Things were getting bad again in our home, after a “honeymoon” period where it seemed the abuse was a thing of the past. The kids and I both felt the tension building again. My ex said he was getting help, but his attitude toward us and his role in the household remained rocky.
I wanted to do something without causing problems, so I chose to create something to show in a tangible way what I envisioned for our family, what I wanted our family to be. I hoped the image created would be seen and would somehow hit his heart.
I had an old Up Words game that I had gotten at Goodwill a while back. I got in knowing the letters would come in handy for some craft project. I knew this was just the thing I had in mind. My kids and I brainstormed what we wanted in our household, the words, actions, attitudes that we wanted our family to embody. We came up with a list of words. We used our ideas and words and played around with them until they fit together on the Up Words board. Then we glued them down with heavy-duty craft glue. It was a great image with the words and ideas that were most important to my kids and me.
We set it up in a prominent place in the house and my hope was that he would see it and see the need to help create those things in our household. Of course, it was a lofty goal that was not going to happen. One thing that is often true of an abuser, unless they see in their heart they are wrong and need help, they won’t see they are creating or have anything to do with the fear or discomfort their family feels.
The kids and I made an image that would become our family motto or creed. It was not long after that day that I finally knew it was time to get us away from this man. I had to go to court and request an Order of Protection (what a Restraining Order is called in Arizona) to keep us safe from him. I was forced to call the police when he was threatening me one afternoon. I already had the order, so when I called I told the 911 operator and when the officers got there, they not only made sure we were safe, but they served him with the order and then removed him from our house.
As you can imagine, this was the beginning of many changes that my kids were about to face, that were moving us toward a better life, but were extremely hard none the less. We already had this amazing image of what we wanted for our family. Through this experience, I was able to refer them back to our motto when they felt unsure about the turn our family was taking. I would tell them, now we feel ‘safe’ and ‘love’ and can have ‘fun’ in our house.
We used those words as the anchor to remind us who we were and who we wanted to be. The three of us rebuilt our foundation upon those words. When we stray, all three of us point each other back to read them and remember who we want to be.
We carried it to our new house and while we were settling it, it was one of the first things we proudly displayed. It made the new house truly feel like home to us. We are now in a new home filled with peace and safety. There are no terrible memories here, each day we strive to treat each other with kindness and respect and all the things displayed so proudly in our family motto.
Family mottos can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, formats, and materials. They can be a simple phrase, a poem, or a list or image of words. I challenge you to sit and think about what you want to be your family motto. If you have kids, enlist their help. Then come up with a fun way to display it proudly.
This new motto will help you focus as you reestablish after a challenge or a change, and it will