I’m lucky enough to live in a beautiful area known as the Central Coast of New South Wales, about an hour north of Sydney, Australia. Life here is pretty good. We’re not in a big smoky city, but we’re also not exactly in the middle of nowhere. We have pretty much everything we need here, and can easily hop on a train to get to Sydney if need be.
A couple of months ago or so on a Monday night, the Central Coast and surrounding areas were hit with a huge storm. Hundreds of trees fell down all over the place, and lots of damage was done to many people’s fences and houses. Roofs were broken, leaving unlucky residents without any protection from the violent winds and rain.
How Did This Affect Us?
We were one of the lucky ones, with the only damage being the loss of a basketball hoop (which fell down and broke with the strong winds), and loss of food that was in the fridge and freezer because of the loss of power.
I’ll admit, at first it didn’t seem perfect – not by a long shot! Not only did we lose power, but we lost phone lines as well. It wasn’t safe to go anywhere with the storms raging, so we were effectively isolated at home with no power or means of communication with the outside world.
Our power went out at around 6pm, and given it was approaching winter it was already dark by then. Our hot water system is connected to our power so for us, no power = no hot water = no showers/baths. The aspect of no showers or baths also wasn’t the “perfect bit”…hang on, I’m getting to that!
What Happened Next?
We soon realized we had no phones. And it was clear that the power outage was widespread – one peek outside and we could only see darkness. After fumbling for a torch, we got ourselves ready for bed nice and early: it’s not like there was anything else to do! And then we naively hoped all would be sorted in the morning.
The Next Two Days
Our power was out for the next two whole days, and our phones were out for the next week. Again we were lucky, some people in the worst affected suburbs lost power for weeks.
Schools and pre-schools were closed for days, as they also had no power or phones. Work wasn’t happening as we had no computer access. Life, or anything resembling normality, effectively ceased for a little while.
So what did we do?
Quality Time With Family
We soon adopted the philosophy that this whole situation was out of our control. Who knew when the power or phones would be fixed? Or when it would even stop raining? And what could we do about it? There was no point stressing about what we couldn’t do or change.
So we made the most of the unique opportunity we’d been given.
We enjoyed quality time together as a family. And lots of it.
It was amazing. With no distractions, no ability to work, no operational mobile devices (they soon ran out of power and couldn’t be recharged), and no power, we were forced to spend real time together. Pretty sad that it took such a drastic situation to force us to do this!
Our Time Spent With Family: What We Did
If you want to know what quality time with family is all about, read on. I should mention first, when I say “we” I’m referring to myself with my 4 and 7-yr-old boys, and sometimes also my husband (their dad).
We read a lot of books together. We did puzzles. We played board games. We set up a tent with old sheets and chairs, and we huddled under it. We played Uno and snap. We talked about lots of different things. We laughed a lot.
At nighttime, we set up mattresses in our lounge room and all slept in a row together. Maybe not conducive to the best night’s sleep but it actually wasn’t that bad! Our relationships strengthened to no end, it was truly magical.
Looking back on this time we shared, there are so many other activities we could have enjoyed together. There are some great ideas of family activities for a rainy day here.
When The Power Came Back
At about 8:30pm two days after we lost our power it came back on. We squealed with joy and couldn’t contain our relief. At least that was our initial reaction.
Interestingly, I could literally feel my stress levels raise through the roof the next morning as suddenly there was so much to do. Like returning from a holiday, there was a lot of work to catch up on and normal activities to be resumed. We still had no phones, but having power was enough to take us back to reality. And the quality time with family was over.
The Lesson Learned
I’ve had to ask myself the obvious question: why wait for a significant natural disaster to spend so much quality time with my family? It was only two days, and whilst in one way they passed quickly, they also seemed quite long. I don’t remember a time before this storm where I could dedicate so much time to my children.
Hence my new goal since then: pretend we have no power for at least one whole weekend day each month. Turn off the phones, remove the electronic devices and don’t allow any distractions. And use the time as an adventure to enjoy each other’s company. That’s it.
So there’s my challenge for you. I promise that if you try this just once, your relationship with your family will dramatically improve. Time is a precious thing, and time spent with family is the best investment you can make.