"We are not measured by the trials we meet -- only by those we overcome."
- - Spencer W. Kimball
June 14, 2012
The Flexible Family Mission Statement
by Hannah Bird

One of the dirty little secrets of the cluttered and chaotic is that we love books on organization.  I like to think that it is the anthropologist in me that wants to know more about these mythical people who can still find a pair of scissors a week after they have bought them.  

The ideas are all so fresh and novel.  It is a glimpse into a whole new, much tidier world.  But every now and then, one of these marvelous notions actually manages to worm its way into my brain.

So it was with the family mission statement.  I first read about it in a book about time management that I later misplaced and had to reimburse the library for.  Honestly, that should have been my first hint that this idea was not for me.  But like a popcorn kernel in shoddy dental work, the idea just stuck.  

Pretty soon, I noticed the idea turning up in talks and articles.  I saw mommy bloggers make gorgeous framed mission statements.  It was all so focused and orderly.

Having found this magic key to perfect family management, I set out to write my own family mission statement.  It would be comprehensive yet brief.  It would inspire success and comfort in struggles.  It would be the firm foundation under my children's feet.  Probably.  If I could get it written.  

I struggled.  I wrote a mission statement and put it in my planner, only to rip it out and start again the next week.  I would try to write it in a house full of little people that I loved beyond all words, but still I could not create a mission statement that I felt would successfully guide my little (and then not so little) brood throughout their lives.

It was simply the difference between 8 am and 6 pm.  At 8 am, a good theme for Family Home Evening is, "Love one another."  By 6pm that has been replaced with, "Thou shalt not kill."  

I would start with the intent to capture the heart and soul  of what I wanted for my family.  I would end up with things like, "We will all wear our own underpants.  Even if we like the Disney princess ones mom bought our other sister better."  Or, "If mommy is very pregnant and falls down the concrete stairs to the basement, we will not say any new words we hear in front of Grandma and Grandpa."  So I gave up.

But I tend to throw myself into things wholeheartedly - even quitting.  So we didn't just not have a family mission statement.  We were a No Mission Statement family.  Having codified nothing, I was free to make up random faux mission statements at will.  "We don't bite people in this family," I would announce with every bit of the surety of a mommy blogger who had printed it in five colors and hung it on the wall.  "We do not whine at bedtime in this family."  "We do not write on the baby in this family."  "We do not wait until mommy is on the phone and then try karate kicks in this family."   

The proclamations fell thick and fast, and it wasn't long until everyone in the house was doing it.  My youngest son if we could remind people that we don't steal other people's special blankies in this family.  My oldest daughter assured a younger sister that we don't listen to Taylor Swift in this family.  

There were positive statements too.  My girls decided that in this family the only acceptable shoes are pointe shoes, ridiculously high heels or Converse.  My sons decided that we do not wear baggy shorts and sandals in this family.  The Anti-Mission Statement project had become collaborative.

And I decided to be OK with that.  Sure I could add it to my list of things I need to feel guilty about when I can't sleep.  But I won't.  Because I have been a mom for a lot longer now and I know something I didn't know when I first came across that idea.  The mission of our family is to be a family.  Every hasty and sometimes pointed addition to the lore knit us a little tighter.  The kids you put to bed at night are not the same kids that wake up in the morning.  They are growing and changing.  And your family will too.  It's okay to do that together.

Some day when I have time, I am still going to make a beautiful framed mission statement for my family.  But this time, it will be an erasable white board captioned with, "Insert deeply held foundational beliefs here."  Knowing the people I live with at some point it will read, "We do not use the family mission statement board to make jokes about intestinal distress in this family."

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About Hannah Bird

I am me. I live at my house with my husband and kids. Mostly because I have found that people get really touchy if you try to live at their house. Even after you explain that their towels are fluffier and none of the cheddar in their fridge is green.

I teach Relief Society and most of the sisters in the ward are still nice enough to come.

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