Family First

Nathan and I have a very full (mind you, very fulfilling) life. There are so many working parts at play on a constant basis, as is the case for the majority of parents, let alone when both parents work full-time. A multitude of choices and decisions have to be made to ensure a sense of stability in the household. And that’s what he and I do day in and day out to create an environment that promotes a sense of security and peace in times when our kids need it the most. With a 13, 10, and 7 year old… that’s always.

Painting by Taelyn, age 10.
Painting by Taelyn, age 10.

Nathan and I have a few mandates in our house. “Family First” and “Together” are at the top. These apply to everyone under our roof. “Family First” is at the forefront of my and Nathan’s conversations when considering venturing onto new paths, whether singularly or collectively. If it doesn’t somehow create a win for everyone, it’s not going to travel very far. That’s not to say we cater to some sort of unseen boundaries or unwillingness to bend within our family. Everyone needs to be stretched and encouraged to step outside of their comfort zones in order to usher in growth. Nathan and I just have to ensure that stretching is done with grace and support.

Photo by Brian Doben for People Magazine, August 24, 2009
Photo by Brian Doben for People Magazine, August 24, 2009

“Together” means we don’t move forward unless we’re all on the same page. It means we make sure that what we say, what we do, how we speak to each other, and how we communicate respect is incredibly important and carries a tremendous weight within our family. It’s a “no man left behind” mentality. It’s also great training for the kids to incorporate those ideas outside our four walls as well, where the pressure of conformity threatens the bond we hold and the children’s identity tainted.

“I want to know who our kids are surrounding themselves with, what kind of influences they’re taking on, and whether our priorities line up with the priorities of their friends’ households as well.”

As a mom, I want our house to be the place where our kids want to bring their friends to. I want to know who our kids are surrounding themselves with, what kind of influences they’re taking on, and whether our priorities line up with the priorities of their friends’ households as well. That’s not a control thing or an overprotective mindset. I believe it’s just wisdom. And by no means am I tooting our horn here or trying to imply that we are the modern day “Cleaver” family. No no. I’m speaking from personal experience.

I had very minimal parental involvement and/or discernment as I entered into my teenage years and that undoubtedly contributed to having serious security and trust issues growing up. As a parent now myself, I look back and see that the freedom I felt I had, the fact that I could pretty much do whatever I wanted with little-to-no consequence, led to enormous heartache and a sense of feeling very alone. I had serious scars and a long, turbulent journey to travel towards healing. It came by moving forward, one step at a time. And thank God… by meeting the man that would hold my hand and help me walk out of the trenches and into a more promising future.

m. 2002
m. 2002

I’m very blessed that I have Nathan as my partner, as my better half. His compassion, his strength and his ability to find hope when all seems lost has been such a gift to me. Stemming from an equally painful upbringing, he understood the strife and uncertainty that comes along for the ride. We were young when we met, still reeling from the effects of broken families. Over the 17 years we’ve loved one another, we’ve encountered tremendous challenges, some that most individuals couldn’t comprehend and most couples couldn’t survive. But it’s in the midst of immense and seemingly overwhelming struggles, you’re presented with the choice of “fight or flight”. You can accept to succumb or you can determine to triumph. It’s in that moment you learn what you’re made of and what matters most in your life.

“Knowing what’s most important to you and then keeping that which you value above all the challenges have and will face as you navigate your daily life is by far the greatest advantage you can gift yourself.”

To Nathan and I, it was breaking the bonds of troubled pasts to build a new, solid foundation for our home and our children to stand upon. We’ve always said that we want our children to grow up to be 10 times greater that we. This is why although we may not always get it right the first (or second or third) time, we will always keep fighting to grow and build upon the values we’ve set. That’s family first, that is together, that’s what life for us is all about.

—C.L.

Listen to Love Lit The Sky

Love Lit the Sky is an original song written and performed by WestLeigh (Chyler Leigh & Nathan West).

For Further Reading on Parenting and Family

The Importance of Being LittleThe First 1,000 DaysYou Are Not Special