Robin Booth
Robin Booth

Creating successful families III (after the vision)

Creating successful families does seem to be a strange concept to many. The predominant belief that we do not choose our families (our parents and siblings) leads us into the experience that either we are lucky to have good family relationships or unlucky. If you no longer like a certain friend of yours, you can sever ties. But with family, things are different. The emotional ties are stronger and there is a sense of connection which creates a stronger tolerance and resilience to the conflicts that arise. Over the past decade I have seen people transform, seen families re-connect and relationships deepen. Sometimes it has been as a result of the natural process of life (a loved one dying, people getting older, maturity etc) but in most cases it has been through these people consciously doing something different that has showed they can make a difference and not leave their happiness to chance and luck.

This is not a debate about whether we have full control over our lives or of the people in our families, this is about looking at the areas we do have a large influence in and how we can leverage our growth in this space.

Families have had vision “statements” for centuries. The family coat of arms or family crest is just such a form of branding that gives identity and a sense of belonging. Many families have a code of ethics/values/ideals that they live by (most often it is unconscious and un-articulated). There is the “hidden” guideline of families which act as influences on our decisions and our actions (my parents would not approve or I can’t do that because it would upset my family etc).

What I have written about is a conscious way of creating a family environment that supports us in getting more of what we all want (whatever that may be for each of us). The vision statement is therefore an articulated guideline which enables us to change what doesn’t work and to work with what does work. It may sound strange as society doesn’t really bring family dynamics in to the realm of “choice”. We can choose our friends but not our family. That statement doesn’t mean that we are powerless to transform our family relationships. It requires some work, energy, compassion and a willingness to engage. When I built my house I got a professional architect who expressed it as a design. I am going to engage with my family consciously and empathically so that we can create what we all aspire to.

This is our Booth Family Vision Statement; an articulation of our intent and hope for our future. We had gone through a process that enabled us to share what we valued and to describe what we wished for.

This is who we are (or how we came to be who we are): (Step 1) Through friendship, support and sharing adventures and experiences we strengthen our connectedness.

By doing these things (Step 3) Through conversation, reflection and sharing we inspire each other to grow and learn.

We will experience this result (Step 2) Through understanding, acceptance, commitment and love we create stability and belonging.

The next step for us was to look at the actions we need to take that would move us closer to the kind of family experience we wished for. We all had agreed that our connectedness was accelerated through sharing adventures, conversation and time spent together. These three things then became the guidelines for what we would need to do.

The first step we took was acknowledging that we needed “sibling” time, different to the gatherings of our extended families or the odd visit to JHB on business. We wanted specific time that was set aside for the purpose of sharing, reflecting and connecting. We decided on an annual “Booth Sibling Holiday”. It would be a weekend (or three days) and we would take turns in organising it. We set a budget for this holiday, ensuring that this commitment of ours was not dependent on that month’s cash flow. We also set it up so that we would all pay the same amount, regardless of who had to fly or drive to get together (taking the sum of all costs and dividing by three).

In 2008, our holiday was to Swaziland. We went white water rafting and spent time in the game parks. This year we are planning to go kloofing in the Magaliesberg.

We also discussed other ways that we could keep in touch, especially keeping up to date with each other’s children. We looked at setting up a blog that we could post photos and information to so that everyone in our families could access this. There is no right or wrong way of doing this, only a process that keeps us going in the direction we value.

Things to think about after having created your vision statement:

BE INSPIRED: You should feel inspired and look forward to making this happen. If you don’t feel this way, it is most likely that this is a chore and something you feel “has” to be done. This probably highlights that people do not believe it is going to be worthwhile or that they haven’t really put their honest needs on the table. The statements guide how you view your future family actions. Is what you are going to do in line with these statements?

ACTIVITIES: Our family loves adventure and sharing. Yours may be totally different (ie cooking together or reading books around a fire). This is about what you value and want and will always be different to other families.

COST: Some families may have lavish expensive holidays overseas while others will just spend a day doing things. Again, this is about you!

TIME: How much time is best for you? Take into account the frequency as well (once a year, every six months etc). Also take into account the time that may be needed to do research and make bookings.

WHO IS DRIVING THIS? You may find that you are the one driving and motivating the other family members. You may be the organised one and your other sibling the forgetful or unstructured one. Therefore take this into account when you plan. Many great family plans and visions fall apart because the one sibling felt that everyone should now be doing an equal amount. In my case it took me a few years to support my siblings in seeing the possibility of making this work for all of us.

CURVE BALLS: If this was easy, you would probably be already doing it. If getting together as often as you like was easy, you would also have prioritised this already. Therefore bear in mind that you are taking on patterns and attitudes which are deeply embedded.

IDEAS FOR ACTIVITIES: On our list of possibilities:

  • Scuba diving and swimming with dolphins in Ponto do Ouro.
  • Visit the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site in Limpopo.
  • Pony trekking in Lesotho.
  • Trip to Magaliesberg — visit the Cradle of Humankind, hot-air ballooning, horse riding, canopy tour, full day kloofing.
  • Cooking retreat at a retreat centre in KwaZulu-Natal.
  • Kite-making weekend at the retreat centre.

Once we had experienced that we could make a difference to our sibling relationship in this way, we realised we needed to bring in the rest of the Booth Clan.

Research keeps pointing to the powerful and beneficial impact that good family relationships have on children. They debate that you can not really “prepare” your child for the future because the future will most likely be something totally different to what we think it will be. Research seems to point that the best support parents can give their children is a strong sense of belonging; a space where they learn to discover who they are and who they are in relationships to others. A strong sense of belonging is the foundation children develop their attitudes on, their beliefs, their experiences. So out of this, we looked at developing our family vision into something bigger that included all of our extended families.

Next … developing the extended family process.

  • Benzol

    When I put the same comment in twice on thought-leader, I get the comment: “you have said this already”.

    Why did you not get that comment?

  • Robin Booth

    Hi Benzol.
    I can see that you shared about your trip to Holland on two comments. I am not sure what you refer to (or to whom you refer it) when you said, “Why did you not get that comment?”

    Please explain further so I can see if I can respond to your question.

  • Thobekani

    Hi Robin Booth,

    Would you associate ecomonic challenges with inability to identify the construct mentioned above as one of the fundamentals of becoming
    the best that one can be in this life, and even injecting that to the children/next generation? the reason i’m asking this is because, when i look around the nature of how families relate within themselves (including such activities if any at all) as units in townships such as Kwa Mashu differ greately from this and how we (township chlidren) normally grow up to be, crime, drugs learning difficulties, hopelesness even difficulty in relating ourselves to the end product of education and thus likely to dis engage, i dont know but this is the circumstance we are faced with, i do feel that the problem is with where each individual comes from, take for example, does one draft a policy of expectations as what children will always refer to in order that they can identify such family coat of arms and find pride themselves to be associated with it, how does this work really, please educate me, thank for the article, super enlightning for an individual like myself :-)

  • Benzol

    Scan reading this article, it gave me the “deja vue” feeling. Hence my question.

    When I mistakenly hit the “submit” button twice, the Thoughtleader system tells me “you have said this already”.

    I found your Family article III too much of the same, hence my somehow sarcastic comment. Sorry, you missed it :-))

    Otherwise, I am whole heartedly behind the intend of your article(s) on family building.

    When I moved to SA, one of my friends -who had spend 6 months in SA a few years earlier- warned me that the people in SA are “so lonely”. After 25 years in SA I can only confirm his observation.

    From what I have seen, I feel that life in the townships allows for more social contact than in any of the 6 foot walled, razor wired fences in the upper suburbs. Another form of “splendid isolation”.

  • Robin Booth

    Hi Benzol
    The reason that you got the feeling of Deja vu is because I did re-iterate part of what I had mentioned in the first and second blogs. The reason for this is because on completion of a post, it gets posted to the front page and if someone reads part three without having read part 1 or 2 , it may not carry much interest or weight. So I included a summary. In the next part, I will leave out the summary and just add.. “If you wish to read parts 1,2 or 3, click here.

  • Robin Booth

    As to Thobekani’s question, I think this is an ongoing debate. On the surface it may appear to be so. Your comments about Township children and the life style they are brought up in may suggest proof of this. But then we look at the high income families where parents are workaholics, and driven by something else beside families and there children are left to meander malls and have access to many things which are inappropriate. In my view, these children are categorsied under the same label as those township children as “little sense of belonging”. The construct of creating successful families stems from a value of community and a value of belonging. These values are not specific to class or race. The defining category would be the people who feel they can, and the people who feel they can’t. And this sense of empowerment doesn’t have to be at a racial level. I believe a family/ home environment supercedes a societal one if those parents choose it so, (at least in the early formative years). And if these formative years are strong, then the relationship to family is also going to be strong throughout that person’s life. But I am going to think more carefully about the greater question you asked about expectations etc. And then I will write this as a separate blog entry.