Family Time: Letters from Israel

Last week, we found ourselves sitting in what amounted to a two-thousand-year-old basement with some pickaxes and trowels. The archaeological dig we were a part of was the site of a biblical “tel”, or a hilltop that saw successive civilizations building on top of each other.

When the Edomite people who lived there realized they were about to be conquered, they threw all the stuff they couldn’t carry out into the deep underground rooms they’d chiseled out of the chalky rock.

Together, my husband, mom, 3 girls and I picked out bits of ancient pottery and bone. We worked together to figure out what was worth keeping and what was just dirt that needed to be carried up to the top to be sifted more carefully in the bright sunlight.

Nobody bickered. Nobody argued. Nobody shoved or pushed or grabbed anyone else’s bucket.

I looked around in the dim light of this really old basement and thought about how much I treasured these occasional moments of familial peace and bonding.

You certainly don’t need to fly all the way to Israel to engineer these moments, but a family vacation of any kind really does help. It gives us brief respite from the usual every day stresses and pressures.

And although these Kodak moments make up a lot of our most cherished moments, we can (and should) make an effort to build them into our regular lives as much as possible. The literature on the importance of shared family meal times is pretty conclusive about the protective effects for teens, the building of self-esteem, the establishment and maintenance of healthy and open dialogue. This is the stuff of life, the textured weave of who we are.

Even the bickering – the bane of my existence – has a larger purpose. The shrill, whiny and raised voices of your kids, as annoying as they can be, means they are learning to work out disagreements, negotiating for themselves and practicing coping strategies.

Sometimes (say, stuck in traffic at the end of a school day with a carpool full of over-tried kids), I repeat this to myself over and over again.

Family time isn’t necessarily quality time either. Sometimes we ask our kids to turn off their electronic gagdets in the car on the way to something, just so we can all catch up and be together, even if it’s just for 10-15 minutes. Or take 5 minutes to all sit down for breakfast before we disperse for the day. And even when the girls fight over the last glass or orange juice or pancake, I tell myself it’s still worth the effort.

After all, you get a lot more of those workaday moments than you do camping, hiking, going to Walt Disney World or digging for pottery in the ancient Edomite equivalent of a rec room.

And every one of them is equally worthwhile, even if they don’t all end up in our photo albums. Sent from my BlackBerry® smartphone

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