Family Identity: Having Fun Together

Written by Katie Lerro

I think we’d all agree that emotionally healthy people have a solid sense of identity; they know who they are. The same goes for emotionally healthy families.

A long time ago, I heard it said that every person should be able to complete this statement: “My family always _________________.” I don’t remember verbatim what else the speaker said, but the upshot was this: the positive, habitual things families do that make them unique, are also the things that make them strong. In identity, there is strength.

A lot of factors influence a family’s identity—some good, some not so good, some we have a measure of control over and some that are handed to us. In this post I’m focusing on one of the things we can control: the way we have fun together.

A few weeks ago, my aunt asked me to go with her to a medical appointment. She’s not as mobile as she used to be and she has trouble navigating hospital hallways. I was happy to go along to lend a hand. She had scheduled a ride with a lady who uses her car to ferry senior citizens around the city. Bonnie didn’t know I’d be tagging along, so before I could get into her back seat, she had to move some belongings out of the way, including two large kites. I was curious about the kites and when I asked about them, Bonnie said she started flying kites as a child, and never stopped. On her second date with her future husband, she took him kite flying. When the two married and had children, their hobby became a family passion. And now, years later, they’re introducing their grandchildren to the joys of making and flying kites.

I couldn’t help but smile as I heard of this family’s love affair with kites. It made me happy to think of them packing a picnic lunch, piling into their car and heading to FDR Park—or “down the lakes” in South Philly speak—enjoying the sunshine and the fresh air. I envisioned strong relationships being built around their common interest and memories being made that would last a lifetime. I liked the idea of them saying, “Our family always flies kites.” During the course of our ride to the hospital, it became apparent that Bonnie is a woman of strong Christian faith, and I found myself imagining the values that she instilled in her children during those outings. 

I grew up hearing the motto, “The family that prays together, stays together.” At some point, the saying was co-opted, with “pray” being changed to “play”—and it irritated me. But, while choosing recreation over faith is a big mistake, I’ve realized that combining the two makes a lot of sense. When you play together as a family, you dramatically increase the number of teachable moments you have with your children. Faith lessons that are incorporated into times of family fun seem to be remembered better than those taught in a formal setting. Cultivating a family hobby can also increase the longevity of your influence in your children’s lives. If, for instance, you teach your 6-year-old to enjoy playing golf with you, chances are she’ll still enjoy playing golf with you when she’s 16. One-on-one time with a teenage son or daughter is a precious thing and a lot of good dialogue can take place during a round of golf.

I believe it pleases God when families build strong bonds over shared interests. The Apostle Paul gave some advice to the church at Philippi, which is also good advice for families: “Fill up and complete my joy by living in harmony and being of the same mind and one in purpose, having the same love, being in full accord and of one harmonious mind and intention.” (Philippians 2:2)

By establishing a strong family identity, you’ll provide your children with a sense of belonging and security and you’ll help them solidify a personal sense of identity, too.

So, whether it’s playing sports, making music, building sandcastles, volunteering, camping, cooking, playing board games, fishing . . . consider finding that one “Our family always” thing that you can all enjoy together. The list of options is endless and many of them, like kite flying, are inexpensive or free. If you’re having trouble choosing, ask for God’s advice. He knows exactly what your family needs, and he’ll gladly point you in the right direction.

By cultivating shared interests with your children, you’re showing them that they are valued. You’re providing ways for your children to relate to each other. And you’re building relationships that will last long after childhood is over.

And that’s important.

Because, ideally, you aren’t just raising children, you’re growing friends.