When Heather generously invited me to contribute to this series I was flattered, and then attempted to kindly decline. Rude right? But I was concerned that if I wrote about my family’s FHE experiences, it would either be a) hypocritical and fudging the truth, or b) honest and a serious, righteous disappointment. However Heather persevered and insisted that my perspective was important, and probably not that uncommon. So, here is my unconventional and very candid contribution to “This is What FHE Looks Like at My House.”
Frankly, an average FHE at my house looks like my husband and me saying “oh, hey.... it’s Monday... quick, what can we do and call it FHE?” No, truly, that’s how it goes most of the time. Here’s our challenge: we’ve been married three years, no children, both in school and working, and so for three years now we’ve been trying to get past the feeling that FHE is a “glorified date night” and actually a valuable commandment we need to follow. Because it really does feel like a glorified date night! And maybe in our case, that is what it is. I welcome any insights, because like I said, we’re definitely a work in progress.
Heather composed some lovely questions that, given my lack of FHE diligence and unconventional family situation, I will attempt to answer but will probably have to tweak a bit.
First, structure. Do we have a structure? Not really. How I admire the darling families that use an FHE chart and delegate different tasks to various family members. It’s effective and adorable at the same time. Not really sure about how to apply it in our situation though, it would probably be something like:
Jordan: lesson (aka short discussion of a spiritual experience, scriptures, or spiritual insight one of us had)
Kelsey: song (yea right, we definitely do not sing songs with just the two of us. That would be a lie too... But we probably should! It just feels weird with only two, relatively untalented voices)
Kelsey: activity (go on a bike ride, watch a TV show, visit with friends, make a treat together)
Jordan: treat (aka eat the ice cream in the freezer, or the treat we made for the “activity”)
And changing the assignments around wouldn’t be very eventful. So on the structure front, I think the only thing that we’ve really tried and found effective is to get together with another couple (friends or from the ward) and one couple is responsible for the lesson and/or activity, and the other couple is in charge of a treat. This has worked really well for us the different times we’ve tried it, and probably provided some of the more effective FHE evenings we’ve ever had. It also does wonders for keeping in touch with friends and fellowshipping in the ward. We are generally really busy on the weekends with work, homework, and callings, so Monday night FHE can be a great time for us to spend quality time with friends or people we’d like to become friends with.
Second, an example of lesson plans that has worked well for us. Some have worked better than others, some are more fun than others, and some are probably bordering on really not being an FHE. I thought I’d include a list here and you can also tell me your thoughts about whether it’s a good idea or not :)--
- Watch a show together. We really don’t watch a lot of TV, so taking a break from homework, popping some popcorn, and watching a show together can actually be really relaxing and is an activity we have looked forward to. In terms of an activity, I think we both enjoy it and enjoy spending some low-key time together. In terms of a spiritual message, it’s not really so effective. And this is where I’m a little out of the loop-- does every FHE need a spiritual component? Or is it okay to just have a fun/relaxing activity sometimes? My instinct is yes, but I welcome your insights.
- Go on a bike ride together. We both have great bikes and love to be outside, so this has been a fun activity especially in the spring or summer. Probably one of our favorites.
- Have an FHE picnic. For our wedding we got a really beautiful picnic basket that we love to use when the weather is good. We’ve used it in our backyard, at various parks, up in the mountains, etc. It’s fun to use a “picnic” as an excuse to explore the area and find a new, beautiful place we haven’t seen before.
- Have some friends over. I already talked about this one a bit, but basically what we do is split the activity/lesson and dessert, and then get together with friends. This is probably one of the most conventional FHEs we’ve attempted, and we’re always happy with the result. It’s probably not the best for nights when we have a lot of homework though, because we’re big talkers and it tends to take 1-2 hours or so. Below is a picture from when we went rock climbing with some friends for an activity (we’re on the left). That was a really fun one!
- Select an activity/lesson from FHE for Newlyweds. We received this gift from a friends for our wedding, and when we take the time to use it is always a great resource. Activities include talking about what we get each other if we each received a thousand dollars just to do something nice, talking about past family traditions and which ones we’d like to have in the future, and talking about our favorite experiences and the qualities in our spouse that we admire, etc. Things like that. It’s great for learning more about each other and planning for the future.
- Get really creative: Sometimes, when we are really ambitious, we plan something more creative. For example, one time we went to the local library and looked at children’s books together. I had been hired to illustrate a book, and we thought it would be helpful to look at different styles of illustration and pick the ones we liked the best. It was really fun and we even talked about different stories from our childhood that we enjoyed the most, and which ones would be fun to buy and have in our library for our future children.
Ultimately, has FHE at my house helped me to grow in my testimony, and grow closer to my family? I feel that when we take the time to plan something, even if it is unstructured and a little last minute, that yes, that is true. We can always use a little more time together, learning about each other and the gospel. And we can definitely always use a break from homework. Almost undoubtedly because of this truth, we have both felt the Spirit prompting and nudging us to make FHE a bigger priority in our lives. I feel like the reason there is two-fold: first, we need to start the tradition and habit of having FHE now so that when we have children it comes naturally, and second, we can benefit as a family from FHE even now, when we are so small. The challenge in our case is actually planning something, and coming up with something that is a viable “FHE.” As you may have noticed, the activities I listed really are more or less the same as date nights. So I guess my questions are:
How can a couple plan and implement effective FHE activities and lessons?
How do you cater an institution that is typically exemplified in big families to work for a small family?
How do you make this work in your family?