Posted in Relationships

Part 2 – What Does it Mean to “Be a Family?”

Part 2

Well, the results are in.  I printed out these three questions from previous “Part 1” of this blog post for each of my children to answer.  Their responses have been included with minor editing:

  • What does it mean “being family?”
    • Response 1:  “Having a loving connection of understanding and compassion for another human being. Having a spiritual connection with another person(s) that helps you learn to better yourself and just plain learn.”
    • Response 2:  “Being connected to each other, caring for each other. Being a group of related people who share in each others interests and passions, and supports each other in them.”
    • Response 3:  “Its more than being related to individuals by blood.  Friends may care for you, but they don’t nurture you like family does (unless you live with friends because of a bad family).  Family teaches you about home, how to live & work with others, and dealing with the world around you.”
  • How should people in a family behave toward one another?
    • Response 1:  “Trustingly, compassionately, lovingly, and understandingly.  Not like your families are strangers because they share something special that you wouldn’t with someone else you don’t interact with.”
    • Response 2:  “They should be responsive and attentive to one another.  Not to mention respectful and open.  When they’re involved in things that family does that the person doesn’t like doing, they should do it with their best attitude.”
    • Response 3:  “Kindly.  If there’s a problem, everyone must cooperate on how to fix it instead of setting it aside and telling people to “get over it.”  They should consider the feelings of others in all situations.  They shouldn’t discount someone because “that’s just the way he/she is.”  Every member of the family needs to know that he/she is loved.  A family member’s dreams and aspirations should be explored, not put down.  Everyone should feel like they belong and if they don’t, they should be brave enough to talk about it.  Everyone should be open to discussion and debate because in a family, everyone’s ideas should be heard and considered (even if they aren’t always accepted.)  But most of all, each member should treat each other well so that when kids head off into the big world, they have people to comfort them and a place where they’re always welcome.”
  • What can/should you expect by being a member of a family?
    • Response 1:  “Being able to communicate with another on the deepest personal and spiritual level that you wouldn’t be able to with any other person.  To be able to express yourself without being ridiculed.”
    • Response 2:  “I expect to be heard when I’m speaking without interruptions and with full acknowledgement.”
    • Response 3:  “Being considerate to others, having good common sense. More importantly, getting a good start in the world, because when you grow up with people who love you and treat you well, they give you almost all of the lessons of life you’ll ever need to know:  kindness, patience, helpfulness, confidence, tolerance, love and a bunch of other good things.

I was very touched to read their responses.  As a parent, one of the best things you can do is get into the habit of asking questions that require more than a “yes” or “no” response.  You’ll never understand how they are connecting the dots about relationships, much less the world around them, unless you involve them in discussions/thoughts you want them personally exploring.  Another reason why, as much as parents need a break…its time to banish “the kids table!”  Inter-generational conversation is necessary to gain healthy perspectives in the world.

To conclude from my last post what I could have stated before returning to work: “Okay, we know that mom has just recovered from being sick…she’s still not 100%!  Please be aware of her needs, and look out for her.  One of you take care of the dishes, all of you work together to make lunch and prep supper, everyone pay attention and be responsive to your mother so that if she needs you to do something, she doesn’t have to go looking for you or try hollering to find you with her sore throat.”  Instead, I assumed that three teenager’s focus would be to automatically be in that frame of mind.  If you read “Positive Discipline for Teenagers” you’ll know that’s just “not normal.”

I realized that all too often, just because our spouse/partner is a colleague in that aspect of life,  they are competent, and independent enough to take care of things—but if there are two parents, neither should feel alone (Cinderella Syndrome).  Being a family is truly a team activity!  Like football, chess, or any other game of strategy, you must be vigilant and remain aware of all activities at all times.  The individual parts of the team can fail if not supported and integrated with the others.  Communication is critical to success!

Due to generations of societal/gender behavior “norms” women tend to take care of too much (of the load) for the family, and men tend to “stay out of the way” (and help out only when asked/told/nagged)  This paradigm suggests that the woman is always the strategist (planning, preparing, predicting, investing, etc….)  This key aspect of the core relationship for keeping the family a “true family” must be shared.  Men, don’t forget your ideas can be helpful, your strengths are different but just as useful.  If you’ve made mistakes with your “involvement” in the past, talk with your partner acknowledging that you may not always get it right, but that you want to share, you want to help, you want to participate.  But if you are serious about being a better husband, father, friend….you’ve got to get your head in the game–this game…the family.

Family can be and is fun…but not if you’re fighting it.  Yes, family means giving up “me time!”  You can’t just continue all of your normal pre-children habits (unless you want a relationship that suffers fracturing).  If you chose to have children, that choice isn’t the end of your obligation/necessity–it is the beginning.  If your perspective on what it means to be family is all twisted around, look for other real life quality examples–they are around! Husbands, you are necessary, especially as fathers and the example you set for your children about what it means to be a man….to be family.

This post was just as much for me as it was for anyone reading who feels convicted.  Seriously, we have to get our heads in the game–think about your partner and ask how you can help.

Cheers to all, and thanks for reading!

Posted in Relationships

What Does it Mean to “Be a Family?”

Part 1

This is the question I posed to my children tonight.  It was an interaction with my wife today that made me realize that in some ways, I’ve been negligent and haven’t done the greatest job at being a nurturing partner.

My wife was sick last week!  Remember, she’s the stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of our three children!  In her usual way, she said she’d be fine, she knew that I have a lot on my plate with my full-time job and pursuit of my degree in Business!  I said “That’s why I accrue sick leave…to take care of family; nonsense, I’m staying home!”  Last week was the week she had chosen to begin the kids school year (we homeschool year round to be able to accommodate for times when either she or the kids are ill, if a crisis arises in the family or we want to take a short family vacation.)  Anyway, I ended up taking two days off…one was definitely not enough!  She still wasn’t completely recovered, but feeling better than two days before.

She, like many stay-at-home moms, has a passion for our children and tries her best to ensure she’s providing the best education for them. Due to my past military career, she learned to “go-it-alone” for so long that she doesn’t often ask for help for anything, and she always puts the needs of everyone else ahead of her own.  Where I failed on the nurturing end is, she still wasn’t at the top of her game, and I didn’t leave any instructions for the children….several things I could have stated (like most men, I assume too much!)

I won’t reveal the things I could’ve/should’ve said because I want to wait until we have our family meeting and hear what the children have to say about my question….but the experience and a few other interactions with my wife recently has caused me to think about what being a family means.

My mind raced quite a bit this afternoon pondering this question–weaving together bits and pieces from books I’ve read about relationships, parenting, family, love, and loss.  So, I’ll just leave you with these questions and look forward to your responses.  Stay tuned!  Later this weekend I’ll share with you the answers my children shared and the conclusions I’ve come to that I plan to share with my family during our family meeting later this week.  Here are the questions I’ll answer in Part 2!

  • What does it mean “being family?”
  • How should people in a family behave toward one another?
  • What can/should you expect by being a member of a family?
  • In your own family, do you feel that you’re doing everything you can to help your family be at its best?