Working at Family

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Whoever said being a family is easy, never was part of one. You take several people, each with their own personalities and goals. You add individual idiosyncrasies and the likes and dislikes of those folks. Now, place them in a relatively small location, and ask them to share everything in that spot. You expect cooperation, kindness, consideration, and a general happiness about just being there. It just is not that simple. Relationships take work; families take the most effort, since so many people are involved.

We read about the ideal families of yesteryear and long for the simpler times when life was not so complicated. A time when family roles were well-defined and everyone wanted what was best for all the members living in that home. We wish life could be like that again, or do we?

If retreating backwards to an earlier time meant giving up our microwaves and computers, most of us would hesitate. If it meant, being a dutiful wife who lived in the kitchen only to discover another fattening dessert to please her man, most women would balk. If we suggested men should work from dawn to dusk every day, men would cry 'foul.'

Telling kids they should return to a time when children were seen and not heard and Christmas meant an orange and a bit of candy in their stocking along with a pair of hand knitted mittens, kids would protest. Unfortunately, that was the atmosphere that created closer, happier families.

Now don't yell, but I can hear you telling me to "get real." Most of us have turned in our aprons for briefcases and men hurry home after 40 hours to relax on the sofa and ready themselves for a marathon sports weekend. Kids are not only heard but also seen and sometimes barely tolerated when they act out. Christmas presents for hundreds of dollars are purchased for children and even worse, they are expected.

We no longer talk to our kids since they are too busy for us and us for them. Some families never even eat together. It's hard to juggle all those extra curricular activities. We don't know our children's friends. We don't recognize our husband's colleagues. Shoot. We barely know our neighbors sometimes.

Promoting the feeling of being a family means changing some things about our lifestyle. It means putting family first, before careers and interests that sap your strength leaving you nothing left for those you love. It means taking the time to ask questions about each other's day and activities. It means getting to know those people who are important and who are spending time with your loved ones. Family must be promoted by juggling things so you all can share a meal. The way you prioritize your life is an all-important key to how well your family will function.

Sharing holidays and making celebrations of every kind a mandatory event for children is just one way to promote that family concept. This may be the only time you get to see distant family members. How are kids going to benefit from relationships with their extended family if they never spend any time with them? I believe today's busy families are missing a wonderful window of opportunity by not utilizing grandparents to teach life skills for example.

Making home life special is an important key in keeping children there. If home is interesting and exciting, great. Teens sometimes only go home when there is no other place to go. That is a pretty good indication, they are not very happy there. Try to make it a fun place to be with a variety of activities and projects in the works.

We must encourage kids to help make plans, come up with ideas, and generally participate in all family functions. It makes them feel they belong. Remember, if we don't give them a real family - the streets will. Gangs and cults thrive on those lost souls. Kids who want to belong, but for lots of reasons their families are not fulfilling their needs, are prime candidates for gangs and cults who want to become their ' family.'

Devote time to finding the real meaning of family. We need to give of ourselves to all the other members of this unit. We need to prioritize our life, putting family first. There should be joyous celebrations and holiday spectacles. We need to enhance these occasions by adding sentiment and love, not money. Reintroduce your kids, especially teens, to their grandparents. Don't encourage them to drift apart. Require them to attend the important events.

We can learn to be family by watching those old shows where everyone was always happy, but we know that kind of life is no longer practical. Instead of donning your apron, instead of getting out the knitting needles, find ways to show love in a thoroughly modern way. Be a family in a technological world, sharing all that is good about our modern world. But, don't get so caught up you can't see the redeeming values of the life families once knew. There are ways to blend the new and the old. No matter how you proceed, values stay the same. Love, kindness, caring, sharing, honesty, and the knowledge that no matter what 'family is the most important thing in the world'.

Credits: Jo Ann Wentzel

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