One day, after my husband, three daughters, and I had moved across the country and away from our large, extended family, we received in the mail a photograph of my husband’s brother. All three girls had known him well, so I was amazed to find that my three-year-old daughter did not recognize him. We had been away for only six months! This incident convinced me that we needed to spend time talking with our children about our family members if we wanted them to grow up feeling that they knew and belonged to an extended family unit. My husband and I decided to use some of our family home evenings to accomplish this goal.
We began with my husband’s grandmother, who was about to celebrate her eighty-first birthday. Following our home evening lesson the week before her birthday, we told the children that someone very special to us was about to have a birthday and that we were going to help her celebrate it. We began by showing several photos of Grandma while helping them remember some of the things they had enjoyed doing with her in the past. Next, my husband related some of his memories of her and of the experiences he had enjoyed as a boy on her farm.
We then got out the colored paper, crayons, and glue, and each girl made a birthday card for her great-grandmother. My husband wrote a letter telling Grandma of his love and appreciation for her. We mailed the greetings the next day.
The girls enjoyed this activity, but more important, they learned more about their great-grandmother. They learned that even though she is far away, she loves us. They learned that it is fun to do something nice for someone else.
We all learned that it is important to set aside time to build family relationships, and long-distance birthday parties have become a tradition in our home.