This is a talk I delivered at my local toastmasters club on Monday 17th July, 2017.
In the first four and a half months of this year I visited 10 cities in 4 countries, mostly for work, some for leisure.
In early May, in the midst of this whirlwind of movement, I visited my local library, as I often do, and I was drawn to this book: The Art of Stillness: adventures in going nowhere. I'm not sure why I was so drawn to the book but it ended up in a pile of books that I borrowed that day.
Twenty years ago this evening my fifteen year old self went on my very first date with a lovely girl from my high school. Little did I know that night would change my life forever. Thanks for asking me out that night Kitty and thanks for a fantastic twenty years together. Here’s to the next twenty!
“I am a Protestant but I am also a Catholic. I am a Jew but I am also a Muslim. I am a Hindu but I am also a Buddhist. I am agnostic but I am also an atheist. Because first and foremost I am a human being and no one in the world is a stranger to me”
~ Ted Noffs
…via the rather excellent book Breaking The Ice by Matt Noffs (Grandson of Ted Noffs) about Australia’s methamphetamine crisis.
One of our family rituals is celebrating halloween each year. Celebrating halloween isn’t overly common in Australia (only one of our neighbours was also doing it), but it’s certainly more popular than Thanksgiving (which we also celebrate).
This year we went with a ‘Day of the Dead’ theme where the boys got dressed up, they did a mini trick-or-treat to our neighbours house, then we all watched The Book of Life – the boys loved it! Good times.
One of the things that Dr. Justin Coulson recommends in his parenting book 21 Days To A Happier Family is to write a family mission statement as a family. A family mission statement is like a manifesto/mantra that defines what’s the most important thing(s) for your family as a whole. Mission statements are only successful where there’s buy in from everyone involved, so last night immediately after dinner I thought I would give it a crack, even though Justin suggests some children may be too young to understand this.
I asked each of the three boys, and Kitty, what’s the most important thing to them about our family:
Junior Pixels who is 6 (7 next week) immediately responded “having fun and looking after each other” 😍
Little Bear who turned 5 last week thought a bit and responded “having fun with our family and playing with each other” 😍
Little Whale is just 3 but he answered “kisses and being together” 😍
Kitty’s response was a short “being healthy, and hugs”, whilst my own was a bit more verbose with: “Looking out for one another, being grateful for simple pleasures, to never stop growing, and finding pleasure in the ordinary”.
We find a list of three to be effective in remembering things (like the playground rules Kitty devised – to be shared later) – but it’s been hard to condense these down to three as they’re all so great!
We’ve got a preliminary list of things that defines our family mission statement now, but like anything, we’ll evolve these as our family grows together:
One of our family rituals is going on picnics. We have found it’s a lo-fi activity that increases our families’ wellbeing. This has academically been proven to actually be the case:
“A marriage can cause an increase in happiness equal to a quadrupling salary. Making a good friend is equal to tripling a salary. Belonging to a club can cause an increase in happiness equivalent to doubling a salary. And going on picnics three times a year is the same as receiving a 10 per cent raise.”
~ Harvard Psychologist Robert Putnam quantifying the effects of good relationships (and picnicing)
Since we go on a picnic at least once a fortnight, we’ve established a picnic basket (which Kitty calls our ‘caravan’ – long story) which is always packed and ready to go. We typically do a BBQ picnic so we just need some food and the basket contains everything else like plates, cups, oil, sauce, BBQ utensils and even a thermos for hot water to make tea. Kitty picked up the picnic hamper, unused, at a nearby op shop (thrift store) for two dollars (bargain!).
We’ll usually visit a park with some bushland or a place for the kids to play and explore before we cook our food and enjoy it together.
This afternoon we found an old gold mine that still has some remnants left which the kids loved exploring and imagining how it worked almost one hundred years ago.
Afterwards we had a lovely BBQ in the light of the sunset:
We did have some over-confident, brazen kookaburras who managed to steal almost all our sausages from our plates as we ate, which freaked out the boys a little, but it was very fun nonetheless.
I love activities that require little effort but provide huge amounts of wellbeing, and picnicing, unlike motor-boating, seems to be just that 😎
Children learn by imitating adults. They copy what they see you do, not what you tell them to do. Seeing your three-year-old stomp around in your high heels is cute. Experiencing your 18-year-old drive the same way you do is terrifying (and I really, really wish I had never ever used a mobile phone while driving with them).