What a clogged grate taught me about family life.

Welcome to the 7th post in the series exploring how to create a thriving family culture,  based on ‘Belonging and Becoming’ by Mark and Lisa Scandrette.

Today we are thinking about how a clogged grate opened my eyes to something priceless. Random I know. Let me explain.

We live in a village near the Jurassic Coast in South West England. The fields around us are full of springs, and when it rains heavily, streams burst their banks. The previous owner of our home cleverly put in a little grate at the top of the driveway, to prevent a water deluge from flowing to (and possibly through) our front door. But tree branches dangle over the grill. And leaves fall off the trees on blustery days. And one by one the leaves get stuck.  Every so often I walk past the grill and think ‘Hmm, really must remove some of those leaves.’ But then I hear a bird tweet and the moment is lost.

Last month a heavy storm struck. Wind howled, trees shook, leaves fell, and the neglected grill was clogged with leaves. It could no longer perform its noble duty of diverting the water torrent away from our front door.And so the torrent came to pay us a visit.

In the morning, we opened the door and gasped at our barely recognisable driveway. It had been transformed into what looked like an army assault course – with large logs, piles of mud, mounds of stone, and river debris strewn all over it. All the protective gravel had been washed away in the torrent – undiverted by the now defunct clogged grate.

Our daily, seemingly harmless neglect had come back to bite us.

flooded roads

As you can imagine, the clean up operation took a lot more time and energy than it would have taken to pluck the leaves out on a regular basis. Sigh.

In a family or marriage, there are leaves of frustration, disappointment, anger, and hurt, which over time, if not dealt with, can clog up communication channels and create conflict. They may lie benign for a long time when the season is mild, but once a storm hits – sickness, stress, job loss, grief, the consequences of their neglect is devastating. Leaving the family relationship landscape strewn with unresolved debris and barely recognisable.

Some of us may respond explosively in the moment to conflict, expressing our anger or frustration easily. Others may withdraw to avoid conflict, finding it difficult to bring up hurts or unmet needs. Leaves of resentment or hurt or anger can be blocking communication flow between parents, or between siblings, or parents with children.

What rhythms do you create in your family to ensure this doesn’t happen?

Meeting regularly as a family, (or if you are parenting solo, with a trusted friend or family member) to reflect on how things are going, and de-clogging the grate – is a great place to start.

Lisa and Mark Scandrette offer 6 helpful tips. Not rocket science. All of it is obvious, but maybe there are some steps we skip over and need to revisit?

  1. Stop and Talk – Being intentional about table time, with regular attempts to go beyond the shallow, to dig deeper into how people are feeling. For example: Is anyone around the table carrying any hurts this week? Is there anyone here who has caused this hurt? What can we do to make it right?
  2. Listen to Each Other
  3. Own your part
  4. Give and Receive Forgiveness
  5. Affirm love (Some families do this by getting both parties to say some positive things they appreciate about the other).
  6. Explore solutions. What could we do to prevent this happening again in future?

So – what rhythms do your family have in place to help you keep the communication grate unclogged? Answers on a postcard please…



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