When you’re trying to build a multi-generational family one of the traps that we’re going to talk about that you can avoid is… and I don’t know if you ever thought about this, my friend Steven Manuel over at Abraham’s Wallet made this statement on their podcast. I love what they’re doing over there to try to help families become more multi-generational. I absolutely love… they’re very much aligned with what we’re talking about here, but Steven mentioned on that podcast that when families get together who is the star of the show? Who does everyone sort of orbit around? It’s always the youngest kids, right? And one of the things he pointed out, which I thought was just a brilliant observation and I certainly have seen this as well, is that in ancient cultures it was the opposite. Imagine this, when the family got together, everyone orbited around the oldest person in the family.
How did this happen? We went from the absolute oldest to the absolute youngest and obviously I get it, we love babies, we love kids, but the fact is that we need our elders to be honored if we’re going to gain the wisdom of the generations and so we need to resist this sort of cultural shift quite a bit and that means that when you have a large family gathering with extended family, it takes a lot of intentionality to make the elders of the family the center. And they’re often times not going to fight for that space and if they’re not honored properly and if our children are not trained to sit quietly when their grandparents are sharing or telling stories, then they’ll probably just shut that part of themselves down and everyone will just sort of orbit the little kids and we’ll all miss out on that wisdom.
One really practical way that we’ve often times encouraged you guys to do this is to come up with different prompts. One of the ways that I’ve just recently implemented story prompts for when we have gatherings is that I’ve started in my Google sheet on our Sabbath dinners, we kind of all put on there what we’re bringing to the Sabbath dinner, our family makes the main course, I sort of put a theme of the night and so for example a couple of weeks ago the theme was, what was summer like when you were a child? And so about halfway through the dinner I sort of calmed everybody down. Ding your glasses and said, “Hey guys. I got a question and I especially want to hear, we’re going to start with the oldest members of the family and sort of work our way down. What is a memory from your childhood during the summer? What were summers like for you? And if you have stories about your parents and their summers, what were those like?” Well that’s all it took because-
That’s an awesome question.
… the elders of the family just started sharing incredible stories. Stories that I had never heard. Stories that our kids have never heard. So simple, but man they’re honored, we’re blessed and we’re beginning to shift back to making the elders of the family more of the center of the extended family gathering. So, really simple tip for how to do that, but I really thought this observation was important for us to grapple with. But, yeah, Jeff, what are your thoughts about this one?
Yeah, I don’t have much to add on this one except I think of a funny little anecdote where a friend of mine, John Luke Robertson, you might know him, the Duck Dynasty family, the Robertson clan, they’re awesome, good friends, but I remember talking to him just a year or so ago when they were over. And we were just talking about his family and they just have such unit and they’re such a team and they’re large, right, and they have kind of this multi-generational aspect.
And I remember just asking him what it was like growing up and stuff like that and I remember he was just making comments to this effect; that a lot of their strength in their family he said, is that their table was so strong and rich in regards to story, and he said it was actually the opposite where kids… not that it was like you couldn’t speak, but he actually said it was more of an intimidating thing where he was like when you were a kid at their table growing up, you actually had to have a really good story, or else you shouldn’t talk. It was basically because there was such good stories happening from the older people and there were such good stories happening from the patriarchs and the matriarchs and the oldest generation, he was just kind of like that’s what the table was gravitating towards and centering towards and so he just knew if I want to speak up, I better have something good to say right?
When I think the American way is a little bit of the opposite of the baby just gets all the attention with just the goo-goo gaga-gaga, they’re not doing anything, right? Now again, we know we love babies, that’s different, there’s a level there. Of course, we love children, we want to… I think it’s actually really beautiful to actually also have them speak and give them space at table so that they feel welcomed and affirmed, but there’s an orbiting force that should point towards the oldest generation at table. That’s honoring, it serves everyone and honestly our kids love it.
Our kids come alive most at the table during fun story time like that, and Kinsley especially, our oldest, she’ll want to stay there for two hours. We’ll want to start doing dishes and she’ll just think of another. There’s some nights where we do where she gets to just keep asking questions. Right? Where she gets to ask the prompts and she gets to keep thinking and she’ll just go on and on. She’ll just say, “Well what about this? And what about this? And when you were this old?” And I’m just like, “Okay, let’s save those for next week.”
But I love it and I think that’s really, really important and you’ll see that your kids come alive when there’s that proper, kind of, trickle down of multi-generational living.