Before I joined the Church I had this idyllic view of Family Home Evening. Respectful, attentive children listening as Mother and Father discuss the joys of the Gospel. And then: the children themselves happily leading the discussion as they grow older. Beautiful singing. Wonderful treats. Peace and harmony.
Then reality took over.
Scenes from recent Family Home Evenings in the Geoff B household:
–A teenager grousing and complaining, refusing to participate.
–A teenager refusing ANY posture of reverence during the prayer (why do they DO that?).
–The dog running around tearing up the lesson and any other paper left unattended.
–The three-year-old running around tearing up the lesson and any other paper left unattended.
–The 20-month-old running around tearing up the lesson and any other paper left unattended.
–The only acceptable songs, even in January, are “jingle bells” and “Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam” but only if Daddy throws the kids into the air during “Sunbeam.” And then a fight ensues during this because Daddy is throwing one child into the air more than the other.
–The 20-month-old screams and says “no, no, no” every time Mommy starts singing.
–The only way any lesson of any kind can take place is if Daddy literally holds the younger kids still in a wrestling grip. Then, they pay attention. Briefly.
So, clearly my perception of FHE are different than the realities. We all know the old saying about FHE being “a fight that begins and ends with a prayer.” In my house, it is a fight, a screaming match, a wrestling match that begins and sometimes ends with a prayer.
Yesterday, we decided to end FHE with all of the boys getting haircuts from Mommy. That was the most important thing we accomplished.
Here is why I keep on doing FHE: I hold the hope that 10 years from now my older kids (and 20 years from now for my younger kids) will look back at this time and feel nostalgic. It is a ritual they could always count on. It is a time when we set aside the things of the world and concentrated on our family.
I have already noticed that my older kids are very nostalgic. “Daddy, remember that tiny house we lived in when we were smaller, can we drive by it?” “I really liked my room in that house, Daddy.” “Remember the trampoline we had behind that house?”
And not everything is a fight. In fact, there is plenty of laughter and tender moments. My 10-year-old loves to “lead” FHE, and she does it beautifully. My three-year-old has absolutely no fear about getting up and saying what he wants, and it’s incredibly cute. Usually he wants something unrelated to the Gospel, but that’s OK.
So, FHE is definitely not like they portrayed it in the Church movies. It is unique, just like my family is unique and each of our personalities is unlike any other. It seems to me that the half-hour we are alone as a family is precious time, even when there are battles. And, upon reflection, somebody always learns something during FHE. Very often it is me learning how to be a better father.