In the three days following Christmas, we set everything aside for a family retreat. Nothing too exciting, just Josh and I, our three precious children and the plan we drafted out of our desire to better support each other morally, ethically and spiritually. That sounds a little serious, but mostly it looked a lot like normal everyday life, with periods of extra thoughtful and fruitful conversation, reflection and creative calendar planning. So it's only been two weeks, but we are pretty stoked with how it all went down and for those mildly curious, heres a not so short synopsis.
PRE-RETREAT: How can we actually pull this thing off, with the kids?!
- We began by mapping out roughly how many sessions we needed based on an very ambitious agenda. Then we set about prepping the kids with what each day would look like. Disclaimer: Because our children are still relatively young, we weren't able to include them in every session (our four year old isn't interested in defining empathy or how it differs from that of compassion). We do however, look forward to the day when we can fully include the kids in the vision and goal setting part of the the retreat!
- To that end, we set up block off times that we felt, after we gave them extra love and attention, the kids would be capable of playing on their own.
- And with the aid of a few well stocked snack stations we managed a few uninterrupted hours.
SESSION ONE: (2 hrs.) What are our core family values and vision?
- Sounds overwhelming right? Ok good, we weren't alone then.
- Lots of talk here about really big words. What's important to us? How do we define that? The dictionary was consulted and ultimately we were able to narrow it down to three.
- Basically, we crafted the pillars of qualities we hope to provide our children. If it's the only thing they grow up learning, well then, we succeeded!
SESSION TWO: (2 hrs.) How can we develop an action plan to manifest our vision?
- We dissected Maslow's higherachy of needs and came up with specific ways we can address each of our children's five basic needs.
SESSION THREE: (1 hr.) What are our own personal goals and vision for the next year?
- We cleared the kitchen table, put on some classical music and included the kids in this session!
- Turning the spot light inward, we each drew/painted a self-portrait.
- Completed a creativity exercise from Chapter 2 of the The Creative Fight book and...
- Lara Casey's 2017 Goals sheet. I transcribed for the little ones, of course, and their responses are equal parts precious and hilarious.
SESSION FOUR: (1/2 day) Good work so far, but it's time to break and have fun!
- Family ice skating video currently in production.
SESSION FIVE: (3 hrs.) We can't give up now... time to crack open those calendars and dive into the nitty gritty and figure out how we can actually make any of this really happen!
Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, and this Montessori based resource, we looked at each of the ideas crafted in Session Two, and further articulated specific and manageable monthly, weekly and daily actionable habits we then synched to our calendars and posted on the refrigerator. Along with a calendar, weekly meal plan, our family vision statement and an elective chore chart for the kids, we now have everything we need to stay focused throughout the day.
- For example, for the Belonging need of peaceful conflict resolution, in month of January we are journaling our attempts at empathic responses during times of conflict. And not to give too much away here, but in February we will review our thoughts and see what works and what does not. When we are comfortable with that, we will move to a new journal topic that will eventually lead to a parenting peace summit and the next New York Times bestseller. Kidding, but we do promise to keep you posted!
SESSION SIX: Time to celebrate!
- We went out to dinner at a not so fancy, child friendly, all you can eat restaurant, that happens to serve dinner before bedtime (a rarity in Italy).
And that's a wrap... well more like the beginning of a lot of intentional - but manageable - work to come! We are all pretty excited about some of the changes we have begun to see in dinner conversation, family prayer time, collective learning and musical ventures in addition to conflict resolution and acts of forgiveness and compassion for one another. Because, we set very reasonable and manageable objectives it doesn't feel like our "new year, new you" kind of past trends. These changes feel very maintainable. And beyond that, it feels like a subtle shift is occurring and a sweet sense of peace has joined the family!
And if you made it all the way down here, we are greatly impressed! We sure would love hearing any or all of your thoughts, feelings, reactions, ideas for improvements for the second annual wolff family retreat! Please, send them our way, we love you.