Hold Your Family Together
Posted in The Faith of Us Fathers
The Industrial Revolution took dad away from the home where he traditionally worked with the entire family on the family business. Community Schools and then State funded Compulsory Schooling took the children away from home for longer and longer periods of time each day and for more and more weeks each year. Social pressure, increased mobility and erratic economic opportunities separated the nuclear family from the extended family, especially the grandparents. State subsidised Early Childhood Educational institutions supported by aggressive promotional campaigns drew the little ones out of the home. At last it was Feminism and the pressures of the economy that took even mum away from her home. I was a door to door salesman, wholly dependent on commission sales for an income, for 13 years until 1995. I can tell you honestly that I didn’t bother to start knocking on doors until 3:30pm each day, for prior to that time there simply was no one at home. Our cities have many streets lined with lovely houses — but all of them empty for much of the day.
It is rare to find a family unit where each member draws strength and purpose from being part of that larger entity (the family) perceived by each member to be of more worth than him or her self. The politically correct propaganda of egalitarianism has transformed the definition of “family” in some quarters to a mere ad hoc collection of individuals — such as flatmates even, with no legal or blood ties at all — wherein each demands his or her own rights and autonomy.
Christian families composed of Mum and Dad (who are legally and happily married) and their natural and/or adopted and/or fostered children are becoming increasingly uncommon. Then to find such an entity living in the same town as both sets of grandparents and any other relatives, all of whom are on more than just speaking terms, where the grandparents would never dream of sporting the bumper sticker that reads, “We’re spending our grandchildren’s inheritance”, is most unusual indeed. And should a Christian family actually find itself in such an advantageous position, what is most likely to be its lifestyle? The children are at school and after school activities, and Mum and Dad are run ragged each week with various church and community commitments on top of their regular jobs. Even on Sunday the children are often off to creche, children’s church or Sunday school, or sitting with their friends in the back pews and then off to join the youth outreach. Hands up those who remember seeing an entire family sitting all together for an entire worship service?
Such separation is demonstrably unhealthy for the family unit. Many of us have difficulty seeing exactly why this is so, for we have very little idea of the forceful powerhouse an integrated family unit could be, since few of us have ever seen one in action. I’ve only seen wee glimpses….but enough to whet my desire to see more.
If our family experience is anything to go by, there is a direct relationship between time spent with the family as a whole and family harmony and happiness. My mother is 77 years old. She has lived and travelled extensively on every continent except Antarctica. Yet those 14 months she spent on the road, being recently widowed, with every thing that meant anything to her — us five children and those possessions we could carry in the VW Combi — were the happiest and most carefree of her whole life. We five siblings developed from a pack of squabbling brats who fought each other at every opportunity into a well-organised team who could find directions, secure lodgings and buy groceries in four different languages and tote our own considerable volume of belongings (while holding the 2-year-old’s hand) from vehicle to hotel room in one trip!
Our 9-year-old is a particularly good barometer of family unity. When we are too busy to spend a good amount of focussed time with him, he acts up. Oh, he is great at absorbing the “I’m too busy right now” line without causing a problem, for he understands the pressure of deadlines. But he also knows a fob-off when he gets one, and he then becomes a right royal pain. It is usually then we notice that those daily rituals of all being present at meals, not answering the phone during the devotions, washing dishes together, reading aloud together, having some daily formal and/or informal instruction time, etc., have been either totally abandoned or compromised beyond recognition. Re-establishing them also re-establishes sanity and harmony and security and happiness.
One ritual we established a few years ago was to have devotions after every meal, not just once a day, and to include the singing of Psalms & hymns. This has at times, when I have been sharp enough and with it enough to capitalise on the opportunity, allowed for our family as a unit to discuss eternal truths, debate current events, face and weep over personal shortcomings, evaluate Biblical ways of dealing with conflicts, etc.
Another ritual we took up with great gusto was for me to read to the children in the evenings. Let me tell you, it is very exciting to see a 20 year old daughter and an 18 year old son getting out sewing or model kits in eager preparation for an extended time of listening to their “old man’s” voice. It puts the battle over the “tyranny of the urgent” (“I’ve really got too many deadlines facing me to spend an evening reading”), and over the conflict between “the one and the many” (“I was looking forward to spending some time alone, not entertaining a crowd”) into perspective…..especially now that those two older ones are gone overseas. What happened to all those plans I had of things I was going to do with them but never had time for?
Make time for your children, dads. Cultivate an attitude as in Longfellow’s poem below. Plan in the time, guard it jealously, so that, as it says in Psalm 127:5, you will not be put to shame when you speak with your enemies in the gate, for your children will all be standing shoulder to shoulder there with you.
From Keystone Magazine
May 2001 , Vol. VII No. 3
P O Box 9064
Phone: (06) 357-4399
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