Christmas Eve is eight weeks away as I write this note to you and possibly mere days away as you read this! I am curious if that statement strikes panic into your heart or soothes your soul. Strong farm families celebrate together. I wonder what kinds of intentional moves you could make this year for the December season to make things more fun on your farm.
When we are having fun, we are “in flow” and time passes quickly and we wish the visits and games would never stop. I suspect many farm families would like more fun in the mix on their farms.
What is your most favourite Christmas memory? Could you recreate it for your grandkids? Who has been missing from your table in the past few years that needs a renewed invitation? Does having fun seem like a good idea to you, or a waste of time?
When Dr. Nikki Gerrard studied farm families in Saskatchewan over a 12-year stretch years ago, she discovered that celebration was a key resiliency tool for farm families. In other words, celebrating and having fun was a great way to bounce back from stressful times.
When we were young kids we would spend hours building straw forts from small square bales. Farm safety is paramount, but what outdoor play spaces are safe for kids to have fun getting energized with fresh air? It might be a tarp strung in the trees to create a bush fort. It might be a groomed trail for walking and exploring, or a quinzhee snow fort built with crystallized snow. We have dumped huge piles of snow with the bucket tractor and then carved out a snow fort after the snow has “set.” Perhaps there is a ravine or hill that creates the perfect spot for sliding or tobogganing. Build an ice rink if you are ambitious and patient.
At a community lunch today I witnessed a four-year-old begging to use his uncle’s iPhone. That’s the reality of 2015, the electronic gadgets we use daily hook young children. Some time playing games is fine, but what about imagination, creative physical play and going for an adventure walk? This applies to all generations. We all sit too much, watch too much TV and go to “sloth mode” instead of actively engaging with games or conversations with others. Go to www.michaelhyatt.com and watch his podcast on sitting.
This Christmas, if all of your immediate family is coming home, schedule a family meeting for Boxing Day. Take the opportunity to celebrate what is going well in your farm business, share your vision for the future of the business, and ask for input from all of your kids. Be grateful for the growth you have experienced, appreciate the talents of everyone on your farm team, and map out the “Plan” for the next year. It is a great time to have the “fresh eyes” approach of your non-farming children, and it keeps them “in the loop” as to what is happening. I have watched a family do this in a special hotel meeting where everyone has a voice to share the good accomplishments of the year gone by, and look forward to the new adventures ahead.
Find your favourite pen and paper, or use the computer to express your appreciation for your in-laws on the farm. This letter of affirmation will likely be the most precious gift received. Newcomers to the family need to know that they are accepted and appreciated. One cattle producer took this task to heart as he shared with his well-educated daughter-in-law how much he appreciated her input and labour on their operation. This was the letter that “sealed the deal” of her full-time involvement on the farm rather than seeking employment miles away. There is great power in words of gratitude, and writing the letter is your chance to fill the emotional bank account of your family members.
Some folks expect the envelopes tucked into the Christmas tree to hold cheques. That is fine, but I expect the memory of the letter of appreciation will carry more value in the long run. Do you even remember what your spouse gave you for Christmas last year? I bet you remember the love notes.
Fun may mean leaving the farm, having a neighbour feed the cows, and spending two or three days in a camp setting or resort where everyone contributes to meals or the Visa card cooks… you eat restaurant meals. Families that play together stay together. I would also insert that families that pray together stay together.
Protect your marriage relationship by spending some intentional time dating this Christmas and making each other laugh. Watch happy movies together, cuddle, and enjoy just being present with each other. Banish the farm business talk to another day. Dating your mate is a lost art for many farm couples. I am sensitive to this issue due to the marriage stress and separation I have seen in our circle of friends in 2015. Go cross-country skiing and build a winter bonfire. Pack chocolate.
Last year I met a woman who spends Christmas week organizing all of her digital photos of the year. I wish I was that disciplined! She puts a high value on capturing the memories of the year. We were gifted a July 2015 Mac photo book from Ottawa visitors who really enjoyed hanging out on the farm for three days, and just being part of what we do. It was fun to see how enthralled they were with things we take for granted. Capturing your year in a simple book will bring joy in the future, but it takes time and commitment to make that happen. We all spend our time on what we truly value. When our time lines up with what we value then we are happier.
Play, people connection, and photo memories can increase the fun factor on your farm this winter. Send me an email to share your story of fun on your farm.
Merry Christmas! The Joy of this season be yours! Peace to you! †