How to Get Your Kids to Support Your Next Door Project
By Jacey Eckhart
Kids never rise to the occasion in times of stress. Instead, they pretty much sink to the level of their training. That’s why I think it is never too soon to train your kids to be groomsmen.
Even if your oldest child is closer to walking around the block in a stroller than walking down the aisle, the concept of being a groomsmen will serve your family during every major event of your lives. Birthday parties. Graduations. Baptisms. Housewarmings. Funerals. Weddings. At these events in particular, we not only expect our family members to pull together for a special day, but we also genuinely need them to be their best selves.
Which is the challenge. I think what screws up major events is that while one person is having the biggest, best-est day, the other family members are reminded they aren’t quite getting their share—which leads to some really subpar behavior.
We started training our kids (and ourselves) to be groomsmen years ago when my husband was the captain of the commissioning crew for a brand new Navy ship. It was a huge undertaking. Picture a baptism for a 400-metric-ton baby.
We needed the kids to team up. To need less. To give more. When we tried this in the past, the kids groaned and dragged their feet. They looked at major events as an opportunity for someone to make them clean the bathroom.
I needed to motivate them without leaving any marks, so I told them that this time we were going to be Dad’s groomsmen. (Because I am clever at thinking things up like that.)
Unlike bridesmaids, who have an unfortunate reputation for complaining and spending too much time pulling on their strapless bras, groomsmen show up for you. Groomsmen do what you need them to do—move tables, pick up your granny from the airport, buy ice, wear silly socks.
“Do we hafta?” my son Sam whined when I told the kids my brilliant idea.
I gave him the evil eye. Surely he should be stepping up out of the goodness of his heart, right? But the guy was 12, and what did he know?
“Yes, we hafta,” I said. “Dad needs us to be lined up on his side for one of the biggest days of his life. He is not the only one in this family to have big days. All of us are going to have big days in our lives and we are going to need our family to show up and do us proud. So we are going to be his groomsmen.”
“Will I get to wear a tux?” Sam wanted to know.
The buy-in was on. All three of the kids pitched in during the weeks before the launching of the ship. As my husband took command of the ship in his white uniform with his sword on his hip, the four of us fist-bumped, “Groomsmen!”
Later that year, I was giving a speech in Germany and brought the family with me. “Groomsmen!” Brad reminded them when everyone was tired.
A couple of years later when my husband and the boys helped our daughter move to her dorm room, we were all, “Groomsmen, baby!”
It worked for us because we made the connection that everyone would have a turn to call on the strength and practical skills of the family.
When Sam got married a couple of years ago, he knew we would all be behind him. He knew then and he knows now he can count on all of us to put aside our own stuff and be his groomsmen. While we don’t always rise to the occasion, we do have the advantage of sinking to our training. And we’ve trained to stick together until the Next Door opens.