I had a great idea. The more I read the news of a troubled country, the more I wanted to encourage families to parent well and thus avoid the traps that seem to push millennial-minded America further and further into a downward spiral. With those thoughts in mind, came this really great idea … I would write about my friend Emily.

I’ve known Emily since she was nine and watched her grow up, work her way through college, and eventually marry her life-long friend, Jason. An adorable couple, they now have three young children and live in their first-purchased home, a small three-bedroom condo.

I remember Emily telling me after baby number two that they considered buying a bigger house but wanted to stay within their means. I so applaud that decision; getting caught in crippling debt is certainly a parent trap. However, raising three children in a condo is not the American norm; especially not in the Northwest. I imagine that many would worry about the kind of childhood that comes withOUT a big back yard, a bonus room, spacious bedrooms, a suburban neighborhood with lots of kids to hang out with.

Thanks to FB, I’ve been privy to this family’s adventures for several years now. I’ve seen anything but a deprived childhood. There is something kid-friendly happening constantly: the zoo, Disney land, the swimming pool, the park, the library, Grandpa’s house, downtown Seattle … on goes the places where Griffin, Jack, and Ava play.

Griffin’s latest project
Jack, deeply enthralled in a book.
E & J's kids berry picking
Berry picking
Ava's picture
Ava is the cheery artist in the family.
So cold in Seattle that the trees turned blue.

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So is the only way to survive a small home to get out all of the time? Not Emily’s family. There is no doubt that being squished into tight living spaces isn’t very inspirational. Thus, comes the flip side of the parent trap  – do you take on surmounting debt in the gamble that all the right stuff will guarantee a happy childhood?  Or do you to take on insanity, trying to survive while stumbling over craft projects, building blocks, baby dolls, and one another?

Emily and Jason chose insanity.  The result?  Incredibly talented and creative kids. I am the proud owner of one of Ava’s amazing drawings and rumor has it, that there is an endless supply of these first edition creations. Lego people (and monsters), books (Griffin is on his way to being an author), pirates at play (Jack), board games with Dad … this isn’t a family that sits in the same room and ignores each other or does nothing … at least not most of the time. (They are human, after all!)

What I love about this bunch is that they don’t need all the “stuff” to be a family. They just need … well … they just need their family! You know the scenario where you drag your feet about exercising but finally decide to start jogging? BUT before you do, you go out and purchase new shoes … a jogging outfit … an Ipod … cool headband … etc? Three weeks later you have a closet full of new gadgets and that’s about it. You probably didn’t even go for a walk, let alone start jogging. This is the best word picture for what Jason and Emily are NOT doing. They aren’t waiting for more stuff to live life fully with their kids; they are living in the moment! A whole-hearted moment produces a lifetime bond … this is good parenting. This is what America needs a whole lot more of!

Having jotted down my great idea about Emily’s role-model family, I sent her a draft with a note warning her that it might feel a bit “Pollyanna-ish.” However, I think I had captured the essence of what I appreciate most about them.  Her answer helped me see that my “good idea” was maybe more important than I realized, but boy did I miss it on what is involved in trying to avoid the trap of living outside of your means. My  FB view was certainly shortsighted …   TO BE CONTINUED.