A couple of weeks ago, my article on the Search Institute’s Family Assets came out in the Fuller Youth Institute’s ejournal. It later led to a conversation about the assets that were present in my family growing up. We flatter ourselves that we did ok by the assets, overall. I thought I’d share some stories of assets from the Burns family.
Asset #1: Family meals
You know how I don’t cook? Shockingly, that isn’t that high of a value for anyone in my family. Now, my mom knows how to cook (where I don’t really), but she’s never particularly enjoyed it. She and I share a love for baking. Cooking, not so much.
Growing up, we did eat family meals, and the vast majority of them were indeed home cooked. But by high school, I was playing volleyball several nights a week and youth group was on Sunday and Tuesday nights. We kept the value of family meals alive by sacrificing home cooked some of the time, opting instead for our favorite hole in the wall Mexican food.
Several nights a week I had a belly full of guacamole and an hour of real conversation with my parents. (I’m an only child, if you didn’t know. Got your stereotypes ready? Good, good.) We decided that if the choice was between the time together or the time prepping and washing dishes, we’d go for together. At Chile Red’s.
Asset #2: Meaningful traditions
Not to brag, but we nail this. For today, I’ll just share Christmas.
1: Several days before Christmas, someone would buy cherry and butter rum LifeSavers. I’ll explain why later.
2: On Christmas Eve, we had church, and we all had jobs. Dad was preaching, Mom was part of the music, and I was the projector assistant, helping Sue with the transparencies. Every year. (Once technology evolved beyond transparencies, I’d sit with a friend’s family for the services.)
3: After services, we went to In-n-Out. They are one of the only places open that night. (Eventually, we moved on to tamales. Anybody else live by the rule that it’s not Christmas without tamales? Really, you cannot celebrate the miracle of God encasing himself in human flesh without also enjoying the deliciousness of pork encased in masa.)
4: After In-n-Out, we’d pick one present out for each family member to open. If that person was getting socks, they’d find out at Christmas Eve; the good stuff got saved. But this satisfied my desire for presents for the time being. The rest of presents would wait for a very. long. time. (If you’re a kid.)
5: We’d lay out our clothes, set our alarms, prep a thermos or two and head to bed. Then, around 5am we were up and getting ready for the snow. Because we skied on Christmas Day.
I learned to snow ski when I was about three or so, and we spent several days every winter skiing. But Christmas was the best day. The slopes are quiet clear on Christmas morning. And this way, I got a white Christmas, even in L.A. And every ride on the lift was the time to eat the aforementioned LifeSavers.
Around mid-day we’d head back down the mounting, saying neener-neener to the cars all lined up in traffic trying to get to Christmas snow. We’d shower and put on sweats, and then, finally, we’d open gifts.
5(B): The world got better when my mom starting making the best cinnamon rolls ever. 5am is not so bad when there’s cream cheese frosting.
Asset #3: Democratic decision making
When I was 16, I walked down to where my parents were having breakfast on a Saturday and told them I was piercing my bellybutton. I had just hung up the phone with my best friend, who had wanted to pierce hers for some time and decided today was the day. She invited me along, and I was up for it.
Parents, not so much.
So we talked it through, about how I just thought it was fun and liked that it was easy to hide. About how they didn’t see why you’d do it if no one can see it. About what it meant for the small group of 2nd grade girls I led at church (where we decided I had to wear tops long enough to do the hand-motions and still not have it show.)
We talked for about an hour overall. In the end, they said yes; they even came with with me.
Now, I don’t think it’s an example of the asset just because, as the 16 year old, I got my way. It was the process. The fact that they started by saying no, but stopped, talked with me, and were able to allow for my side even if they thought it was crazy.
Incidentally, parents, if you are in a similar situation, we know now what happens to bellybutton piercings during pregnancy. Even if you’ve taken it out years earlier. Just go there. You’ll win. I predict the entire trend will die as soon as the first women to do it (my age) share this information with the generations behind them.
So there you are, three expressions of the assets from my family of origin. If nothing else, you can now go on feeling like your family is less weird by comparison.