The textbook definition says: “It is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of individual parents occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal.”
I like American essayist Mary Karr’s version better: “A dysfunctional family is any family with more than one person in it.” This is spot on.
The perfect scenario would include a mother willing to sacrifice, a hardworking father, children who love school, respect their parents and do chores and sometimes, even grandparents who, despite their age, are leagues away from being senile. Everyone feels loved and never fights, and home is a place of peace and harmony.
Look around you. What do you see?
Every family has something they are not too proud about; an old sin, perhaps a deep, dark secret that has festered for generations. There is a skeleton (maybe more) in everyone’s closet. Like it or not, we all belong to a dysfunctional family, one that is not really all wrong, but is not all right either.
Maybe there’s a womanizing uncle or a wayward aunt, an illegitimate child, a police record, who knows. But they are our family and we love them, warts and all.
Life is never perfect. No one gets fair weather all the time. Tempests vary in their fury. We have to face the raging sea until the storm blows over. For many of us, safe harbor seems too far away and impossible to reach. But this is when family steps in. Someone throws you a lifeline. And you know you can make it.
I have an incredibly complicated family. But when I am with them and feel the love, I am awed by the goodness of God.
The world today has not made it easy for families to keep close ties. The new technologies that have made faraway continents draw close with just one click have also opened deep chasms between parents and their children, brothers and sisters, even husband and wife.
In some homes, days and weeks pass before people living under the same roof come face to face. They are in touch only by text or e-mail. On a good day, they may get on FaceTime and actually see each other.
Some kids I know actually take selfies for their parents to check on a zit or a bruise and to say hello, I’m home, or goodbye, I’m gone. Sad but true!
Does this happen in your home? Have you, like hundreds of parents, begun to justify this token sign of respect, grateful that at least the children “keep in touch?”
Am I wrong to think that this is too high a price to pay for progress? Someone help me as I try to understand.
They start young
At lunch the other day a couple came in with two adorable boys, ages between two and four, each with a yaya and an iPad. They were set up across each other in no time at all. I marveled at how incredibly fast and adept they were. The youngest one looked a bit frustrated and had a brief meltdown. Maybe the figure on his screen failed to transform. His yaya/tech support quickly fixed it.
The parents paused to say grace, urged their children to do the same but they were happily clicking and swiping, their bowls of food untouched. There was no conversation. Mom and Dad each had an iPhone. Everyone was busy.
Children do what they see
They say children mimic the behavior and attitude of the adults around them. We lead by example.
When our young friend was trying to wean her little four-year-old son from the bottle and asked him if he wanted to be like the new baby next door, the child proudly retorted: “No, I am like my lolo.”
What can you say?
At dinner in a friend’s house one night after we prayed over the food and concluded with our hungry “Amens,” their eight-year-old son piped in, “And Jesus please make my Daddy stop buying bottles. He gets so sleepy and they are too heavy for me to carry to the bin, even when they are empty.” Ouch!
Just saw a chick flick.
“And So It Goes” is a charming romantic comedy starring Michael Douglas and Diane Keaton, directed by Rob Reiner.
Douglas plays a cantankerous realtor. His romantic persona surfaces when he reluctantly falls in love with two women—Keaton, a 65-year-old weepy lounge singer, and a granddaughter who suddenly appears in his life.
Loved it. The songs are oldies and it’s a bit of a tearjerker. But then I don’t like movies unless they make me cry.
There’s a will
During my recent travels I met a lady who was worried about writing her will. She saw a lawyer and decided to divide her valuables into three bundles of equal worth for her children to draw lots. Great idea, I thought, and the fairest way to go.
I hate it when heirs get ugly and start bickering over their inheritance. Some even go to court.
I couldn’t sleep that night. As I stared at the dark ceiling I realized, with a touch of relief and immense sadness, that when I go there will be nothing to divvy up. No lots to draw. Zero.
My children will have nothing to fight about. Peace will reign.