About a month ago, my family embarked on what quickly became a trip of a lifetime to Universal Studios and Loews Royal Pacific. I’m still wowed that my husband refers to it as “the best vacation we’ve ever taken” simply because he had sworn off theme park vacations.
But he’s right. Family Forward 2013 was more than a vacation to a theme park (something he’d been avoiding for months.) Family Forward was a chance to reach deep into the network of our family, focusing on our strengths, our needs, and our relationships.
Of course, all of this could not have happened without the guidance and planning of the team at Mom It Forward, their sponsors, and the schedule and speakers built so strongly into focusing on family. It’s incredible that after numerous trips to conferences focusing on social media for me, I learned that my family is just as willing and interested in learning at a conference.
Of course, Family Forward was a different kind of conference. It was one where we learned without laptops and tablets. One where we didn’t focus on building our blogs or learning social media etiquette, but on building our bonds and learning about our family connections.
The focus of 2013’s Family Forward event was helping families connect in the digital age through a theme of discovering “Your Superhero Family.”
It was easy to recognize that each family has its own needs, talents, and structures, so every family will have its own set of superpowers. We were tasked with finding our own. Rather than focusing on finding it during the trip, our family reflected back on the trip after we returned home, thinking about what we learned about each other to determine our superpowers.
Our Family’s Super Powers
We’re a fun family
That was actually my dad’s comment to us after our two-week vacation to Maine this summer. I’ve kept it in mind all summer and keep reflecting on it. He’s right. There’s always something going on, and we’re always ready for an adventure. Together, we keep going… very rarely do all 5 of us break for something at the same time.
I’ve come to understand that when friends and family are looking for a calm, relaxing day, they won’t often look to our family. Sure, we can relax, but with the five of us together, we’re more likely to be active in our relaxation. We’re very busy people. We have loud, spirited energy.
We understand each other
This is huge. We’re not all great communicators (hey, not everyone’s a writer!), but through the years of being a family, we definitely recognize each others’ strengths, needs, and moments. As the kids have gotten older, I’ve noticed that they have started to look out for each other more closely. Just as my husband and I do, the kids have become able to build our expectations of how someone will respond to something before it happens.
That’s because we pay attention to each other and have for years. We knew that Little loves adventure and wouldn’t be afraid of any of the roller coasters, but if there was a dragon breathing fire on her, she’d be terrified. And, as proven in one of my favorite pictures ever, my husband knew that as soon as the spider, Aragog, appeared in the Islands of Adventure ride: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, he needed to reach out to protect Middle, who has a fear of spiders.
We consider each other
This has been happening more and more often, and I’m constantly wowed at my kids. Big is Lactose Intolerant, and I have allergies to both chocolate and peanuts. I am floored when my kids are offered ice cream or a chocolate dessert and pause to consider the family before accepting. Just last week, the kids were offered ice cream, and before I could respond, Little said, “we’re not going to have any because my brother can’t. It would make him sad.”
On our trip to Universal Studios, my husband and I noted, on several occasions, the way that Middle would wait for Little when she lagged behind. It’s rough for a four-year-old to be on her feet all day at a theme park, imagine 6 days! The middle was always the first to look back and pause for Little to catch up. He’d make sure she was okay and encourage her to run ahead. Every time I witnessed this, I was so very proud.
We’re considerate and polite
Sure, this is a Mother’s most prideful statement, but I’m filled with that pride day in and out. Every time my child said “thank you” at the end of a ride or “please” while waiting his turn, I felt that pride. At Universal Studios, you can take a ferry from the hotel to the parks and CityWalk and back again. Our family loved sitting up front with the boat’s driver and were some of the few to thank the driver after every ride. Big even commented to me that he couldn’t understand why others didn’t show their appreciation. The fact that he noticed made me realize that he’s so very in tune with recognizing consideration.
Recently, I’ve noticed we’re becoming more concerned with the well-being of others. Last week, we visited Nemours AI DuPont Hospital for Children, where we hosted a craft table to make crafts for and with patients. For me, the most rewarding part of the day was when my kids asked if we could do it again next week. We’re excited to plan more hospital visits in the future.
We’re constantly learning
This superpower is really two-fold. First, we love learning. We love to ask each other questions and search for facts. National Geographic Kids was a sponsor of Family Forward, and Middle was so excited to meet the editor of the magazine. He shared with her his love of the Weird but True series and was thrilled in learning from the new book, National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia: 2,500 Animals with Photos, Maps, and More!, and a magazine we were given as gifts.
We’re also constantly learning about each other. That’s something that families need to recognize and embrace. As we grow, as a family and individuals, we’re going to change. We need to be open to those changes and the ideas that come from them and learn together how they’ll affect us. Because we’re open to learning about ourselves and each other, we’re willing to embrace our family’s changes and strengths as they happen.
We’re all creative thinkers and enjoy coming up with new ideas and techniques to make them work. Talking out about those ideas is exciting to us, and we do that often. But I often forget that we also love creating by hand. Our favorite of the conference sessions was one sponsored by Duck Tape and Cricut, which were worked together to craft without rules. This was a great reminder of how much our family loves crafting and creating together. So often, the kids will run to the basement to create with LEGO or color, but rarely do we spend time as a full family creating together. Since Family Forward, I’m making it a point to pull out the crafts much more often.
Being competitive isn’t always a good thing, and we often have to keep our competition in check. But being a competitive family also gives us an opportunity to focus, together, on goals and help us work together to achieve those goals. It also teaches us amazing strategies and techniques for the real world. And, because of our competitive spirit, we cycle back around to our first superpower; we have fun!
We also recognize that we have different interests and strengths. As we realize this, we know that some family members will naturally be better at some things than others. One of my favorite takebacks from this trip was watching my kids encourage each other to try something that wasn’t their strength. Learning how to encourage each other with positive, helpful words is a skill that has taken time to form and one that we need to encourage to continue in life.
Discover your family’s Super Powers
Mom It Forward has a series of 11 e-books available to help your family become a Super Hero Family, like ours. You can download them for great family reading and activities and attend their weekly Google Hangouts on Wednesdays.