Family fun

As parents of teens, John and I are constantly trying to balance their wish for increased freedom with our desire to protect our family time.  One of the things we do on Sundays is ask that our kids all sit with us in church.  Their friends are welcome to join us, and usually we fill at least part of two rows.  But we want to worship together.  They have their adult lives to worship wherever they wish, but only a few precious years with us.

Last night was our local God and Country rally, a huge Christian rock concert/ patriotic celebration/ fireworks display where there were tens of thousands of people.  Our teens begged to go, and to their delight I said yes. (John had to work, so he wasn’t able to be in on the fun.)

Though our kids were looking forward to seeing friends there, I also wanted it to be an event our family experienced together.  So after the teens wandered around with friends for an hour or two, checking out booths, etc, I asked them to sit near us for the main performances and the fireworks.  The older teens were fine with it, but some of the 14 year olds weren’t thrilled– they were imagining more independence.

But when I asked them to be with us, their friends came too.  Kids played cards on quilts spread in the grass. They blew bubbles, waved glow sticks, sang, clapped, watched the little kids dance, exclaimed over fireworks– together. Everyone ended up having a great time, making memories together instead off in little separate clumps.

Sure, I could’ve given the teens more space.  And another time I probably will. But last night I made a stand for family time. They’ll have their whole adult lives to do things apart from family if they wish. Our togetherness last night enriched their younger siblings’ experience. It enriched mine. And even the reluctant ones had plenty of fun along the way, and made some good memories too.  

Family time is worth fighting for.


  1. Mary,
    How timely this post was for me to read. My husband and I were recently sharing about how want our family to sit together at church as well. It was never an issue until we got teenagers and a preteen. We have not put a firm foot down on it but want too. I agree totally that our family time is worth fighting for. Thanks for sharing.
    Mary Spilman

  2. No argument here on family time, and it sounds fun! But here’s my thing – it always seemed a bit unfair when friends’ parents did that (and they, my friends, knew it) because the parents with the firm line would, by necessity, “win” over parents who would LIKE to sit with their kids (and friends) but were more flexible. It never mattered to me – my mom was in the choir, so I was sitting with friends or a friend’s family anyway. And I know the point is to keep your family time, not detract from another family’s time, but if the kids are close and want to spend time together, that’s what happens. (I’m sure some parents were thrilled to have the kids supervised and safe during the show, some doubtless would have liked to spend that time with their kids, welcoming a close friend or two, as well, and the other parents end up not being an option for the kids without leaving a friend – one of your kids – out. Which sort of stinks for those other families sometimes, since no adult wants to do that either.)

    Anyway – like I said, I agree with the idea, and in my case during services I was always grateful for parents who welcomed me. But having grown up with and then dated someone whose parents were similar, I know his friends and the rest of the parents made concessions on their family time and preferences in order to be fair to him and not exclude him by default. And he knew it, realizing more of it in college, and felt awkward about it. Not in terms of his family’s values, which weren’t unusual, but how other families had to adjust their own family time and desires to be fair to him. I don’t know if that’s been an issue for your kids yet (the other parents likely wouldn’t tell you, even if asked), but just a thought in terms of the regularity of that policy. As a teenager I definitely learned a lot from other families – at a certain age kids can recognize the good and bad, and that was valuable for me. You don’t have the same kinds of interactions/observation of other established families and marriages once you leave home for school, since you’re socializing more outside of a family home. I always talked with my mom about odd dynamics, but remember learning a lot from them in terms of things to watch for that I DIDN’T want that I wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise.

    • Wow, thanks. Believe it or not, I never thought of it from this angle. I tend to be so focused on our own family goals that I can miss other perspectives.

      At the fireworks the other night, a couple kids didn’t have parents there, and the other parents ended up sitting in our clump too. So there were no other parents to exclude in that case. And one of the kids who routinely sits with us in church doesn’t have parents there. But I can see how other parents in church might feel the way you describe.

      I think John and I would go nutty conducting weekly negotiations with 6 different kids about whose may sit elsewhere and who needs to sit with us this week. For the sake of peace, we’ll probably keep our church rule. But in the case of other activities, I’m definitely going to be more aware of times when we might be excluding other families.

      Thanks for writing. I can be obtuse sometimes and I appreciate the new perspective.

  3. David BG says:

    Thanks for this post; thoughtful as always. Our children are younger, but I watch our friends navigate this challenging dynamic all the time in their families.

  4. How great! I don’t have teens yet, but when I was a teen my parents did NOT insist on family time, or even family dinners. Now I really regret that and I plan to do it a little differently with my kids. Of course they will be able to visit with their friends, but not at the expense of family relationships.
    Now as an adult, I feel the need to visit my parents extra to make up for lost time as a teen!

    I can always relate to your posts, and it’s so great 🙂

  5. Good for u Mary! Way to stand for your family! It all passes too quickly. Glad to hear u stood up for building memories together!

  6. We wrestle with this too. Our church has an eve service (I know, terribly old-fasioned 😉 We don’t go every week, but we allow them to sit with friends for the eve service, but they sit with us in the morning (which we always go to). We don’t go to many concert-type activities, but if we do go together, we expect to spend at least most of the time together. You’re right–it’s a balance.

  7. We, too, have made a compromise. Our children must sit with us on Sunday mornings, but may sit with friends/families on Wed night or at concerts/picnics. We often have other kids with ours…I never really know who might come sit with us on a given Sunday morning. I always just remind my littles to “scoot down” if anybody wants to sit with us. LOL!!

  8. My parents were very emphatic about family time when I was a teen. I often resented them then for it, but now that I am older I love that they insisted that we spend quality family time together. I love those memories and I feel like my siblings and I wouldn’t be as close had they not done it.