creating and sticking with family rituals, such as weekly trips to Davanni’s pizza (even when the kids left home). My book The Intentional Family has lots of personal stories from my family, both successes and struggles.

I encourage readers of the book to read chapter one and then skip to the chapter on the Christmas Holidays, since that’s what many of us are dealing with right now. Question: are you a Christmas Coordinator or a Christmas Abstainer?

BridgeSquare.43.14: Will Healy (whealy) Wed, 03 Dec 1997

I’m Will Healy and I need to confess that my involvement in this forum can be blamed on Griff Wigley (for inviting me!). My interest in pursuing intentionality in families stems principally from my role as a father to two remarkable kids (Nina, age 14, and Sam, age 11). For the past 4 years I have also been involved in speaking to parents on behalf of Community Ed & Rec through a breakfast program (hosted by the elementary and middle schools here in Northfield) concerning realities of American family life and the challenge of parenting kids today.

My understanding of family in American culture has been largely shaped by the work of David Elkind, particularly as he writes of the erosion of societal protections for childhood and adolescence in our world, erosions that have been experienced in my lifetime. I am looking forward to being a part of this important conversation and in considering Bill Doherty’s wisdom as we think together about this pivotal issue.

BridgeSquare.43.15: Kathie Galotti (kathie) Thu, 04 Dec 1997

Last, and least, I’m the fifth (I think) panelist here. My name is Kathie Galotti, and I am parent to one four-year-old, Timmy, and 3 canines, Tandy, Eskie, and Flit. I’m married to Lloyd Komatsu, and we both teach psychology at Carleton. I teach developmental and cognitive psychology, and I assume this is why Griff asked me to be a panelist. I have to tell you though that when I read the Northfield News that described the panelist as “experts” I cringed. Especially so since Will Healy is my ex-next door neighbor, and Mary Loven has had me in her parenting classes and knows how much I have to learn about parenting and families. I read 100 pages in Bill Doherty’s book last evening–I couldn’t put it down. It’s filled with practical suggestions that make many connections with much of the theoretical literature in developmental psychology

BridgeSquare.43.19: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 04 Dec 1997

Welcome Bill, Will and Kathie. All the panelists have signed in within a day… that’s a record!

I do appreciate the conversational tone thus far… and that everyone has presented themselves as a parent, not just a professional. My turn!

As Evelyn stated in her newspaper article, family meals is what we’ve focused on at the Wigley household.. it’s the only chapter of Bill’s book that I’ve read so far.

We scheduled a family dinner for last night where I’d planned to initiate a conversation about having our family dinners with more rituals. (My wife Robbie and I have 3 sons, ages 21, 19, 16 and an 11 yr old daughter.) I also thought it might be alright to try a few things like soft music, candles, pausing before we all start eating, ending simultaneously, etc.

I mentioned this to Robbie as we were getting ready to eat and thankfully she objected, reminding me that we hadn’t talked to the kids about these things as Bill suggests in his book on P. 194:

“Don’t introduce the proposed change without a discussion of why such a change might be helpful, or you run the risk of causing an argument.”

(He has 6 suggested guidelines to consider when having a talk with family members about changing rituals.)

The kids liked the idea of an all-family dinner at least once per week during the week tho there was a little grousing about “we’re too busy”. Candles were a definite aok, music sort of ok. Nobody except me liked the idea of everyone sitting down and pausing to start eating… we’ve never done “grace” at our house and if Robbie cooks the meal, she doesn’t like waiting to start eating because the food gets cold.

But they did like the idea of staying at the table to talk, even if they were finished eating. And they liked the idea of DAD taking a turn to cook the meals (Robbie usually cooks, I do cleanup) but the two older guys didn’t want to team up with me to help plan and cook. And nobody wants me to cook breakfasts for dinner… french toast or pancakes is about the only thing I know how to cook.

So next week, that’s the plan. I’ll cook next Wed (we’re going to try to do it at least every Wed), and I’ll cajole one of the kids into helping me.

All in all, a good first step. Thank you, Professor!

BridgeSquare.43.20: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 04 Dec 1997

I’d like to have two conversational threads or themes going here at the same time over the course of the next two weeks:

1) the down-to-earth, how-to family stuff, since Bill’s book is primarily a manual for how to be an intentional family. And since we’re approaching Christmas, let’s focus mainly on the holiday season, no matter what your religious beliefs are.

2) What can our other institutions do to strengthen family life?

- places of worship

- schools

- workplaces

- neighborhoods

- communities

- health care and social services

Len Witt’s Families Talk, Families Listen booklet has a page on each of these and the web site contains some specific suggestions:

BridgeSquare.43.21: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 04 Dec 1997

Bill posed this question in post:13

“Are you a Christmas Coordinator or a Christmas Abstainer?”

Since only the panelists have the book thus far that I know of, I thought I’d give a little detail on the definitions from P. 124:

“Like any complex enterprise, Christmas requires a competent executive director, whom I call the Family Christmas Coordinator, the one person in most families who is in charge of putting the entire production together…

“Since family roles generally come in pairs, the Christmas coordinator in the this holiday dance is paired with the Christmas Abstainer… who stays aloof from the demands of the season while being vaguely aware that the Coordinator is getting hard to live with…”

“As the Coordinator becomes more obsessed with holiday preparations, the Abstainer becomes more detached and irritable, while the children for their part are becoming more excited and demanding.”

BridgeSquare.43.22: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 04 Dec 1997

Ok, since all the panelists have posted, I’m opening up the conversation to everyone.

Feel free to react to anything posted thus far, ask questions, express appreciation or criticism, make suggestions, etc.

Main theme right now for everyone: are you a Christmas Coordinator or Christmas Abstainer? How satisfactory is that role for you and why?

BridgeSquare.43.23: Kathie Galotti (kathie) Thu, 04 Dec 1997

I’m a Christmas coordinator. Married to an abstainer. When you get an Italian married to a person of Japanese descent, you are bound to see some culture clashes, and boy this was a big one. Over the years, though, we have evolved our own rituals for celebration–we get a tree around Dec. 8 (our anniversary); we get toys for Toys for Tots; we do a photo card with the dogs (and now with our child); we watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” on Christmas eve together.

Few of these were parts of either of our childhoods, so they’ve become very special to us. Reading Bill’s book, it made me realize that, despite our many personifications of the entropic family, we do do a few things intentionally!

BridgeSquare.43.24: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 04 Dec 1997

I’m an abstainer, married to a very competent coordinator. I do the Christmas lights (tree and a small amount outside.) Once in a while, I buy a present. I do the video camera. I help clean up. And whatever else I’m told to do. Gee, there must be a pattern here somewhere.

BridgeSquare.43.25: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Thu, 04 Dec 1997

In our family both Diana and I get into the Christmas thing.

Diana has always contended that most people can’t remember the gifts they got, but they remember all the trappings of the Holidays. The rituals. The cookie baking. The decorating. The buying the tree. The family meals and back when there were extended families around, the eccentric relatives.

This isn’t the place to do it, but maybe each of us should make a long list of the things we remember from our childhood Holidays and see how many we are providing our own families today.

BridgeSquare.43.26: Andrea Christianson (wolfmoon) Fri, 05 Dec 1997

In post:21 Griff quoted from the book:

“Since family roles generally come in pairs, the Christmas coordinator in the this holiday dance is paired with the Christmas Abstainer… who stays aloof from the demands of the season while being vaguely aware that the Coordinator is getting hard to live with…”

And for those families without pairs, do we get to be both organizer and abstainer?

I hope this discussion will not leave out those of us with “non-traditional” families, I haven’t read the book, and am afraid with plowing through my grad school reading, I won’t be able to, so my comments may be limited, but I do want to say that as a single parent it starts out a bit uncomfortable to hear families talked about in adult pairs as if that was the way they all were/are.

BridgeSquare.43.27: Kathie Galotti (kathie) Fri, 05 Dec 1997

Andrea, you raise a very critical point. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the book, and I find it very useful, but now that I think about it, it doesn’t say a lot about being/becoming an intentional family if you aren’t in that mode. Bill, any comments?

BridgeSquare.43.28: Spencer Hunter (shunter) Fri, 05 Dec 1997

Re: post:21, I’m not just an abstainer, I’m a downright Scrooge! This caused considerable problems early in our marriage, but my coordinating spouse has generally learned to live with it–and I occasionally do help out with Xmas shopping, tree decorating, and the like.

I recently had a talk with our 7-year-old son about Santa. You see, it’s a bit like that story by Dr. Suess, _To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street_ : first, there was a real bishop of Myrna who gave a sack of gold to a young woman so she could get married. Then, when the story was retold through the centuries, more and more was added until we have the elf-raindeer-sled-NorthPole-commercialized product that’s known today.

(I spared him my proof that “Satan Claws” is actually a demonic elf….)

BridgeSquare.43.29: Mary Loven (kathie) Fri, 05 Dec 1997

Hello, even though I’m posted as Kathie, this is really Mary Loven, talking. I am the “missing” member of the panel. When Griff asked me to participate on the panel, he mentioned three options, and I said yes to the other two because I didn’t have access to the internet nor had I used it until this very moment. So, Kathie was kind enough to open her office to me, and I hope to visit with you via this page from time to time over the next couple of weeks. Surprise, Griff!

To introduce myself, I am Mary Loven, and my primary work role is as a facilitator of parent groups at the Family Education Center. We serve the families of preschool children so I expect many of my comments will be about children birth through age 5. I am married to Tom Holt and we have two children, Anders age 9 and Jens age 7. Bill’s concerns are not new to our family. We work hard to create family rituals, especially the every day ones like family dinners and bedtime routines. Even so, it is quite typical for us to feel caught up by the business of our lives.

In response to your second question, Griff, about how the community can support families, I think our community is blessed and cursed to have so many opportunities available for our children. The parent of a preschooler can choose among over a dozen options for activities for their child outside the home. Most of them are wonderful options. But what happens to family time? I’d enjoy hearing the panel or other parents talk about how they make choices AND specifically what have been the rewards when family rituals have taken precedence over outside activities.

BridgeSquare.43.30: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 05 Dec 1997

Hey, Mary Loven, good to see you here… even as an alias! If you do want your own account, I can set one up for you, using Kathie’s email address. And welcome to Andrea and Spencer.

I don’t have much time to respond right now and I’ll be at an office holiday party tonight but I did want to say that Chp. 11 of Bill’s book is titled

Intentional Single Parents and Remarried Families

See the Table of Contents at:

www.nco.northfield.mn.us/doherty/html/intentional_family.html

BridgeSquare.43.31: Bill Kelly (bmeowk) Sat, 06 Dec 1997

Perhaps it’s tougher these days. Dianne and I were married in 1962. Our four children range in age from 27 to 34. Dianne is the “Christmas Coordinator” and there was a time when I was the “Abstainer”. I think we have built a successful marriage by always beginning our thoughts and discussions with the plural pronoun “we”. Over the years roles have changed. We also have changed. Today we find time to spend together as well as time to spend individually. We nurture both kinds of activities and try our best not to be jealous or competing.

There were times when I traveled on business forty weeks each year. Now I am always at home because I must stay close to my artificial kidney, as my kidneys have failed. Dianne was a “stay at home” mom at one time and is now the primary wage-earner for the family. She has had to adjust to my former responsibilities, while have had to become chief cook and bottle washer.

It can be done with a little effort!!

BridgeSquare.43.32: Mary Carlsen (serine) Sat, 06 Dec 1997

Hi, folks! I had to take a brief hiatus, as I was flat in bed on Thursday and Friday with what was likely an inner ear infection. though I’m behind on everything, it did give me a good chance to sleep. I’d like to respond to three postings: Bill on post:13, Andrea on post:26 and Mary on post: 30. I’m a coordinator; I think it comes with being the oldest in a family who lost our parents young. But my siblings, husband and children have consciously addressed the stresses of the holidays, and agreed to go easy. We exchange names to minimize consumerism, spend a few days up north at a friend’s cabin, and try to take in at least two special musical events (and there are many in this community, thanks to NAG, the churches, the colleges, the schools…).

Andrea beat me to the punch with mentioning single parent families and others who are working to be intentional. During my twenties I lived for three years in a house with two men; one gay and one straight. We had dinner every Wednesday evening, and then planned something social together. We threw a lot of parties, and had guests every Sunday, often folks without immediate family in the area or available; often, too, my mother from the nursing home, Len, so I know what that means…

Mary–Northfield IS blessed and cursed. We’ve started to cope with the plethora of activities for Rachel (6) by limiting her to one arts activity (dance for now), one athletic one (soccer in the summer), and one musical one (church choir). Even that is too many at times. But, she does seem to enjoy them , and I think a parent needs to consider each child individually when deciding what to do and when to start. Delightful to be hearing from you all!

BridgeSquare.43.33: Griff Wigley (griff) Sat, 06 Dec 1997

Northfield News Editor Evelyn Hoover’s Dec. 3 article titled

Web forum addresses ways to enhance family time

is now up on their web site:

www.northfield.org/news/backissues/971205/news/forum.htm

Also, the Healthy Community Initiative has a big ad promoting this web forum on the bottom of Page 5A. “It’s the talk of the town…” Thank you Scott Richardson, HCI staffer.

And the Northfield Sampler ad, featuring a book review of “Intentional Family” (by guess who?) is on Page 8A. Thank you Norman Butler, proprietor!

BridgeSquare.43.34: Barry Witt (artfest) Sat, 06 Dec 1997

Hello from Florida. Christmas here is a bit different. Tomorrow I will put the lights on the house and in the palm trees. If it is not too cold I shall probably be wearing shorts. Tradition here is watching a boat parade from our neighbor’s deck enjoying holiday cheer as the decorated boats go by.

Living in northern climates for my first 42 years (I am planning to spend the second 42 in tropical locations) I grew up enjoying large family gatherings at Christmas. Then as my brother and sister migrated to MN and SC respectively our Christmas became more “each to their own”. Then when I bought a home in Florida (Bonita Beach) my brother, sister, their children and my mother would come down to enjoy the fishing, sunning, etc. Now the children are young adults and we have gone back to “each to their own”.

My brother Leonard mentioned the eccentric relatives. Were you talking about me?

Holidays do bring back lots of memories.

BridgeSquare.43.35: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Sat, 06 Dec 1997

In one of the MPR interviews about families a Concordia College professor said she worried that we are spending so much time in making our children into perfect individuals that we may be forgetting to teach them are also part of the group and that they have responsibilities to the group, which is the community in the larger sense and family in the smaller sense.

BridgeSquare.43.36: Jane McWilliams (jbm) Sat, 06 Dec 1997

Hi everyone.

I’ve been reading TIF and think it is great very good. In fact, I plan to give it to my eldest daughter who is married and has two little kids and I will ask that she pass it on to her siblings.

I like the way you’ve traced the “structures and expectations of family life,” Bill. Like everything else in your book, you’ve distilled some complex ideas into readable form. And I agree with the importance of ritual in our lives.

My kids are all grown now, and I’ve been reflecting on how we operated as a family and realize we had a lot of “rituals.” In retrospect these may have been healthier than I realized at the time. This came about partly because Burr (my husband) was very orderly and liked routines. (I came into our marriage a little less routinized.) Also, I think my being a “stay at home mom” permitted us to have a less hectic pace than we would have had it I had been going off to work each day. I have to hand it to families who manage to be intentional when they are pulled in so many directions.

As a result, although spread across the continent, my kids and I are still in close touch and we have some really nice shared memories.

Like you, Mary, I was the eldest in a large family, and grew up feeling responsible for everyone. So, I was our Christmas Coordinator and there were times when I felt a little overwhelmed by it all. That was my own doing, of course! We early established our nuclear family routines because we always lived far from our respective parents. The one year we went “home” where both families lived was so stressful we decided to stay put after that!

A really nice ritual we had at Xmas: No one was allowed to go downstairs on Xmas a.m. until Burr had turned on the tree lights and started a tape of carols we collected over years and which we grew to look forward to each year. (He subsequently made copies of that tape for all four kids when they got established in their own homes!)

Andrea, I agree that we need to be careful not to define family narrowly. I liked the part of the book about “Intentional Single Parents” where Bill says “The first challenge for single-parent families is to see themselves as real families, not just as pieces of a family.” I hope you’ll get to read it eventually.

BridgeSquare.43.37: Ken Wedding (keweddin) Sun, 07 Dec 1997

Let me try this again. (Posting didn’t work this afternoon). I’m one of Northfield’s commuter population, Ken Wedding. I’m strictly an amateur at this family stuff

Al the talk of Christmas activities hasn’t mentioned the problems of conflicting traditions – especially with blended families. Nancy and I have an 11-year-old son and we share – usually at a distance – the joys of my two older kids, 26 and 28. But mix us all together at Christmas, along with the rest of the older children’s families, and things get complex and could get contentious.

Any Christmas activities are compromises and usually ad lib. We make plans around who will be here when or when we can get away.

One of our efforts has been to create something of our own. On the winter solstice, we avoid using electricity except for cooking and hot water. Quiet. Restful. Candles. Dinner together with lots of talk and story telling. As a wonderful pause before the enjoyable (usually) hubbub of the holidays, it has become for us a highly anticipated event (or non-event, if you will). It’s also a great way of staying in touch with natural cycles at a time when there’s lots of attention paid to cultural endings and beginnings.

BridgeSquare.43.38: Bill Doherty (billd) Sun, 07 Dec 1997

I am still learning to use this system; I wrote a nice note on Saturday but clicked on “Wrap” instead of “Post.” I think I’ve got it right now! I am gratified with the positive responses to The Intentional Family and with the discussion so far. A few issues come to mind from the discussion. First, family rituals of all kinds become more complex in stepfamilies. (I don’t like the term “blended family” because two families don’t really blend.). I admire Ken and his stepfamily for their creativity with this season’s rituals. I think it’s best when stepfamilies can carry on with some rituals from the two original families, and create novel rituals for the new family.

The same thing applies to single parent families: having continuity with favorite Holiday (and other) rituals, but forging new ones that reflect the new identity of the family.

And let’s not forget that even first-married families represent two different cultures and traditions of family rituals; that’s why people have such a hard time dealing with their in-laws’ strange ways!

Leonard’s point about whether we ask enough of children as members of families and communities raises an important issue. Parents sometimes let children, particularly adolescents, pick and choose which family activities (such as dinners) to participate in according to the children’s whims. Children then become “consumers of parental services” rather than members of a family who both give and receive from the group.

Let’s keep exploring these and other issues.

BridgeSquare.43.39: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 07 Dec 1997

Welcome Barry, Jane and Ken. Good to have you join the conversation.

That makes a baker’s dozen of folks who have posted here thus far, plus another 20 who are reading along but haven’t yet posted. If you are one of those, feel free to post a “Hi I’m here and enjoying the conversation” type of note, even tho you don’t have anything else to say at the moment. It helps the rest of us know there’s a bit of an audience out there that’s mostly invisible.

BridgeSquare.43.40: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 07 Dec 1997

I’m intrigued by this problem of kids as “consumers of parental services.”

Let’s talk more about how parents can go about conveying a different notion, especially during the holidays.

BridgeSquare.43.41: Mary Loven (kathie) Mon, 08 Dec 1997

Hello, it’s Mary Loven disguised as Kathie again. Thanks for your offer to get me my own account, Griff, but getting to visit Kathie at her office has given us a good excuse to have some great conversations. It’s nice to talk about family issues on-line and off!

In reference to children being consumers of parental services, this may be one of those areas where we implement a plan with the best of intentions, only to find it works against what we’d hoped to accomplish in the first place. Meaning, if we try to be family centered AND responsive our children’s needs (or more accurately, preferences), we may offer choices that threaten rituals. A couple of years ago a seminarian said to me, “Don’t ask your children if they want to go to church. Ask them which service they prefer.” I think her advice can be generalized to fit many different situations.

Be back later in the week! Mary Loven

BridgeSquare.43.42: Kathie Galotti (kathie) Mon, 08 Dec 1997

Now it’s really Kathie posting.

I like this thread about children as consumers of parental resources! My 4-year-old, Timmy, certainly is a consumer of mine and Lloyd’s! My mom is constantly on my case for the number of options we offer him, and for being too willing to build our plans around his preferences. And it does work against rituals sometimes, too.

It’s hard to know when to be absolutely firm, and when to negotiate. Some cases are clear cut (we don’t discuss seat belts, or playing with matches, or hitting dogs, on the one hand; and Lloyd and I are pretty tolerant of clothing choices (even when the colors are garish) and even food preferences (I have a child that stops eating cookies if he sees raw baby carrots!). But I’ve noticed that Lloyd and I never get a chance to watch TV if Timmy is awake. Because if the TV is on, Timmy determines what video or program to watch (within limits, of course). And it occurs to me that we need to do a better job teaching him to honor our needs and preferences too. Question: how?

BridgeSquare.43.43: Mary Carlsen (serine) Mon, 08 Dec 1997

Mary: I laughed at your comment in post:42 “don’t ask if the kids want to go to church; ask them which service”. Just last night I asked Rachel which vegetable she wanted for supper! I am going home to bed (again!), but hope to read Bill’s chapter on Christmas time shortly. I’ll have more responses later.

BridgeSquare.43.44: Mary Loven (kathie) Mon, 08 Dec 1997

Hi, it’s Mary Loven again. Just a follow-up on my last entry on children as consumers. I wanted to say that while we really are each on our own as parents to decide what is negotiable and what is not (sorry Kathie, I can’t answer your question!), maybe a first step is to give ourselves permission as parents to decide our bottom line. In theory, our life experiences and ability to see the bigger picture give us some insights that our children, at least our young children, do not yet have. Then, to make our decisions more prone to success and enthusiasm from our children, we negotiate the details. Easier said than done!

BridgeSquare.43.45: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Mon, 08 Dec 1997

I’ve been reading along since the topic began and have enjoyed the comments made. Kathie, my husband and I were just discussing that we rarely if ever get to use the TV when Holden is awake. We have been trying, with little success, to explain that Daddy wants to watch the news now, so you’ll have to wait to watch “101 Dalmatians” (or whatever). Sometimes it works. Most of the time, though, it’s not successful.

We also have some negotiable and non-negotiable areas for Holden (he’s 2), but he does tend to control most areas of our life at this time. I’m told this will change as he gets a little older, but that’s when the outside the house activities like sports and arts kick in, as well, and take away from family time. Has anyone found a way to balance this and maintain some family time?

BridgeSquare.43.46: Bill Doherty (billd) Mon, 08 Dec 1997

I appreciate the honest responses about the challenge of balancing adult/family and children’s needs and preferences. Makes me feel like a Neanderthal, but when my kids were growing up, my wife and I had first dibs on the television for things like news. Children learn to accept things like that when they learn it from an early age.

Kathie is right in saying that catering too much to children’s preferences (I like the distinction between preferences and needs) works against family rituals. Long term, children tend to love family rituals, but short term they would often rather go their own individual way. Being an intentional family means that individuals (adults and kids) sometimes bow to the needs of the group; the “how” is not too difficult once you decide that the children have responsibilities to the family as well as vice versa. But I can respond with particular change techniques if someone wants to write about a specific scenario.

BridgeSquare.43.47: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Mon, 08 Dec 1997

For me it is not just a family and kid thing. It goes beyond that. Often it is a family vs. the kid and the whole community.

For example, the Rochester soccer tournament is held on I believe Memorial Day each year. A holiday which I always wanted to share with my own family. How could I as a parent tell the kids, I know you have loyalty to the team, but you can’t go and play.

Instead, there we all were sitting on the sidelines watching our children run up and down the field. We cheered and yelled and felt good for them, but I honestly think a mini-vacation experience would have been richer for us all. But try to explain that to the kids who see all their close friends going off to Rochester, to play, to swim together afterwards as the parents sat by and watched.

You can switch the Rochester experience with a hundred community and school and neighborhood activities that fairly yanked our children out of our arms. Bill is that specific enough?

BridgeSquare.43.48: Bill Doherty (billd) Tue, 09 Dec 1997

I’ll say that’s specific enough, Leonard. And it’s the same theme–that family and community come last when we seek to maximize the opportunities for individuals. (At the adult level, it’s often work and travel demands, and expectations for relocation.) Dealing with the problem at the community level requires community-level action; an individual parent is pretty stuck in the situation your described. In one community I heard about the parents and clergy rallied to resist soccer games being held on Sunday mornings. But beyond isolated resistance, I think we need community-wide discussions about what we are doing, discussions that focus on all the positive values we have for children and that call for balance in kids’ and families’ lives.

BridgeSquare.43.49: Andrea Christianson (wolfmoon) Tue, 09 Dec 1997

I’ll share a community response I heard about a few years back when I was traveling around the state working on children’s advocacy issues.

A community committee in Pipestone had been working on many of these issues, how to value children/families. A minister came back to the next meeting (from a very tiny outlying town where his church was THE center of the town in every way) and shared what his church council had done after he shared our previous meetings discussion (that meeting had ended with an especially difficult “scheduling discussion”…where you try to find a day and time that all the committee members have free to meet again, and in this case, we were all painfully aware that the two with the most crowded calendars, were the two high school members!).

They decided that church scheduling was as much the problem with pulling families apart as anything else in the town. They had families, many of them, with some activity for someone every night. So they decided that no church event, be it confirmation, choir practice, or any committee meeting, would be held on at any time except Sunday, Wednesday evening or Saturday morning. It was going to mean that they would lose members on some committees who had to choose between choir practice and the council, or something similar, but it was their way of saying, we want families to be able to see each other, and this is what we can do for our part of the problem with our hurry up over worked world.

BridgeSquare.43.50: Andrea Christianson (wolfmoon) Tue, 09 Dec 1997

Regarding blended families/single families and ritual.

For us, it has always been Christmas eve/morning. Since I usually work nights, I have always been able to keep the evening and morning free. We have supper (something simple) after early church, and then go to Valley Grove (lately) for the midnight service if I am not working, then the morning is our sacred time. Even at 20+, my sons still expect nothing under the tree until they wake up, we put music on, share a simple but traditional meal (including some outrageously unhealthy but delicious Norwegian brekfosthorns).

They then leave to go to their dad’s, with my mother always going with them, for the rest of the day/more traditional family gathering. Over the years, we all don’t get up quite so early and they don’t leave quite so early ( and it is easier when they could drive themselves instead of coordinating transportation) but it pretty much stays the same.

When they were very young, and it was hard to see them go, I started my own tradition by picking up the evening shift as an extra (letting someone with family off). I never had time to miss them too much being in the hospital on Christmas day eve. Now if I work the night, instead of the day, I use the time when they are gone, for some special solitude of my own.

BridgeSquare.43.51: Curt Benson (cbenson) Tue, 09 Dec 1997

Hi, I’m Curt Benson…long time lurker, first time poster. My wife, Gwen and I have three children, Nick age 13, Charlie 10, and Bette 5.

In the past, when we’ve decorated the Christmas tree, all three kids enthusiastically participated. This year, 13-year-old Nick asked if he could quit after about 30 minutes. He said he had to do his homework and practice his trumpet.(Usually not a big priority.) We were almost done so we let him do his other tasks.

Later that night, Gwen and I commented on how sad we felt. We’d liked watching how much Nick enjoyed decorating the tree in previous years. We agreed it wasn’t realistic to expect a 13-year-old to react to decorating the tree in the same way a 5-year-old does. Also we we’re thankful Nick remains a very pleasant person to be around–no typical teenage attitude problems yet. He initiated and helped with other Christmas activities, like hanging the exterior lights.

Any comments on how to keep your children involved in family rituals as they get older?

BridgeSquare.43.52: Bill Doherty (billd) Tue, 09 Dec 1997

Andrea, I appreciated both of your stories. The church you described was taking an “intentional” approach to supporting family time. I’ll share the story with others. And your family has figured out a way to combine different families’ needs in the Christmas dance. And I loved your way of handling the solitude–by freeing up someone else’s time for their family.

Curt, it’s hard to know when to hold on and when to let go when it comes to family rituals like tree decorating. My thought is that you and your son did a nice compromise: he put in some good time on the decorations, and then had had enough. There might be other rituals you would insist on full length participation–gift opening and dinner come to mind–but others are best left more optional. Other thoughts, anyone? Other similar experiences?

BridgeSquare.43.53: Susan Hudson (shudson) Tue, 09 Dec 1997

I now have three teens at home. My son is 16, another son is 14 and my daughter is 12. Yes, there are some rituals that are mandatory. But by keeping the number of mandatory rituals limited, and giving teens an opportunity (not permission) to opt out at times, rituals become more meaningful. I would like to return to Thanksgiving for a moment. This year Thanksgiving found our home in a transition period. My mother passed away unexpectedly in September. My father came from New York to be with us for 9 days over the Thanksgiving holidays. We knew ahead of time things could not/would not be the same.

In years past (16 to be exact), we have spent only one Thanksgiving with my parents, one Thanksgiving with my husband’s parents, many with friends, but mostly just as our family. We were so grateful that my Dad changed his tradition and came to be with us. After dinner, we looked at slides of my parents and siblings growing up. At one point it was too hard for my Dad, so he took a break and returned when he could. This was one Thanksgiving, different from all the rest, that we will cherish forever. I only hope that we get to start a new tradition of having my Dad with us every Thanksgiving. There is nothing wrong with reinventing traditions.

BridgeSquare.43.54: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

That’s a touching story, Susan, thanks for posting it. Bill has a whole section starting on p. 197 titled

“Overhauling, substituting, or dropping family rituals”

=====

Update on the new Wigley family ritual (one week old) of an all-family dinner every Wednesday eve:

My two oldest sons wanted to cancel it this week because of a last-minute rock concert they want to attend in the cities tonight. I argued for having it a little earlier this week (6 pm instead of 7 pm) and they conceded.

And Tyson, #2 son who last week insisted that he didn’t want to do any meal planning or prep for the weekly dinner, volunteered to cook his special Fajitas dinner and asked for help preparing it (so far, no takers).

Bill, reading the statement in your book, “good rituals must be fought for” and your assertion back in post:46 “Long term, children tend to love family rituals, but short term they would often rather go their own individual way” encouraged me to not just cave in. So far, so good.

Stay tuned, film at 10.

BridgeSquare.43.55: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

Bill said in post:48 in response to Len’s soccer tourney scenario in post:47

“I think we need community-wide discussions about what we are doing, discussions that focus on all the positive values we have for children and that call for balance in kids’ and families’ lives.”

Len’s Family Strength Project has a page of action steps that includes a “What communities can do to strengthen family life” section:

http://access.mpr.org/features/9710_family/ideas.htm

One suggestion in the section:

Family Days:

“It may be time for whole communities to designate special times as family time. During that time there is no soccer practice, no phone calls, no play practice. Just family time. Maybe it is a Sunday night or a Tuesday night. Each community can have its own time or it can be a statewide voluntary designated time.”

There’s more details on this idea in the write-up on this section in the Families Talk, Families Listen booklet.

============

Could this be something that Northfield embraces? A project of the Healthy Community Initiative? Backed by whole host of other orgs, e.g., the Nfld Ministerial Assoc., Community Ed, etc?

===========

PS#1 – Len, is there any way to get the full text of that booklet posted online someplace? I notice the web site doesn’t have a lot of it.

PS#2 – I remind people that Len said back in post:8 that he’s got free extras of that booklet:

“See November’s Minnesota Monthly for the 36 page Families Talk Families Listen special section or go now to to see an edited version and listen to the radio that came out of the project. We have reprints for all who want them. Just email me.

BridgeSquare.43.56: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

Excuse me for a few more moderator type announcements:

- Kudos to panelist Mary Loven and host Wayne Eddy for the KYMN Radio Tuesday Talk show yesterday on Intention Family. It worked well, I thought. If Bill Doherty could have participated, it might have been nifty to allow for phone-in callers.

- Paul Hager, mayor and head honcho at NTV (Northfield’s public access cable TV station), is visiting Bill Doherty’s office today to videotape an interview. It’ll air Real Soon Now.

- A belated welcome to Curt and Susan and others who are following along. We now have a total of 35 folks here, 16 of whom have posted.

- I plan to send out another NCO-News announcement in the next day or so… feel free to pass it along to friends and colleagues, inviting them to join us for week #2 of this discussion.

- The Nfld News will likely do a follow-up story on this forum, just like they did on the parks forum in October. If you’d rather that they NOT quote from anything you’ve posted here, please contact Evelyn Hoover . I should have posted this at the start of the forum – apologies!

BridgeSquare.43.57: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

Griff, I don’t plan to quote anyone from here, but I may call some people for follow-up comments, so be prepared. I will be paraphrasing some comments, however, in a general way like “many who participated said more needs to be done on a community-wide basis to foster family time” or something like that.

BridgeSquare.43.59: Mary Carlsen (serine) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

Hi, folks, it’s Mary C. again. Friend Peter posted an invitation on St. Olaf’s email announcement list to join in this discussion; thanks, Peter, for the assistance in spreading the news around.

Discussion of a Community Day for families struck a chord for me. At a recent meeting of some faculty, a senior faculty member reminisced back to a time at the college when the president had the authority/ responsibility to call a surprise day of rest/sabbatical/not sure what it was titled. He announced it suddenly, and on that day all staff, faculty and students were to rest and recreate. Classes were cancelled, and folks were ostensibly to stay away from their work for the day. When we asked what had happened to the tradition, we were told the faculty nixed it, saying things like, “I had an exam scheduled that day”, or “a guest speaker was coming” or “you have no right to interfere with the academic enterprise in that way”. Ironic that faculty are now among those asking how we can balance our lives and serve as good role models for our students.

I have a friend who takes a sabbatical every seven years from all her volunteer activities, and spends time with her family and in efforts to renew herself spiritually. If we could schedule it so that we all took different years off (what would happen to churches, Comm Ed, etc without volunteers!), wouldn’t we be healthier? So, the idea is individual, family, organization, and community sabbaticals, ranging from one day a year to one full year…What do folks think?

BridgeSquare.43.60: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

I missed yesterday’s posting. It was our 25th Wedding Anniversary.

On Saturday we are having our annual holiday party so I thought it would be fun to do our 25 years in quick bullet points. Well it took me two hours just to do the first two years.

Some of the memories that stood out were big like the wedding, a new job, a move to New Hampshire. But most were little things like my wife and I lounging in our canoe on Conway Lake reading the Sunday New York Times and sipping lemonade. Being taught to ice fish by some old guy we met. Being in a friend’s pub when a reporter visiting from the Boston Globe began reading from James Joyce.

It’s nice to have some big things in our lives, but it is the little things that give life texture. It will be interesting as I build my 25 years in bullet points to see what memories I have when the kids come into our lives. It’s a fun exercise. Give it a try.

Back to the discussion. I wrote an op-ed piece for the Star Tribune that was not used, at least not yet, on community family time. If a community said Sunday, for example, from 4 to 7 p.m. was devoted to family time that’s three hours a week, 150 hours a year or over a kid’s 18 years it’s 2,700 hours of family time. That’s 100 24-hour days or just about a year’s worth of 8-hour days. In other words that simple community adjustment could have a tremendous positive effect on families. Hey, Northfield you could start a national trend–not unlike the Great American Smokeout that started right here in Minnesota.

BridgeSquare.43.61: Bill Doherty (billd) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

We seem to have some momentum on a community approach to freeing up family time. The main import would not be just whatever specific time was single out by community groups, but also the community discussion that led up to the consensus. For me, the spirit would be how the community can help create spaces for families to connect, not that the community is telling families how to fill that space (or time). There would have to be a lot of lead time for any changes in schedules, because many groups arrange schedules for a full year.

BridgeSquare.43.62: Bill Doherty (billd) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

Griff, I am inspired by your efforts to start and maintain a weekly dinner ritual. Your switching the time but maintaining the ritual demonstrates the kind of “disciplined flexibility” required in a busy family.

Susan, your Thanksgiving story is touching; it is never too late to create new variations on old family traditional rituals.

Mary, your sabbatical idea reminds me a church in Duluth that has a policy of encouraging very active members to take a six month or longer sabbatical from church activities outside of Sunday, with the word put out to committee heads to back off!

Leonard, my warm congratulations on your 25th anniversary. My wife and I celebrated our 18 months ago with full hearts. There are lots of memories after all these years, and many of the best memories, for many of us, are connected with rituals.

BridgeSquare.43.63: Susan Hudson (shudson) Wed, 10 Dec 1997

Griff, congrats on the family meal. And how was the Prince concert? We, too, as a family have tried to instill family dinners. My husband works during two dinner hours each week, so I hold the remaining 5 nights sacred. However, there is always one or two members who opt out once or twice a week at our appointed dinner hour. I, too, am very flexible about the time, however. I try to schedule dinner when I know everyone will be home, and sometimes that means dinner between 8:30 – 9:30PM. And so, we are guaranteed at least three meals a week together. We often tease each other that the kids have friends who go to bed as we sit down to eat, but it works for us. Now if I can only convince the family to cook! As for community-wide family days, I know that the school district has asked and has tried to leave Wednesday evenings open so that the churches in town can plan youth activities without fear of interruption from school activities.

BridgeSquare.43.64: Will Healy (whealy) Thu, 11 Dec 1997

Hi, this is Will Healy, finally back from having run off to save the world once again (which I managed to actually do this time, so rest assured). It’s bee good catching up on the conversation. David Walsh, in his book, “Selling Out America’s Children,” tells a story of a Little League baseball team who showed up for a game one day with their bats and balls and gloves and uniforms–everything they needed to play the game–only to discover that the coaches (adults) were not able to be there. So the kids went home! We have watched a movement take place in our culture, the movement from affording our children great amounts of unstructured, free play time to the place we are today, where our children depend on us to organize and structure their play for them.

Granted, it’s a different world. When I was growing up as a kid in St. Paul, I remember taking a city bus downtown (as an 8 year old, all by myself!) to my speech therapy sessions. Nowadays I’m hesitant to allow my 11 year old to cruise downtown Northfield on his bike after dark. But are there ways we can allow our kids the chance to create their own rituals, those without adult supervision or initiation? My hunch is that, if we could, they might become more participatory in the wider rituals of family and community. Any experiences to tell?

I also plan to comment on the church’s complicity in creating an overly-scheduled community (just as soon as I get this 12-page church newsletter out with its mandatory pastoral harangue threatening those who don’t show up at every single scheduled event with a lesser place in their afterlife!).

BridgeSquare.43.65: Bill Doherty (billd) Thu, 11 Dec 1997

As I head out of town for a couple of days and read about everyone else’s busy schedules, I recall hearing the term “time famine” to describe modern family life. I used to see it as only an individual problem, but now I see it as a collective one. Figuring out how to tame the time demon (to switch metaphors) is a key to being an intentional family. But while we work on the larger issues, we can all do more with the time we do have. I know a harried single mother who picks up her daughter from Head Start every day and walks her home. During these then minute walks, the mother and daughter do a ritual of connection where they each take turns telling the other some interesting experience from the day. Once they hit the door, they each do their own thing until dinner, but they have connected. The Romans used to say, “carpe diem!” (seize the day). Now it’s an accomplishment to “seize the ten minutes”!

BridgeSquare.43.66: John Hatch (jhatch) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

On a somewhat similar note, I work a 12 1/4 hour shift, from 5:45 P.M. to 6:00 A.M., 3 to 4 nights a week, although lately I’ve had runs up to 11 nights in a row. My son and daughter work jobs that usually get them home around 11:00 P.M. and my wife is the point of contact for all of us and is caught in the middle.

My wife is usually up when I get home in the morning and I’m usually too tired/wired to sleep right away. The routine we have evolved is to head into town around 7:00, get two cups of coffee from the coffee shop and maybe a couple of doughnuts from the bakery, and go find a parking place down by the river. There’s plenty to look at but mostly we just watch the river; it’s kind of meditative. We may talk about whatever comes to mind, but mostly we just sit. Afterwards, if my wife has any shopping to do, we do that. Then we go home and I go to bed.

Probably doesn’t sound like the basis for a great life, but I’ve found that what I’m feeling has a lot to do with what I’m paying attention to. I like to spend some time paying attention to the river with my wife.

BridgeSquare.43.67: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

This just in from hizzoner Paul Hager:

Bill Doherty interview

Friday, Saturday & Sunday (12/12-14) at 9 pm each night

NTV Channel 7

BridgeSquare.43.68: Kathie Galotti (kathie) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

This idea of declaring community-wide family time has real appeal. It’s interesting to me how hard it is to do. About 8 years ago, Carleton tried to rearrange schedules so as to provide a “common lunch hour” two days a week. The idea being a 45-minute period on Tuesdays and Thursdays where no classes would meet, to allow people to have lunch together, reconnect etc. It would have involved a switch to an earlier start to classes (8 instead of 8:30), as well as a slight loss of class time (as I recall, 3-4 minutes/class period).

You should have heard the howling!! Everything from people not wanting to get up that early (mostly students) to profs squealing about how much of the learning would be sacrificed (as if minutes spent in class directly translate into amount learned). So the idea was dropped.

But I’m really beginning to experience, in my own life, how hard it is to give myself permission just to “hang out” with my family–to not use the time for chores, or for planning the next day’s schedule or whatever.

Community support would give us all permission, and would mark “family time” as something at least as important as soccer practice, meetings, lessons etc.

BridgeSquare.43.69: Peter Hamlin (hamlin) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

Post:64 from Will Healy really struck a chord with me, especially this comment:

We have watched a movement take place in our culture, the movement from affording our children great amounts of unstructured, free play time to the place we are today, where our children depend on us to organize and structure their play for them.

This is interesting, because in my own childhood, the activities that were most important to me were things like pick-up baseball and football games, playing in rock bands, and impromptu activities like local hikes and fishing trips, all of which involved no adult supervision at all.

Will, you also state very well how the world has changed, but I think your comment can still remind us that part of being a child is having free time just to play. And, as with “play” for animals, that kind of unstructured fun often turns out to be vitally important for us for all that we learn from it.

None of this negates the importance of family rituals, of course. I’m grateful that my mother (a spectacular single parent, if I may say so!) did such a good job of balancing a sense of clear structure in the family with many opportunities for independence and freedom.

BridgeSquare.43.70: Mary Loven (kathie) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

Hello, its Mary Loven writing from Kathie Galotti’s computer again. I think I’ve found a bridge here. Peter you mentioned “play” which is something that the families I serve are probably tired of hearing me talk about. BUT, its so important!

When young children have large amount of time for unstructured play they not only enjoy themselves, they are involved in developing the pre-academic skills they will need to be successful when they go to school. One study showed that after an hour of imaginative play (dress up, role play, etc), children become more creative, their play becomes more elaborate, they become more involved in problem-solving. (I think this is the kind of play we remember fondly when we were children). When we interrupt this to run off and do activities, we don’t give them this opportunity. No wonder they look for adult direction.

What does this have to do with cohesive families? Perhaps if we can convince ourselves as parents that we are doing right by our children to limit their outside activities, there will be more home time to devote to family – even if it is as simple as ritualizing the time we spend playing with them. (It’s important to note that I am not speaking of these things not out of seasoned wisdom, but because our family struggles with this every time a new opportunity becomes available for our children.)

BridgeSquare.43.71: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

Update on the Wigley’s Wednesday night family dinner ritual, week 2:

Tyson, who’d agreed to make a big Fajitas dinner, called me at work at 3:30 to say that all the staff at his work (including his brother) are going down to the Rueb at 5 and he won’t have time to cook if he goes and he really wants to go since he’s a new staffer. I argued for just eating later but he didn’t want be late for the concert in the cities.

He offered to make a couple of big pizzas at Dominos (his other job) since that will only take him 15 minutes so I reluctantly agreed.

It turned out fine, though it ended up that his younger brother Graham (who cooks at Dominos) offered to make the pizzas. My daughter and I set the table, lit 4 big candles, dimmed the lights, and put on soft Xmas music. Nobody whined about it at all, much to my surprise. We had a solid half hour of sitting around the table engaging in conversation (I don’t remember what about) and just being together.

One other glitch: my son Collin got a long distance phone call from his girlfriend shortly after we began eating and ended up missing most of the dinner… which I later grumbled to him about, i.e., “next time call her back, since this is a special time, remember?” etc.

So it seems that we’re on our way to establishing this ritual, though it’s clear that it’s going to take perseverance.

BridgeSquare.43.72: Griff Wigley (griff) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

Welcome John and Peter! Nice to have as many men in here talking about this family stuff as women.

Interesting that both Carleton and St. Olaf each have tried something (and failed) to tame the hectic pace on campus.

As for Northfield embracing a community-wide family time, what activities are typically scheduled now on Sundays between 4 pm and 8 pm? I can’t think of any offhand.

Since we’re on the subject of how to live a less hectic life, one of the best how-to books I’ve come across is

Time Shifting: Creating More Time for Your Life by Stephan Rechtschaffen

Here’s an interview with the author that I found on the Net:

www.healthy.net/library/interviews/redwood/Rechtschaffen.htm

BridgeSquare.43.73: Susan Hudson (shudson) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

I can only surmise from the lack of postings in other conferences in recent weeks that people who participate in NCO must all be Christmas Coordinators who have little, if any, time this time of year to post.

BridgeSquare.43.74: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Fri, 12 Dec 1997

Susan: They are so impressed with what we are saying that they have turned off their computers and are having quality family time.

Griff: Your dinner experience seems like dinner, or the try at dinners, at our house. Still, keep it up. Don’t give in.

As for kids and free time, I often thought as I went to activity after after activity it was like watching a bunch of trained monkeys. Still my kids today are 16 and 18 and they are fairly independent thinkers, and totally independent thinkers when it comes to listening to parental advice.

Now back to the community-wide free family time: I take this promotional attitude: The question: What must a community do to have designated community-wide family time?

The answer: Nothing.

That’s the beauty of it. For three hours a week just about everyone can take a collective sigh of relief and do nothing — except go home and be with his or her family. It’s simple.

Northfield seems to be the right size and have the right worldview to make this happen. But since I am an outsider I have said enough. I will now try to keep my mouth shut.

BridgeSquare.43.75: Bill Kelly (bmeowk) Sat, 13 Dec 1997

A lot of deja vu for me in the experiences of all. Griff, I’m talking like a man because Dianne would beat me up if I attempted to talk like a woman.

I believe we MUST snatch whatever time we get with our families. I’m a bit suspicious of “reserved family time” because I am willing to schedule events aside from the community and I am not afraid of the standard Northfield admonition, “Well, where are YOUR priorities?” We already have Wednesday nights set aside for church activities and, at times, that can be the only night of the week on which a person would like to kick back. Then you must make the decision to miss choir, etc.

The rituals you develop as a family are never so meaningful as they are AFTER the children grow up and move out on their own. Then you develop the flexibility of not having the whole family together at major holidays, like Christmas. Last year we shared Christmas with one child. This year we will have three and a visit from the forty the First of February. So we will have two Christmases.

As the kids spread their wings – and move to other areas – it becomes rare to have all of them gather at almost any time. The big events now are weddings. Soon the big events will be funerals – which are, of course, events for the remaining family members. The focus should be, I think, making those events special for whomever attends, while a telephone call can connect the others.

But snatch that family regardless of what the community thinks. Your children are your best investment. After all, they’re your legacy.

BridgeSquare.43.76: Andrea Christianson (wolfmoon) Sat, 13 Dec 1997

Go to any of the parks/fields in good weather on a Sunday afternoon between 4-8 and you will see there are some preexisting conflicts. Especially in the summer it is a prime practice time.

BridgeSquare.43.77: Mary Carlsen (serine) Sat, 13 Dec 1997

Hi, all! I’m going to carefully watch the community calendar and the Carlsen/Dahlen calendar in the New Year for the 4-8 PM Sunday slot; seems it may be one calmer time for many.

I laughed out loud in Bill’s chapter on Christmas where he writes of The intensity of physical space over the holiday. Many families, who all year have figured out how to balance their relationships and keep their boundaries, are together for unusually long amounts of time. This is the time when carefully crafted distance and balance in relationships can get disrupted (e.g. the family socialist proceeds to explain the intricacies of welfare reform to the family Republican fundraiser). I can’t wait to see what topics stress our balance this Christmas!

By the way, family dinner is virtually no problem for us at this time in our lives. WE eat together nearly every evening because our children don’t have evening activities yet. I’m glad for the models and ideas of folks in this discussion, so we can be more intentional as we mature as a family and individuals.

BridgeSquare.43.78: Bill Doherty (billd) Sat, 13 Dec 1997

John, I love your coffee and river watching rituals with your wife.Made me feel peaceful just reading about it. Griff, I appreciate your updates about establishing a family dinner ritual. Confirms my belief and experience that it takes a lot of “intentionality” to get something like this launched and maintained.

A thought about a community policy on family time: Without a parallel discussion about the overbooking of structured time, the topic Peter, Mary, and Kathy spoke to eloquently in their messages, we could all end up squeezing more activities into the remaining times of the week. We need to share ideas about reducing our time commitments and our children’s. After one crazy year, my wife and I decided to limit our children to one sport and one other outside activity at a time. This gave them more unstructured time and gave us all more family time than the prior policy in which each new activity would be judged on its own merits, irrespective of what it deprived us of

BridgeSquare.43.79: Andrea Christianson (wolfmoon) Sun, 14 Dec 1997

Bill, I have yet to read your book, and likely won’t have the time in my currently “too structured” time of full time grad school and almost full time work, but a lot of what has been talked about so far also reminds me of a book I read last summer _Margin_. I have since lent it out, so I don’t remember the author, but he’s a doc in Wisc. who left a high stress position to do “real patient care” and free up more time for “margin”. (Ironically, I read it on my way to Philadelphia for my first week intensive for grad school, not a good time to be thinking about freeing up more time for anything.)

Your comment about not just shifting the structured activities from Sunday afternoon to squeeze them in during the rest of the week is worth thinking about. I think, we (the adults in the family) need to really be thinking hard about the choices we make about our time. while I think family time IS important, I also see people putting there own needs last on the alter and that concerns me, not only for personal health, but also for the example we are setting. It is the old ” can’t pour from an empty pitcher” warning. And, in most families, I think it is often the women who run on empty the most.

I know many people have no choice about work hours, some even need to work two jobs to survive. But many of us could choose to be less busy. We could choose to support a simpler lifestyle. I worry about kids today being so “structured” that they don’t ever know what it is like to lie on your back and imagine the animals in the clouds. They are too busy, and they learn it from us. We set examples when we are too busy ourselves for family time, or to be at their game, or to sit quietly in the evening and read.

As a single parent, I too, gave my kids a choice of one sport and one outside activity, but more out of survival and practicality, there is only so much you can do with one “taxi”. But it was hard at times, when it seemed that all their friends were in so many things and they wanted to do it all too.

We talked about priorities, and choices a lot. I was never sure when they were little how much they really understood. But a few years ago, I left a full time job with more than its share of required after hours activities, and went back into a clinical setting at less pay and less hours. We had a family powwow, a choice of 1) having enough money for comfortable discretional spending (and no time to spend it) or 2) having time to be together, ( and have very little discretionary funds to spend in the extra time). Without hesitation, my son voted for the later, and it is two years I will never regret.

I only wish I had been more able to make those choices at other stages of their lives. But there is not a lot of support in this society for “downward mobility”. Along with family time, how do we make parenting a vitally important “life stage” that deserves support from every sector of the community. I cringe a bit when I attend births with young couples working two high stress jobs, with a house, a few “toys” and talking at the birth already about how soon they have to be back at work.

My choice about reducing my time commitments when my kids were home means I am probably overextending myself for the next 1 1/2 years of grad school. But somehow it is easier to do when there is no one else at home I am shortchanging (but me). And I was willing to make the future sacrifices (the current ones) in my own time in order to be more available when the nest was not empty. After working for four years in the mid 80′s on children’s advocacy issues, I just kept getting increasingly uncomfortable about how busy I was, and the choices I made.

One of the “turning points” for me, was leaving very early one morning, leaving my son to head out 10 minutes later to walk to the bus stop, on a very snowy, cold morning (when sometimes the bus would be late due to the snow on the country roads) to drive into Northfield to attend a 7 am meeting on children’s issues/community advocacy. I spent the first 15 minutes of the meeting wondering if the bus had come on time and then the craziness of it hit me.

That was when I really started to cut back on my commitments, and plan to cut back on work. It took a few years to get there but was the right decision for me. I know lots of folks, especially in this community, combine work, parenting and school, and seem to do it well, but I choose to do it in stages, far less stressful. ( And I do wonder about what further increases in stress related illnesses we will see in the future as this bubble of us boomers ages.)

BridgeSquare.43.81: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Sun, 14 Dec 1997

One question for Bill and Andrea, when you limited your kids to onesport and one other activity. How did your kids react in the short run and in the long run?

BridgeSquare.43.82: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 14 Dec 1997

Moderator’s note: I stopped by the Northfield Sampler on Saturday andNorman Butler said he’d sold 8 of 10 “Intentional Family” books from this last shipment…. for a grand total of 13 to date. He passes along a thanks to all here who’ve purchased the book from him. And he wants to know what the subject of the next forum is so he can do this again!

BridgeSquare.43.83: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 14 Dec 1997

While we keep talking about a community-wide family time, let’s notforget this little holiday coming up. All you Christmas Coordinators out there: what are you going to try todo differently this year to involve the Abstainers in your households?

All you Christmas Abstainers: what are you going to try to do differently this year to take some of the load off the Coordinator in your household?

Yesterday, Robbie laid out all the gifts in piles for each of the kids to get my reaction and help in determining if the piles were relatively equal. “Looks good to me” I said. “You don’t seem to be getting into this very much” she observed. Not surprising since she’s bought them all, starting back in March.

I offered to be the one who buys all the gifts next year. “I don’t want to be totally removed from it,” she said. “I like doing some of it, just not all of it. Besides, you’ll spend too much money.”

So this is the wrong approach… and I should’ve read Bill’s advice about this ahead of time… see page 128: Slowly Involve the Christmas Abstainer.

“It is much better for the Abstainer to begin by proving himself a reliable helper for the Christmas chores: writing Xmas cards; thinking about, shopping for, and wrapping presents; preparing part of the meal, and cleaning up after it.

“Breaking out of the Abstainer role is best done gradually, perhaps by helping with one or two tasks the first year, and then adding others the next year. Eventually, he may start to enjoy the season more through being active. And his spouse will learn to trust his commitment enough to really share the responsibility.

“But keep in mind that real partnership in decision-making comes only after the Abstainer has shown that he can actively support and appreciate the Coordinator’s efforts.” =====

So I guess this year I could help wrap gifts and maybe cook something. .. and involve the kids in cleanup, which I’ve been doing by myself pretty much for quite a few years. Oh, and remember to appreciate her!

BridgeSquare.43.84: Kathie Galotti (kathie) Mon, 15 Dec 1997

My Christmas abstainer (Lloyd) has really gotten more intothings this year, buying presents for the child, the dogs (of course!), his family, and the babysitter, all by mid-December. And last night, he cheerfully participated in our new ritual of meeting friends downtown to “do” the 8th floor of Dayton’s, have dinner, and watch Holidazzle.

I think when I told the 4-year-old last week that it was time Daddy got a chance to watch the news, Lloyd became enamoured of some of Bill’s ideas!!

BridgeSquare.43.85: Bill Doherty (billd) Mon, 15 Dec 1997

Andrea, I am glad you posted the whole message. I identify with the particular struggle of being a busy professional who helps families and a family member myself. Fortunately, my travel and busyness have peaked in the years since my kids left home. I don’t think any of us can “max out” on the career front and do our best in raising children. In a two parent family, the other parent (usually the mother) may pick up the slack, but the over-busy parent and the children will still miss out. In a single parent family, the combination of high powered career and parenting is mind boggling in difficulty. I applaud your courage in being so intentional about your priorities, and for involving your children in the choices.

BridgeSquare.43.86: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 15 Dec 1997

The Variety section in today’s Strib has an interesting article,reprinted from Parenting Magazine: His and her Xmas traditions: What to keep, what to toss You think you know everything about your partner, and then along come the holidays to stun you to the core. Opportunities for conflict suddenly bloom like so many Yuletide displays of poinsettias. Tree or no tree? Real or artificial? White lights or colored ones?

http://webserv1.startribune.com/cgi-bin/stOnLine/article?thisSlug=TRDVAR

BridgeSquare.43.87: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 15 Dec 1997

I had an impromptu chat with Mary Loven and Mary Carlsen this morningdown at the Goodbye Blue Monday Coffeehouse. Nice to connect F2F! It’s an example of what we here at NCO see as a major strategy towards our mission of strengthening the community: meeting and getting to know other people in town via the Cafe and then meeting and getting to know them F2F as well.

Which brings to mind the question: how about a little informal F2F gathering of people who’ve been participating in this forum?

BridgeSquare.43.88: Griff Wigley (griff) Mon, 15 Dec 1997

Anyone see the Bill Doherty interview this past weekend on NTV Channel7?

Paul Hager will make a couple of tapes of the 15 minute segment. He’ll send one to Bill and I’ll circulate another among the panelists, then put it down at the Nfld Public Library for anyone else to check out.

Paul is likely to run it again on cable, too. I suggested that he contact Evelyn Hoover at the News and let her know so she could consider including it in the follow-up article.

BridgeSquare.43.89: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Mon, 15 Dec 1997

Griff, if Paul makes one available, I may very well use it with my follow-up article. Does the interview talk about this forum at all?

Speaking of the Strib article on Christmas traditions, Jeff and I found little difficulty in that department. We just talked about my family’s ways and his and sort of compromised on which to toss and which to keep. For instance, coming from artificial tree families, we both wanted to have real trees. The ornaments have come from our travels and as gifts from others commemorating things like our first house, our first Christmas together, Holden’s first Christmas, etc. It all came together so easily that it didn’t occur to me that it could be a problem. Has this been a problem for others? How did you work it out?

BridgeSquare.43.90: Andrea Christianson (wolfmoon) Mon, 15 Dec 1997

Len asked in post 43:81: “when you limited your kids to one sport and one other activity. How did your kids react in the short run and in the long run?”

For the first one, in the short run it was difficult, many reinforcements about the limit. But he was young and all he saw was “every one else does….” and we lived in the middle of the city (the Wedge) and his friends were right in his face doing ” all those other things”. The second time around it was easier. First he had seen his brother participate in selected activities only, so there was a model there. And we lived out in the country, not too many reminders about what other kids were doing when you weren’t doing it.

Lots of things were easier the second time around, or not! My oldest came home for first K day, with his fist closed around his bag of “crackers” for snack, thrust them in my face and announced “These aren’t cookies!”. Well, I didn’t even bother with the second, just threw the choc. chips in a bag and sent him on his way! I think Greg had a secrete conversation with him on the day he was born about all the things mom was going to try to pull on you!

BridgeSquare.43.91: Spencer Hunter (shunter) Tue, 16 Dec 1997

From post:83 “All you Christmas Abstainers: what are you going to try to dodifferently this year to take the load off the Coordinator in yourhousehold?”

I’m standing by with my can of Santa repellent.

BridgeSquare.43.92: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Tue, 16 Dec 1997

I am planning to have dinner with our kids tonight, age 16 and 18. Iam going to ask them what have been the most important parts of familytime for them. What might they tell parents with little kids.

They will probably roll their eyes and want to change the subject. But let’s see what I can learn from them.

BridgeSquare.43.93: Amy Gage (agage) Tue, 16 Dec 1997

Hi, I’m Amy Gage, a commuter, breadwinner and mother of two young sons — and, I’m proud to say, a recovering Christmas coordinator. There’s power in being the coordinator, because it means the rituals are done your way. That’s a reality too few coordinators will acknowledge. We’re control freaks, and we have trouble delegating, giving over. For women, especially, there’s a temptation to label home our turf and to appoint men the assistants who have to do things our way.

I don’t want my boys to see that model.

Last November and December, after I listened to some of the “Seven Habits” tapes, my husband and I tried a different system. We met every Friday evening to divvy up Christmas chores. As I told my women friends, it was the first holiday in my married life I didn’t feel resentful, overwhelmed, stressed out, the indignant martyr. Christmas wasn’t “my” job. My husband wasn’t “helping.” We were in it together. And we got an equal say in what we ate, when we opened presents, to whom we sent cards, when we’d buy the tree.

I didn’t get all the credit. We had to share that, too. This year our Christmas watchwords are “casual” and “doable,” and “grateful.” That’s my favorite word.

BridgeSquare.43.94: Nancy Gruchow (ngruchow) Tue, 16 Dec 1997

Hi, this is Nancy Gruchow. Married in 1968 to Paul & still going. Two children–Laura, 21, off in Portland, Oregon, having a good time and attending college every once in a while; she’s interested in drama, arts, and social reform. Aaron, age 16, is in high school; he seems to be into sports and loud music, and gets his politics from Newsweek.

I have a suggestion for taming the time demon that Bill mentioned. We disconnected our television from 1990 to Christmas 1996. Thanksgiving guests who used to cluster ’round the tube after the feed, were surprised and a bit resentful at first; then they discovered they liked the conversation, and the short walk. Same thing at Christmas: no television, just conversation, Scrabble, bridge, a walk.

Family-wise, our kids took out library cards the first week there was no television. Gradually they accumulated magazine subscriptions. Today Aaron has subscriptions to Inside Sports, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek, Racquetball, and Mad magazine. Laura has Mother Jones, the Nation, Rolling Stone. And we talk about what we read; we trade books and articles; we argue and discuss.

We started this as an experiment, after I read how much TV an average child watches every week, and I remember with horror that our family seemed to be about average in its TV consumption. We grew to like it. We quit at Christmas, 1996, when the Abstainer bought the family a TV set and a VCR. We do not have cable, and the stations are impossibly fuzzy without it. So now we have Tuesday night at the movies! Popcorn and video!

BridgeSquare.43.95: Bill Doherty (billd) Tue, 16 Dec 1997

Amy, an inspiring story for Christmas Coordinators out there. You and your husband both must have been ready for a major change. For many couples, the changes may have to come more gradually, over a period of a few years. But either way, one of my ritual principles is that the more participation in putting on a family ritual, generally the better the ritual is.

Nancy, you and your family are gutsy to turn off America’s religious icon for so long. Having broken the addiction, you are now able to be a “controlled user.” And you have all learned to use individual and family time more wisely. Television is the great absorber of attention and focus in the home, and it’s a major obstacle to family rituals. More than half of American families with children have the television on during dinner. Between busyness outside the home and television inside the home, where is the time for family rituals of connection and just plain hanging out together? Tomorrow is the last day for the Web Forum; I’ll try to be more upbeat then!

BridgeSquare.43.96: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 17 Dec 1997

Amy and Nancy, thanks for popping in here towards the end with your inspiring stories. Len, I’m looking forward to your report! And I’ll try to get back here with my report on the Wigley weekly family dinner, edition #3, scheduled for tonight.

I plan to be down at the Goodbye Blue Monday coffeehouse on Saturday morning, Dec 20, at around 9:15 or so. If anyone in this topic would like to have a little informal F2F salon about “intentional family”, ‘twould be cool. Or maybe it would just be enough to meet and chat.

Lastly, before I thank all you panelists, I’d like to ask you to make a final post. Feedback on the forum? Inspiring words? Harsh blame? Blathering sunshine? It’s your call. ;-)

BridgeSquare.43.97: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 17 Dec 1997

I’ll try to get a lightly edited transcript of this forum up on theNCO web site ASAP. I’d like Evelyn to be able to reference it in herwrap-up article… if she so chooses, of course.

BridgeSquare.43.98: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Wed, 17 Dec 1997

BTW, Tad Johnson is working on an intentional family feature articlefor Friday’s paper. He has interviewed a few Northfield families withchildren of varying ages about their efforts to be intentional. Also,I will write the wrap up article on the forum for next week sometime. Griff, I’d love to have the transcript for the article. Otherwise, I’ll just print out all the posts.

I have to say I’ve found the forum interesting and useful. I’ve found a lot of places where my family falls in with others who have posted and have come away with some useful ideas to try out, slowly, at home. Thank you to all the panelists and others for posting. I may be calling you for the wrap-up article, so beware!

My husband and I frequently talk about the amount of TV we watch and allow Holden to watch. We’re finding fun, and intentional, ways to cut down on the amount and spend more quality time. Thursday nights are Jeff and my problem, because we like three NBC shows. The rest of the week we watch little. With Holden, he gets to watch about a half hour of a movie when he gets home from day care (while Jeff and I fix dinner). Then he’s generally not allowed to watch anymore until he has his pjs on and is settling down for bed. A few nights a week, we try to read books instead of watching a movie. We’ve found Holden’s behavior (tantrums and other negatives) have decreased drastically since we cut down on his viewing.

We also used to allow Holden to watch a movie while we finished dinner. We don’t do that anymore. When he finishes, he can play with toys or read a book until we’re done. We found that he ate little or ate quickly so he could watch TV.

BridgeSquare.43.99: Leonard Witt (lwitt) Wed, 17 Dec 1997

Griff: This has been fun and informative. Thanks for inviting me. On the whatmy kids liked best of the family activities: They best liked ourannual visits with our extended families–the uncles, aunts, cousins,grandparent. These will all be important memories. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the extended family links were in Naples, Florida and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. But my wife’s sister and her kids are coming here for Christmas and it certainly has added another layer of excitement.

Also here is a free stocking stuffer. With Amy Gage and Nancy Gruchow joining the discussion, there have been several Minnesota Monthly magazine connections here. In honor of that I will send anyone who wants it the special Minnesota Monthly “Families Talk, Families Listen” section which includes the Family Album insert.

The special section and the insert will make for an excellent stocking stuffer or Hanukkah mini present. It also is a great family activity. Your whole family can fill out the family album and tell what your family is thinking about family life in 1997. Save it or better yetsend it too the Minnesota Historical Society which will archive itforever. So this stocking stuff then will be a gift for your kids’ kids’ kids, who maybe in the year 2097 will call it up at the Historical Society and know what you were all thinking today.

For free copies email me at lwitt@mpr.org (We can send free bulk orders for churches or schools too). If I get the email immediately, I will get them out quickly so they should arrive before Christmas. Thanks again and Happy Holidays.

BridgeSquare.43.100: George Kinney (georgek) Wed, 17 Dec 1997

Late as usual, but I thought I’d just sneak in at the end. I’m getting out from under a big load at work. Basic reason I haven’t had anything in “Nature” on the global warming conference. Afraid I missed an opportunity.

The ‘Wednesday religious night’ is over 20 years old in the small towns of MN and WI — I used to teach, and that was the norm.

Our extended family has had a similar ‘tradition’ to Nancy’s — the ‘Christmas walk’ on Christmas Day evening — to get out and look at everyone’s lights, etc., have a long talk, get some fresh air, and _most importantly_ get that appetite back for Round 2!!

Since Gin and I have no children, we’ve done our own traditions of reading aloud to each other, etc.

Thanks to all the contributors for a successful forum!!

BridgeSquare.43.101: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 17 Dec 1997

Evelyn, two more articles coming? Jeesh, I had no idea Tad was doingone for this week. That’s just terrific. And yes, I’ll have acleaned up transcript for you to print out and a URL to reference…soon!

I think we could have an entire forum on TV… which might be a good idea next year during the “turn off your TV week”, whenever that is. We turned ours off in 1991 after years of struggling to come up with the right combination for limiting it. Life is way better without it, though I must confess, once all the kids are gone, I’ll probably go back to the dark side.

Len, thanks again for the generous offer of the “Families Talk, Families Listen” guide. I hope the Nfld News promotes it and you get lots of takers from town. I’ll alert Scott Richardson, staffer with the Healthy Community Initiative, as it would make most sense for HCI to have a stash of them.

George, good to see you here on the last day. Anyone else out there who’s been reading along, feel free to post a similar “hey I’m here” note.

BridgeSquare.43.102: Griff Wigley (griff) Wed, 17 Dec 1997

Forum stats to date:

41 different people attended, with 21 people posting over 100comments. A 50% lurker/poster ratio is very good… and unusual.

BridgeSquare.43.103: Kathie Galotti (kathie) Thu, 18 Dec 1997

Sorry to miss the “official last day” yesterday–I was attendingto the canine part of my family and the day just went by….. I’ve really enjoyed having a good reason to read the book (as if I or anyone else needed it!)–you know what I mean–an intentional purpose I guess. I’ve also really enjoyed reading the posts.

Griff, I’d love to meet you F2F, but I’m off to warmer climes with the kid, the 3 dogs, and my spouse for 3 weeks of togetherness, and really looking forward to it. I’m feeling a lot better about having a relaxed Christmas, instead of the frantic merry-merry ones I always try (and always fail) to produce. So, thanks, Bill, thanks Griff, and thanks everyone else.

BridgeSquare.43.104: Mary Carlsen (serine) Thu, 18 Dec 1997

I, too, missed the last day of posting; was doing a talk at RegionsHospital in St. Paul and finishing the Coordinator/Controller jobs of shopping/wrapping. I’ve enjoyed this Forum, and would plan to be at Blue Monday on Saturday (we usually are–it’s a nice time with the kids when it is smoking-free, before Rachel’s dance class), but we are off to family in Connecticut. this has been a pretty stress-free holiday prep time; on reflection, it’s because our Abstainer is more involved, and our Controller (me) is letting go a bit.

I look forward to finishing Bill’s book, and have recommended it to many. One of my social work students had already brought me a copy of the MPR study; said it fit so well with the systems theory we were studying in Human Behavior and the Social Environment. Thanks for your offer, Len!

Griff, your persistence paid off. Let’s hope we all show as much persistence in trying to balance our lives and those of our children and community. Thanks, all.

BridgeSquare.43.106: Griff Wigley (griff) Thu, 18 Dec 1997

Thanks Mary and Kathie for those closing comments. I glad your commitment to this forum didn’t add to your holiday stress. Hope you have a great out-of-town holiday with your families. Let’s figure out a time to get together when you get back.

Wednesday night dinner at the Wigleys had its usual hiccups – #3 son Graham had forgotten to tell us about the Christmas party for Union of Youth board members, so he wasn’t there. But everyone else was: Tyson made dinner with his mom and we all sat around the table chatting again for quite a while past when we were done eating.

My mantra: persistence with flexibility!

I spoke with Bill D. tonight and he thought he posted a wrap-up this morning… but it must have ended up in the ozones so he’ll try to do it again in the morning. And I’ll give Pastor/Poster Healey a nag call.

Watch for the Nfld News article tomorrow.

BridgeSquare.43.108: Bill Doherty (billd) Fri, 19 Dec 1997

My second try at a wrap up. This was my maiden voyage as a Web Forum participant, and I loved it. I very much appreciated, and learned from, everyone’s stories of struggle and success in being an intentional family. A new piece for me was the potential power of community-level efforts to support families’ access to time together. I am going to propose to a faculty group at the U of M who teach family-related courses that we consider an initiative in the area of community and family time. Perhaps we can partner with Northfield. My thanks to my fellow panelists, to the other participants, and to Griff for making this Forum happen. I will be giving a talk next October 6 at the new school opening in Northfield. I’d love to meet some of you then.

BridgeSquare.43.109: Evelyn Hoover (ehoover) Fri, 19 Dec 1997

As you all likely noticed by now, the intentional families feature story by Tad Johnson did not appear in Friday’s paper. Instead, it will be a two-part series running next week with part two coinciding with my wrap-up article on the forum. Just wanted everyone to know what’s up with it.

BridgeSquare.43.110: Will Healy (whealy) Sat, 20 Dec 1997

As you might know, I not only missed the final posting day, but most every posting day. I’m afraid a forum in the midst of Advent wasn’t the best combination for me. All of which is not to say I haven’t enjoyed the reading. Much good thought here! In my role as president of the local ministerial association here in Northfield, I endeavor (in the coming year) to explore ways we might address the issue of protecting family time and the role the church plays in the encroachment upon such time. Last Fall we (the NMA) undertook a joint preaching series in concert with the Northfield Schools’ “Year of Values” seeking to lend a shared voice to that good effort. Might we consider a similar challenge here? I hope so. Thanks, Griff, for your able job in facilitating this conversation.

BridgeSquare.43.111: Griff Wigley (griff) Sun, 21 Dec 1997

Thanks Bill and Will for your closing comments. This was a successful forum, IHMO, mainly due to everyone doing their part: the panelists, the participants, and the media (Northfield News, NTV, and KYMN). It made it a very satisfying experience for me as moderator.

As for the possibility of a community-wide effort to promote a weekly “intentional family” time-slot, I spoke briefly with HCI staffer Scott Richardson about it and we plan to get together next week to talk about it. I’ll give him a printout of the transcript. If and when that effort gets off the ground, we’ll likely start a new topic here in the Cafe.

And Evelyn, when Tad’s and your forum articles (to be published next week) appear on the Nfld News web site, I’ll link to them here and on the transcript page.

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