Every home has an atmosphere.
Now we do understand that about a house. We set the thermostat on the heater/air conditioner. (I can hear our unit at work in the background even as I type these words.) We are conscious of smells, the air we breathe in our home, etc. We notice when the house seems a bit "smoky" and then realize that something is burning on the stove.
The same is true regarding a home. Homes and families have certain atmospheres. Have you ever noticed these kinds of atmospheres in certain homes?
- Some homes are tense. Someone is always upset or the others seem very concerned about not getting a certain family member upset.
- Some homes are noisy. No, I’m not talking about the noise of children or conversation. I’m talking about the television. It blares from the time the first person comes home from work until the last person goes to bed. No real conversation. It is not on because someone is watching a certain program. Rather, it blares as a mindless way to pass time each evening.
- Some homes are silent. No real conversation of any depth. Information may be exchanged. ("I’m going to the store." "The teacher says I need a notebook by tomorrow.") Not much conversation beyond that.
- Some homes are lonely. There is no sense that persons in this family are emotionally connected to one another. Yes, you all are under the same roof at night. Emotionally, however, you are on your own. So, even though you may be with your family in a physical sense, you feel isolated and alone.
- Some homes are negative. It seems like someone is always whining and griping. Someone is complaining about this or that. Few people laugh at themselves in this home. There may be yelling and even more.
I thought about this a lot when our children were babies. I watched other families. I thought about the kind of atmosphere I wanted in our home.
I didn’t want a home where every night I sat in front of the television just mindlessly killing time. I didn’t want a home where we were not connected emotionally. I didn’t want a home where each of us lived in our own worlds with very little connection or conversation. I wasn’t sure what to do, but I could see what I didn’t want our family to be.
I remember one day driving someplace with our older child. She was, as I recall, a toddler. My mindless habit, prior to having children, was to turn the car radio on every time I went somewhere in the car. Anyway, on that day, I remember thinking, "Don’t turn that radio on. Talk to this child." I did, even though that child was very, very small. Later on as my children got older and wanted the radio on, I tried to make sure it did not drown out or even eliminate conversation.
I want to stress the importance of being intentional about the kind of atmosphere we have as families. There is nothing wrong with watching television, reading a book, or working with the computer in the evenings when we get home from work or school. The problem occurs when what we are doing becomes mindless. It is easy to just mindlessly numb ourselves each evening instead of investing in the kind of warmth, connection, and nurture that a home can have. If we don’t think about the kind of atmosphere we want in our homes, we are likely to simply duplicate the kind of home that we grew up in. This may have been a positive experience or one that was not so positive. Far better to be intentional.
Of course, you don’t have total control over such an atmosphere. Nevertheless, you can make the commitment to contribute whatever you can toward the kind of atmosphere that makes a home an inviting, welcoming place.
There are no children in our house now. Yet, the atmosphere is still important even though Charlotte and I are by ourselves. I want the kind of atmosphere both of us look forward to after a long day at work.
What kind of atmosphere did you grow up in? What kind of atmosphere would you like to build in your own home?