At the start of each year, many of us feel compelled to consider personal resolutions. What if this year we stay alert for an opportunity to involve other family members? Might signing a “pact” depicting a more ideal relationship with your children – or your partner, parents, or siblings – create a more fulfilling experience for everyone?
When our son, Michael, was nine years old, he started becoming ornery. It was not pleasant to be around him. To nip it in the bud, my husband, Glenn, and I encouraged Michael to practice being kinder and more respectful, and we promised to do the same.
Together we created our family’s To Love and Respect pact. As we were finalizing it, I said to Michael, “When people sign a contract with each other, it usually has an end date. How long should we make this contract?” He responded, “Fifteen years.” For a nine-year-old to propose such a long-term commitment surprised and delighted me. I marveled at how much our pact seemed to mean to him.
The family pact we created together – now more than sixteen years ago! – continues to reap rewards beyond my wildest expectations. For starters, then nine-year-old Michael became far less ornery. And Glenn and I also became more mindful of the ways in which we interacted with one another and as a family. We laminated and hung the lovely pact in the hallway between Michael’s and our bedrooms so it could serve continually as a gentle reminder to all of us.
As Michael matured, he became a loyal friend and a respected leader in his community. He discovered and continues to model ways to get back into balance when he’s feeling stressed. He honors the uniqueness of each individual while recognizing our interconnectedness, actively encouraging others to embrace and fully express their unique selves.
In addition to the immediate and ongoing effects this one gift of time and open-hearted sharing and listening had on our family life, its positive impacts continue to ripple out into the world. As for its optional renewal at the fifteen-year mark, you may have guessed the answer to that was a unanimous YES.
Might this be the year you choose to create a loving pact with members of your family? The seeds you plant may serve not only your immediate needs, but also the long-term good of the whole.