One Thing That Leads To Raising A Great Family
If you pay attention, you’ll notice that life leaves you clues everywhere you go. When I think back upon my youth which I would title, The Clueless Years, I think about how I rarely paid attention. I didn’t pay attention to the clues all around me and if I paid attention to those things, I’ve noticed things that would have changed my judgment, it would change to who I hang around with it and it would have changed where I spent my time. it would have changed what I consumed and brought into my body and what I brought into my head. It would change the people that I brought into my life. So it was quite obvious as I think about that. It’s obvious why I struggled so much for so long. But when you start paying attention, when you start noticing the clues, it truly is amazing how things turn around and you see the world a completely different way. And there’s no limit to what you can learn or how you can grow if you start doing this.
I’ve mentioned in the past that I used to photograph weddings for a living and depending on the years between summer, between 10 and 30 weddings a year, we’ve photographed for over a decade. And with that, like anything else, when you pay attention, you start noticing the clues in every different way. We noticed a certain type of clientele and a certain type of attitude we get depending on the amount of money we charged and we always thought that if we charged a lot more money, we are going to get the snootier or snobbier clients. And we didn’t want to be around them so it held us down, our mindset and we kept our prices lower for longer than I would’ve liked because we don’t want to be those people. But because of the demand, we had no choice but to raise our prices. And as we start raising our prices, we started noticing different things happening. We started noticing that as the prices went higher, the families were closer.
Now mileage may vary and this might be different where you come from but for us, this was our experience. So not only that your family is closer, you started seeing the relationships and how people talk to each other and how they bonded. Then, you start to see other families where it didn’t have that all. There is a lot of friction, a lot of tension and a lot of anger. This has nothing to do with money but had to do with the family dynamics.
So generally, when we shot weddings, Elizabeth would go home after ceremony and I would shoot the reception. And you’d really get to see who people are during a wedding reception, when they start drinking and every have their gloves off and all the families there. You see a lot of interesting things happening, a lot of happiness, a lot of joy, a lot of tension sometimes. But I started noticing a trait when you’d see these families that have three or four kids and everyone got along and I became fascinated with this.
In about six or seven years into shooting weddings, I started making something a practice that I’ve never done before. We noticed this. By the time you get to a wedding reception, you pretty much have a good feel for who the family is. You worked with them for maybe a year getting it ready and you spend one of the most intimate, tense, amazing days of their life with them in a very special way. And you start noticing the brother that goes out of his way to get a glass of water for his sister as she is getting ready to get married. And then you notice the family that are completely distant. And then you start seeing the families on the dance floor at 10 o’clock at night and there’s three brothers and two sisters and they are all huddled up and they’re crying and hugging. They are talking about this time they went here and this moment. And you can see the love in their eyes and you could feel it in there and it’s just a really special time.
So after picking up these clues, I started really paying attention to this because now we’d started a family. I particularly paid attention to the ones that have three boys because we had three boys. And a handful times a year, we have a wedding and there was a family and the mother and the father of the groom were so genuine and they were so nice and it was so loving and the kids got along. They talk to each other, they love each other, it was a great time. I get emotional during these things because I think someday this is going to be us. I hope because I love what I’m seeing here.
So, here’s what I started doing. When I noticed these families, I always made it a point to go up to them at the other reception. The first thing I would do is tell them how wonderful their families and no parent gets tired of hearing that. So, I really want to pay that compliment because it really meant a lot and I meant it. And after they would thank me and we start talking about their families. I always asked them one question. I start by saying that we have three young boys. We want to raise them to be great men, and you raise such an incredible family. What is one thing that you guys did that led to this? I got a variety of answers but I was amazed that there was one answer that kept coming back over and over again.
We did a wedding in Ohio. It was a beautiful wedding on a golf course and again we saw the family and I asked the question. They gave the same answer that I kept hearing over and over again and here it was. They said this. “We made sure that most nights, we ate dinner together.” It seemed like such a simple answer and I grew up having dinner with my parents almost every night as a child. It didn’t seem like that big of a deal. But as we start talking, we realized how rare that has become because with sports and activities and extra work hours. I was really quite amazed by how often people do not eat dinner together and they start telling me the benefits of having dinner together as a family.
So, I went home that night and I started doing some research. It is like 12 o’clock in the morning, I was wound up and I couldn’t sleep from the wedding and I doled online for a couple hours and I was astounded by what I found. What I found were to some of the benefits of eating dinner together as a family which were lower risks of teen pregnancy, lower risk of depression, higher self-esteem for the kids, a greater sense of resilience and lower risk of depression and obesity. They all said that their relationships were better because of their dinnertime together. Their conversations were deeper and they ate healthier food. I thought the lower risk of teen pregnancy was huge but they all were so important. I was stunned by how many parents as they watch their kids get married on the night of their kids wedding, when I asked them how many of them cited eating dinner together as a family is one of the main reasons why it worked out for them. So that alone got us to slow down a bit, turned the TV off, plan less things at dinnertime and not take athletics and extracurricular activities as seriously because no amount of success on the field was going to equate to the success we have in our family by making sure we did this one thing. So even today, those lessons have lived with us having a 14-year-old, 12-year-old and 8-year-old. Dinner together as a family is a priority for us and I’m so glad that I was able to read the clues and asked that question to so many great families and for them to provide me with answer that has helped our life tremendously and I hope this might do the same for you and yours.
I will talk to you tomorrow.