A friend and I discovered that we shared a connection with a particular young family. “They’re lovely,” I said.
It nagged at me later that I had tagged such a remarkable family with such a bland description. Lovely could be a straw hat with artificial flowers worn to the Kentucky Derby. Lovely wasn’t an apt description, but it was the only thing I could think of at the time. I thought about it later because my best thoughts are always my after-the-moment-has-passed thoughts. The best word to describe them would have been “intentional.”
They are married, have three small children and a vision for life. They have a sense of purpose about work, home, family and each ordinary day. They live within modest means, yet practice generosity. She routinely turns out epicurean wonders like shaved asparagus pizza for others who can use a little help. She, along with little eyes watching and little hands helping, craft beautiful meals.
They are intentional about how they spend time as a family, discriminating about what their children take in, opting for books, crafts and outings over television and media. Their faith isn’t relegated to Sunday mornings, but shapes their day-to-day living. They value face-to-face conversations more than electronic messages with emoticons and no vowels.
An article in Forbes discussed what separates great leaders from average leaders. “Great leaders create culture by design, while average leaders allow culture to evolve by default,” wrote Mike Myatt.
It is actually strong leadership at work in this little family. What sets them apart is that they are not evolving by default, passively letting life happen to them, but actively pursuing life and attempting to shape it as they go.
It is far easier to be a family by default. Families that evolve by default require a lot less work and thought. The adults do their thing, the kids do their thing, and they meet over take-out or fast food a couple of nights a week and wonder why nobody seems to connect.
When you create a family by design, you make the choices instead of letting others make the choices for you. You decide. You decide to introduce children to great works of art, to allow them to paint, make music, make a mess, play uninterrupted, putter alongside you in the kitchen, the garden, the workshop and the garage, discovering how tools work and pieces fit.
That sort of family is sometimes out of step with culture. It is a family that moves slower, ambles off the beaten path and goes against the grain. That sort of family life takes thinking ahead, creating opportunities, checking benchmarks and being deliberate about choices.
There’s not much middle ground when it comes to growing a family. It really is family by default, or family by design.