The jar, the concept and my father’s legacy
Newly entering my 40s, I am fortunate to have two children, both boys, my youngest is 5 and my eldest is 13. I have a wonderfully kind partner who also has two young children bringing yet more life and colour into the house. I have a younger sister, a very talented artist who lives in Scotland and, biased or not, I have the best Mother in the world, who very conveniently lives just around the corner.
I shall just interject here that my mum, who I very nearly lost on Armistice Day 2013, is quite simply one of the strongest, most independent, warm-hearted women I know. She is an incredible role model, unwaveringly supportive and the sort of Nanny who is not afraid of long walks in the mud, cake mess in the kitchen and potty training. I know I and my children are very very lucky to have her.
Like so many other Mothers I know, I work full time. I also, most importantly, take care of my children and try desperately to carve out some meaningful moments, however fleeting, with my family as often as I can without forgoing the washing, the shopping and keeping a very basic level of cleanliness and order in my home.
So what brought me to this idea of trying to complete 52 challenges in 52 weeks? A combination of things, but ultimately the sad fact that I lost one of my parents, one of the most influential people in my children’s lives, my Dad.
In 2015 my clever and kind Father passed away so quickly that the 6 weeks between his cancer diagnosis and his falling asleep for the final time barely gave us time to say goodbye. Two years preceding this heartbreaking event in our lives, my family, which included myself, my two boys, my mum and my Dad had fallen into a ritual family supper night, every Wednesday, every week. This night became precious to all of us long before Dad became ill and gave us an evening in the middle of every week where we could all sit at the kitchen table, drink wine, talk, share stories and most importantly eat a meal together. It was unhurried and relaxed and we bonded as a family, even more in those few years, just by making this small effort. We all felt included, heard, accepted and appreciated. Family supper night was important and we respected it by virtually arranging our lives around it.
After Dad’s death, my mum and I felt we needed to continue our family supper nights but personally I missed his presence there so much. Yes, he was grumpy, sitting with his arms crossed, saying very little and just observing the family hustle and bustle but he was a well-read man of values and good standards, his presence was always a quiet comfort plus he was the biggest fan of my roast potatoes! After he died I dreaded seeing his empty chair at my kitchen table every Wednesday, it absolutely broke my heart. He left such a hole in my life I decided I needed to somehow change the evening, give it a new focus. Dad was an intellectual, a lecturer in the philosophical subjects of morality and ethics so I tried to think of a way to incorporate these values into our special supper night, it had to be something he would have approved of.
Before the New Year, my mum asked me whether I’d be making any New Year’s Resolutions. Yes, I said. I’ve bought a jar and written 52 mini challenges that we can all do together. We’ll pull a challenge out of the jar every Wednesday during family supper night and try to complete it before the following Wednesday. She liked the idea. It was simple, it was meaningful, it was achievable and through the thought out challenges, my young children learnt the value of moral and ethical behaviour that my Dad had held so dear.
…and so the simple 52 challenges in 52 weeks was born…
The premise of the original idea was to do something each and every week for a whole year, something which either contributed to a worthy cause, strengthened the family bond or demonstrated the importance of altruism, community, and friendship. It has developed since in so many ways that I am currently turning it into what will be, I hope, a wonderful book. In the meantime, however, I thought a blog would be useful not only for myself and for my writing but also to give others the chance to try what has worked so incredibly well in my home over the last year. So, to ease those of you interested in this idea in gently I will aim to publish one little challenge every FORTNIGHT or so – so no pressure.
This blog and in time my book will be a legacy to my Dad, a gentleman, a wonderful role model to his Grandsons and my absolute favourite man.