People often underestimate the importance of joy in family life. It’s not a luxury, something you get to have on weekends, or something you feel only when you’ve been good enough to get dessert. Joy is a very necessary part of having an emotionally healthy family.
A family is cross between the business office of a small city and a sports team. The business part includes all the schedules, the transportation issues, food supply, clothing, shelter, chores, finances, and so on. People take on tasks that need to be done so the place can keep running. Laundry – don’t forget the laundry!! A lot of these are mundane, repetitive, and sometimes frustrating activities. This is the mechanical engine that runs the family machine.
The sports team part is where the emotion is. Yes, a business office can run without a whole lot of emotional input. In fact, that’s better in many cases. But a sports team has something to play for, a personal effort that defines their participation and importance in the group. The entire reason a family is together is to *be together*. Parents chose to be together or sometimes have a partner involved. Children are brought into the family to expand the group and create a new generation. Children need their parents, and parents find parenting to be meaningful.
Sports teams experience a wide range of emotion and often don’t have trouble expressing it in front of each other. Their disappointment is shared when they lose. And when something great happens, they feel joy together. The shared experience of joy reinforces how much they value being together. It softens the edges of the disappointments and moments of conflict. Joy is the fuel the feeds the system.
Take a look at these examples of joy and see how they help bind the family together.
-Celebrating the baptism of a new baby in the family.
-Going to a birthday party to see your niece’s reactions to her cake and presents.
-Cheering and screaming together for your favorite football team when they make the game-winning score.
-Being cheerleaders when a family member is striving for an important goal.
Think about your family for a moment – consider all the schedules, activities, chores, meetings, and so on. Is your family getting its daily recommended dose of joy?