How to Create the Perfect Family
What Makes a Family?
“It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons,”
Or, mothers and daughters, sisters and brothers.
“Here’s the story, of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls. All of them had hair of gold, like their mother, the youngest one in curls.
Here’s the story, of a man named Brady, who was busy with three boys of his own. They were four men, living all together, but they were all alone.
Till the one day when the lady met this fellow and they knew that it was much more than a hunch. That this group must somehow form a family. That’s the way we all became the Brady Bunch.” (Brady Bunch TV series theme song)
I know we all remember The Brady Bunch. If you did not see it during its original run it has been in syndication for years, and a new group of kids and families can enjoy it‘s entertaining wisdom.
One of the early episodes of The Brady Bunch was about how Bobby, the youngest boy, was feeling that no one cared about him. He thought that his dad (Mike) loved the other kids better, and that his stepmother (Carol) loved her kids more than she loved him. After a few days of feeling unloved, he decided to run away from home. His dad talked with him but in the end, he was determined to leave. Dad and step-mom decided on their strategy. Dad approached Bobby saying “well son I don’t want you staying if you’re not happy”. After helping him pack he said, “I’ll walk you downstairs“. They walked slowly to the top of the staircase--each step agonizing painful for young Bobby. As he started down, he saw his new step-mom waiting at the bottom holding a suitcase.
“Mom?” Bobby asked
“I heard you were leaving,” Carol replied. “Why don’t you let me take the big suitcase and you carry mine, it’s smaller”.
“Where are you going”, he asked
“With you”, his step-mom replied. It’s a big world out there. Do you think I would let you go along?
There is a great deal of love, caring, and respect shown in this scene. Respect because Mike and Carol really tried to consider Bobby’s feelings and didn’t dismiss him or call him silly. The family shows of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s,very often, showed only the sweeter side of everything, but there is still much we can learn.
Today when there is so much controversy over what a family “should look like” I think it is time someone spoke up for all types of families--single never married moms, single divorced moms or dads, one man-one woman and children, two women and children, two men and children, blended families, adoptive families, or just a group of people who offer each other care, and support--doesn’t matter the frame from which you project, if you consider yourselves family then you are.
Let's Look at What Made the Brady Bunch Work
- In the beginning, the parents brought all the children together to talk about expectations--love, respect, sharing, caring, space, and how they each should try to make it work.
- Mike talked with her girls because he understood that those three girls were part of the deal…they came with their mother.
- Carol talked with his boys because she understood that those three boys were part of the deal…they came with their father.
- The parents usually talked through problems together before approaching the child/children.
- They celebrated success together.
- They supported each other in failures and defeats.
- It may not have been in every episode, but it was obvious they had at least one meal per day together around the table. They talked about their day, and to each other.
The Brady’s are considered a “blended” family yet very traditional. One man, one woman, and in this case, six children, a dog, and a housekeeper. Mike and Carol each adopted the others children, and all the kids called them “mom and dad”. This is not unheard of, but very unlikely in a family of divorce. Mike, a widower, and Carol, a widow made it easier for the kids not to have to split loyalties. They were good parents with a very loving and “stable” family by any standard of the day.
From the Brady Bunch to Modern Family
During the early days of television, we rarely talked about and never, ever saw any “non-traditional” families. We knew they were out there--all over America--many of us belong to one. Because of that, we knew they worked, or could work at some level. They shared, cared, fought, and loved each other--they were just as much family as the Brady Bunch. During the 50’s and 60’s we saw many family shows “the Andersen family” of Fathers Knows Best; the Cleavers of Leave it to Beaver; Ozzie and Harriet and the boys (Ricky and David) and, the Stone Family of the Donna Reed Show. We may have been drawn into wishing we had a dad like Jim Andersen or a mom like June Cleaver. Our dad never sat around reading the paper in his shirt, tie and dinner jacket, and our mom certainly did not vacuum the floor in high heels while wearing pearls.
Then in the late 60’s a different type of family begin to appear. Shows like Family Affair about a single man raising his deceased brothers 3 children; Julia about a young widow raising her son while holding a full time job as a nurse; Different Strokes about a wealthy business man raising his daughter alone, then adopting two young black boys--they were an adoptive family and mixed race to boot. This trend continued through the 70’s, 80’ and 90’s with shows like Courtship of Eddie’s Father, The Cosby Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and who can forget the heartwarming movie “Three Men and A Baby” where the bachelor roommates decided to raise the baby daughter of one of them when the mother left her on the doorstep. Today shows like Two and a Half Guys, and Modern Family are allowing us to see both the possibility, and the reality, inside the family structure. When we look at what is considered “non-traditional”, the list is very long , but further investigation makes one wonder…are they really?
We have come a long way but there is still a ways to go. The controversy about gay and lesbian men and women wanting to raise children, and the whole issue about being gay vs. being heterosexual has become more hateful than helpful. If you want to raise your voices, and your signs, in protest about something, protest the abuse of children; and, protest the abusive relationships that are happening in every walk of life. Point is, the conversation about the relationship/marriage between one-man and one-woman being the only “right” way should not be the loudest voice out there.
Rethinking the Message...and Why?
President Bartlet: “I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination.”
Dr. Jenna Jacobs: “I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does.
President Bartlet: “Yes it does. Leviticus.
Dr. Jacobs: “18:22”
President Bartlet: “Chapter and verse. I want to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? While thinking about that, can I ask another. My Chief of Staff Leo McGarry insists on working on the Sabbath, Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here’s one that is important because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town--touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean, Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions would you?” President Josiah Bartlet,West Wing, Season 1
Too many young people are now taking their own lives because other kids are bullying them for being “different”. Telling them, they are going to hell, and in some cases beating them to death. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror these kids go through. Or the helplessness that the parents of these kids must feel trying to get someone’s attention. Shame, shame, shame on us for allowing this to go so far. Shame on the parents of these bullies. Shame on the teachers and administrators who stand by and allow it to happen. Shame on pastors who preach such strong messages of hell and damnation--you can preach whatever you want to preach but it is time now to temper the message so that kids/parents don’t mistake the message, and turn your words into words of hate. And, shame on all the bullies. Kids are not born haters--they have a natural ability to love and forgive. They learn bad behavior from adults. Remember kids learn from watching you--they hear what you are saying, and they see what you are doing. Watch your words, and watch you actions. The thing to remember parents is kids don’t always have the ability to process what you are saying…they only hear your words. Whatever they hear in your words, hate, fear, or love, is what they will do also. So, please be careful.
“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you--who are you to judge your neighbor?” James 4:11-12 (NIV)
Foster Care which is part of our Social Services system is designed to provide a family and resources for children who are abandoned--whose parent either can or don’t take care of them or parents who are deceased and no other family member is available for care. There are hundreds of thousand of children who are caught in this system. There are some wonderful success stories but there are also some tragedies.
The goal is to reunite the children with the parents or other family member. Almost half are eventually placed in non-relative foster family homes, some are placed in group homes or institutions, and only a very small percentage is in pre-adoptive homes (3%). These are national figures and I understand that some states do better than others do. Many of the children are abused (these are usually the ones we hear about); and, research shows that abuse happens in homes of relative and a non-relative alike.
The starling facts that I’ve uncovered with most of the information coming from a book by Betsy Krebs and Paul Pitcoff titled “Beyond the Foster Care System: The Future of Teens” just made my stomach turn. I am horrified and I am sad. I started to cry and I just couldn’t stop. “Each year tens of thousands of teenagers are released from the foster care system in the United States without a high school degrees or strong family relationships. Two to four years after discharge, half of these young people still do not have a diploma or equivalency degree…Nearly a third end up on public assistance within fifteen months, and eventually more than a third will be arrested or convicted of a crime.”
I have no doubt there are some fabulous foster families out there, but we all know there are some who are not even close. I know the system is broken but with a little creative, and a lot less politics we can right a wrong. I would absolutely love to be part of a team of people who can explore some options.
Therefore, I say to all of you advocates who say that the perfect family has to be one-man, one-woman, 2.5 children and a Labrador retriever. There are a really, really lot of children who just want to be loved, respected, and taken care of; and, if they don’t care what the family is going to look like why should you deny them the chance at a better present, and a great future.
Our children--all children deserve better than what we are, all too often giving. I’d be willing to bet a dollar to a donut that God smiles a huge smile on all those that treat children well. What I know for sure is the love of another, especially a child, is the greatest form of joy and happiness.
I also know for such that there are many people who stand up for children stand up for children everyday. I know that there are parents, foster parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and concerned adults who make the children in the lives a priority. To them I say, thank you , and bravo.
Is there such a thing as a “perfect family”? I would venture to say probably not. Inside the family structure there will be control issues, conflict, sibling rivalries, arguments, fights, tension, but in families where love, respect, caring, and concern, and more love is both taught, and displayed…that is when the family becomes “perfect”.
“And now I will show you the most excellent way…faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthian 13 (NIV)
Love to all,