The Code

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Do you have a code?  One that you live by? 

The Boy Scouts do.  The US Military does.  The Vikings did; the Samurai did; even our church does.  It’s what they stand for.  It’s a kind of ancient mission statement with values. 

I did quite a bit of reading this summer, and one of the books I read was Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink.  Jocko is a former Navy Seal, and he loves to talk Code.  I had Gabe read another of Jocko’s books, The Way of the Warrior Kid.  In it, “Uncle Jake” comes to visit his weak and directionless nephew and teaches him to have his own code, and how he can build himself up, both mentally and physically.  Gabe said it was a good read. 

I was talking with the kids the other day about making our own Code.  The Whitehouse Code.  What does it mean to be a Whitehouse?  We decided it didn’t need to something we “all” are “all” the time, but rather an ideal we could/should strive for.  I told the kids that it’s very important to know who you are, and what’s expected of you.  They’re going to come to crossroads in life where they’ll be faced with decisions.  Having a thought-about definition to fall back on will help make those hard decisions a little easier.  One path should fall in line with how they define themselves.  The others may not. 

I know we all kind of know who and what we are, and hopefully what we stand for, but I liked the exercise of sitting down at the dining room table and talking about it as a group.  I was proud of their answers. 

Gabe felt that first off, a Whitehouse shouldn’t be wimpy.  I thought courage was a wonderful place to start.  Liv thought kindness was something that should define us.  I agreed.  They both wanted it mentioned that we stand up for the little guy and help those who cannot help themselves.  Not bad answers from middle schoolers. 

We started our list, then began combining terms and thinking of synonyms or broader terms that encompassed our original thoughts.  We had honesty, but felt that was a part of honor.  We initially had being tidy or clean, but that sort of folded itself into fitness, which we use to mean physically, mentally, and spiritual fitness.  We examined other famous Codes for inspiration. 

We had our final (rough draft) cut: 

A Whitehouse shows: Courage, Compassion, Fitness, Loyalty, Honor, and Faith. 

This lead to the development of a family crest, or coat of arms.  Gabe designed this.  It includes four quadrants, each representing another facet of our family.  It includes the Christian cross, an autism puzzle piece, tumbling/gym equipment meant to represent fitness, and mountains – our love of the outdoors. 

Taking the game one step further, we worked on a Game of Thrones style sigil.  We thought the animal to best personify us was the dog.  A yellow lab like Justus.  They’re friendly, playful, loyal, and family-oriented.  We’re still working on the specifics, but a yellow lab on a blue background. 

It’s an exercise I would recommend doing with your own kids.  For one, it’s fun to hear their answers.  Gabe had initially thought our sigil should incorporate a dragonfly.  They’re helpful, he says, but they can mean business when provoked.  He went right from dragonfly to lion.  Lions are tough and strong, but also live in big families. 

If you do try this at home, let me know how it goes and what’s on your sigil or crest. 

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