I had the opportunity to visit my family this last week and it was such a blast!  We had so much fun playing all day that I am absolutely exhausted.  It’s so good to be home and sometimes I think we maybe need a little time away to remember how much we appreciate it.  I remember feeling this way at a very young age, and have definitely seen it in my own child.  My son is so happy and ready to play all the time.  He had so much fun with his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and new friends, but at the end of our trip you could tell he was in a little bit of a funk.  He wasn’t sleeping well and was just a little bit cranky.  I had a feeling it was just time to come home and I was right.  The second he saw his daddy after coming off the plane, he was trying to do jumping jacks out of the stroller.  He was yelling, “Dad, dad, dad!” at the top of his lungs and when my husband picked him up and threw him in the air, he had never been happier.

What is it about our homes that make us and our families so drawn to them?  George Washington said, “I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world.”  This is so true of my family.  Although vacations and travel are so much fun, the old adage is certainly true, “There’s no place like home.”

I think part of my answer to why we seek for home is found in this quote by Frederick W. Robertson,

Home is the one place in all this world where hearts are sure of each other.  It is the place of confidence.  It is the place where we tear off that mask of guarded and suspicious coldness which the world forces us to wear in self-defense, and where we pour out the unreserved communications of full and confiding hearts.  It is the spot where expressions of tenderness gush out without any sensation of awkwardness and without any dread of ridicule.

It is so important to have a place like this in our lives.  As a recreation therapist, I worked with troubled teenage girls.  One of the activities we would frequently do was to make masks.  We would make them just like paper mashe, but with the kind of material that makes casts.  This is “tape” that you wet and it hardens to make a hard shape.  We would cut this tape into smaller pieces, have the girls cover their face in Vaseline (so we wouldn’t be doing any unplanned hair removal), and wet and place the pieces on their face until we covered their face to form all of their unique features.  When we were finished they had to wait with the mask on for about 10 minutes until it was completely dry.  We helped them lift off the mask and it was always astonishing to see how perfectly this easy mask replicated their own face.  Now, we would have them decorate the mask and make it their own, with these simple instructions:  On the inside, you are to create your true self and on the outside you put how you think people see you.  In almost every mask, the different sides were conflicted.  Some girls put on a happy face every day, when inside, they hid hate and turmoil.  Others felt that those around them perceived them as mean and troubled when on the inside they felt like all they wanted is peace and happiness.  Some masks were not so extreme but one thing was for sure, all of these kids had trouble being their true selves.  As we discussed their masks, we found that some girls could share their true selves at home, but others didn’t have a places or people that they felt they could share all of their feelings with.

Picture by Grand Velas Riviera Maya

I realized how important it is to make our homes a safe place for our kids.  A refuge from the world where they know they will be loved no matter what happens.  A place where they can be themselves.  My husband and I want this for our home.  All parents have different ways of creating this kind of atmosphere, but I want to share three ways we are trying to make our home a safe place for our kids:

  1. Take time to listen to our kids.
  2. Allow all kinds of feelings in our home.  (In therapy we would always say that there are no wrong feelings, only wrong ways to display them.  If you are angry, it is ok to talk about the problem but punching a hole in the wall is an inappropriate way to display your feelings.  We want to make sure our kids feel ok to share all of the feelings with us, good or bad.)
  3. Create opportunities for one on one time with our kids.

I am so grateful for our home, and hope you’ll take the time to think about what you can do to create a home where your kids can take off their “mask” and be themselves!

:) Brittany