God's solution to our family's heartache. Our family bonding plan that became a big hit!
Rich and I are NOT naturally fun people, as I’ve mentioned before. We’re great at getting WORK done, but not good at making FUN happen! Thus, oddly enough, we have learned to schedule some spontaneity. (I know, I know, kind of ridiculous, but hey, we’ve identified our weakness and we’re overcoming it so cheer us on!)
Why we needed this…
Spontaneous Friday was God’s solution to our family’s awkward heartache over our reduced family size.
If you’ve ever said “goodbye” to a child as they’ve moved out to get married or gone to college or the military or even passed away, you understand the indescribable ache in your mama heart and the tailspin that the rest of the family goes through in trying to adjust to daily life without that person. It somehow affects the entire family dynamic and identity as each child’s role in the family shifts to accommodate the change.
Our family shrunk to half its size in a blink. In a few month’s time, our oldest two daughters got married, we moved to a new city for my husband’s job transfer, and our oldest son stayed behind as he was established in his job and was taking college classes. Three kids, two sons-in-law and my parents were suddenly gone from our daily life.
Our youngest two daughters had a very hard time with their older sisters getting married. Click here to read, “What to do with the Sad Little Sisters: Season of Change”
Our younger children were feeling lonely and bored without their older siblings and we all felt out of place. We would sit around the table at meal time in our new-to-us home, not knowing how to visit without Nathan’s jokes, without Becca’s contagious laughter, or without Tori’s fun-loving banter. I was used to cooking for 13 plus whatever friends were at the house that day and suddenly I was cooking for six. Six soon turned into five as Josh left for college as well. Five may sound like a lot to you, but to us it was heartbreaking.
We were struggling in our new identity and what we really needed was to bond as a new family unit. That’s when God gave us the idea of SPONTANEOUS FRIDAYS!
The rules are very simple.
Rule #1: No plan can be made until after 5 pm on Friday.
Rule #2: The challenge is to do something we’ve never done before.
That’s it. It’s a very simple family-bonding plan! There’s a third rule that we added later which I’ll share in a minute.
Spontaneous Friday can take place at our home, such as foosball tournaments and
Mario Kart tournaments.
Or it can be local – like going to a tourist spot in a nearby city called the Center of the Universe which is very near the Jazz Hall of Fame. It just happens to be on a large pedestrian bridge where you can watch trains pass underneath. Or Spontaneous Friday can take us out of town to explore the countryside – where once we found a “Wild Turkey Crossing” sign and, I kid you not, there were literally eight wild turkeys crossing the road! Our adventures have taken us to the worlds largest used book store. Okay, I don’t know if it is or not, but it is a huge labyrinth of rooms that go on forever and there are giant statues of famous entertainment icons like the Incredible Hulk, Elvis Presley, and a bunch of super-heroes.
Sometime, we hope to go buy a variety of a few dozen Hurts donuts (if you don’t know what that place is, look it up, it’s amazing) and drive around to our new friends’ houses, ring the doorbell and offer them donuts for all of their family and drive on to the next friends’ house.
The Added Rule that Added a whole new tradition!
Now I want to share the final RULE that we added the weekend that we weren’t able to do Spontaneous Friday. I mean, after all, you can’t have Spontaneous Friday on a Saturday! Trust me, I know this because we tried.
Rule #3: If we can’t do Spontaneous Friday, we will have Sketchy Saturday!
We stumbled upon Sketchy Saturday at a Waffle House next to a Casino in a little town about thirty minutes from our new city. We were TOTALLY out of our element!
We were attempting to have Spontaneous Friday on a Saturday, which is just wrong in every way. It was a big flop up to this point in the evening. You know, those times where everything seems lame. We had made the mistake of just jumping in the car and driving – looking for the spontaneous thing we were going to do. This never seems to work out for Rich and I – to just drive and do something unexpected. We over-think EVERY option until we’ve driven a ridiculous distance and voted everything down. We since have learned that Spontaneous, for us, must be slightly planned – in that Rich and I quietly make a quick plan before leaving the house. Once out, it’s fine if we add or change the plan but we have a plan. It’s our version of spontaneous. Hey, it’s baby steps. Cut this non-fun mama some slack!
Back to our first Sketchy Saturday... On this day, we hadn’t made any plan and we were driving, driving, driving, rejecting every place we passed until we ended up in this little casino town. We’re driving around this town that we’re not familiar with and feeling annoyed that it seems to be just this one casino and a Walmart, neither of which was going to qualify for fun bonding for our family. Then we saw it – a Waffle House. None of us had ever been to one even though these little huts are all over the nation! It fit the rule as something we’d never done! We had a winner!!
Only, it didn’t seem like a winning place. The parking lot had some sketchy stuff in it. Not the people (there might have been sketchy people in the parking lot also but I don’t want to sound unkind and call a person sketchy. After all, if you run into me at the drug store when I’ve been taking care of a sick baby or have had no sleep or any other number of mis-happenings, I am gonna look pretty sketchy too!)
There was sketchy stuff laying around on the ground of the parking lot… It’s never a good sign when you open your car door to go into a restaurant only to discover there’s an old dirty diaper that’s on the ground right where you almost put your foot to get out. I’m getting a little too graphic for you? Well, it was pretty graphic for me! Red flags were going up in my mom-self and I wouldn’t have stayed if Rich wasn’t with me. (I’m a scaredy-cat when it comes to adventure).
The front door had a bunch of bumper stickers and handwritten notes on the glass. When we entered, we found ourselves dodging Valentines decorations that were hanging from the ceiling even though it was March.
We seated ourselves between the arguing couple on one side and the convict on the other. Okay, okay, don’t send me notes about being judgmental. I know he probably wasn’t a convict, it’s just that my mom-redflags sometimes send me into unrealistic tailspins of mental exaggeration.
The meal was okay. The prices were not, considering the level of sketch endurance. The atmosphere was concerning.
But some how we laughed at our awkwardness, poked fun at our lameness in adventure, considered redecorating our home in valentines streamers and bumper stickers, and decided that fighting couples and convicts make great meal companions if unique adventure is what you’re after.
And thus was born the first ever Sketchy Saturday.
Now I must admit, Sketchy Saturday does NOT have spontaneous as one of its rules. That is important to me because I prefer my sketchy experiences to only appear sketchy but actually end up being a diamond in the rough. Thanks to a wonderful bunch of fellow moms in my area who have shared their recommendations with me, I have quite a wonderful list of sketchy places to visit that are yummy in spite of their outward appearance. I can’t wait to try all the places on the list!
While Spontaneous Fridays are not necessarily about food (we’ve gone on many adventures after dinner at home) Sketchy Saturday is always a place to eat.
The options for Spontaneous Friday and Sketchy Saturday are endless.
How do we make quick plans when we are no fun naturally? As each weekend approaches, I start praying and asking God to give me some good ideas because I could never think up these things on my own. And I do believe He answers my prayers because He loves my family even more than I do, and He wants us to be a strong family unit. I’m always very surprised at the end of a weekend, how He orchestrated our time to produce the family memories that I was hoping for. I have found over and over again in my life that when I set a goal, commit it to the Lord, and take action, He does workout some amazing details that I could never have done. This has happened with financial goals, family-bonding goals, business growth goals, or various projects. I’ve come to believe that God really does bless our efforts. He isn’t a magic genie who gives us whatever we want, but He is a loving father who truly enjoys blessing us if we are putting forth our best efforts in pursuit of endeavors that align with His heart.)
On many Spontaneous Fridays or Sketchy Saturdays, you’ll find us in the car driving to our adventure, calling one of the older couples (all three are married now) or a college son on the phone to take a minute to laugh with them and involve them in our fun because we still miss them and want them to be included. But when we hang up, our laughter continues!
We did it! We found our new normal! Most of the time we’re only a family of four or five as the next two sons have graduated and gone on to college and jobs. The important thing is that we have learned to laugh again. And, you’ll be relieved, for our kids’ sake, to know that Rich and I are slowly learning how to have FUN!
I hope you’ll follow our adventures – #FamilySpontaneousFriday and #FamilySketchySaturday. Also, if you decide to share in the fun with your own S.F or S.S, we’d love for you to share your adventures using the same hashtags! Let’s inspire other families to make memories and increase family bonding!
Val Harrison, The Practically Speaking MOM, is a mom to seven plus three in-law kids and two grandchildren. If you would like more from Val, you can follow her blog and podcast or find her books and other resources at www.PracticallySpeakingMOM.com. Here's the direct link to her podcast.
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