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The Importance Of Family Essay, Research Paper
The Importance of Family
It has been said that “It takes a village” to raise a child. I guess the trick would be to find a village of people you would want to help you to raise your children. It would require a group of people with values and standards similar to your own. It is possible to find such a group in a church, if you belong to one, or among your friends, if you have a wide enough circle. However, an extended family is the “village” that has been responsible for the raising of children for generations in the past.
My extended family includes my mother, two sisters and their families, my husband’s parents, five brothers and their families. My daughters have four uncles, five aunts and twelve cousins living in California. An extended family, if you are lucky enough to have one, usually shares many values and is willing to help see that these values are passed on to the children.
Some of the values my family holds in common include a strong work ethic, respect for other people, the value of education and modesty in dress and action. My father-in-law is a great example. He has had two careers and is still working. He retired after 20 years with the Air Force, earned a Master’s Degree in education, taught school and worked in junior high school administration for 20 years and is now a Master Teacher. He supervises new teachers as they fulfill student teaching requirements for their credentials. He is also a successful (selling) artist with work in a cooperative gallery as well as an usher at the Sacramento Community Center Theater in his spare time. He has been married to the mother of his sons for 44 years. He passed on his values to those sons. They all have successful careers in technology, management or entertainment. Most have one or more degrees and a happy marriage. These values are being passed on to the grandchildren as well. They are expected to do their best in school and follow rules about the clothes they wear, where and how they spend their time and whom they spend it with. When my daughters complain about our rule that they are not allowed to date until they are 16, I tell them to call any of their cousins and check with them about what their rules are.
There are several advantages for us, as parents, to maintaining close family relationships. There are the obvious advantages of built-in babysitters and people to ask for advice. Less obvious advantages include reinforcement, edification, perspective and a wide pool of life examples.
Our extended family members share our standards and values and reinforce the lessons and rules we set for our children. My mother-in-law has a great sense of fashion. She has helped my daughters develop good judgment about dress and make-up. They are modest in the clothes they choose to wear. It is a relief, as a mother, to be spared a fight with them over what they call “hoochie” clothes. When they go to their grandparents’ house after school on Thursday, my father-in-law, Papa to them, supervises their homework. They have to complete it before they are allowed to watch TV or play video games. He makes sure they do a thorough job of it as well. There is never any doubt where their priorities should lie.
Much of the strength of our family relationships is based on an elusive concept called edification. Edification, in this context, is the building up of one person by another. When our daughters were growing up, we showed respect to their grandparents, aunts and uncles, and made it clear that they were to do the same. We demonstrated that their relatives had value in our lives. We often asked my in-laws for advice and let the girls know that we were doing this and following some of what we were told. We were asked for advice as well, so our daughters saw that our opinions were valuable to their grandparents. When the time came that our daughters started to challenge our authority and question our standards, we knew we could count on our relatives to reinforce us to them. We edified our family so that they, in turn, could give that edification back to us. My mother-in-law has said many times, “You should listen to your Mom, she knows what she is talking about. She only wants what is best for you.”
When our daughters spend time with our parents and siblings they get a perspective of us as children. They realize that we were not always as they know us. We did have a life and were not always so boring. I believe that our daughters benefit from hearing the stories of the times when their dad and mom were growing up. They hear the kind of harmless trouble we got into, the consequences of our actions and the rules and standards that were set for us. They like to be able to identify with their parents as children who went through many of the same trials and tribulations they are going through.
Another benefit to our children of hearing about the mistakes we made and trouble we got into as children is that we have more credibility with them when we give them advice about issues like boyfriends, drugs, alcohol and hanging out with the wrong people. I told them why I started smoking marijuana and why I stopped. I told my daughters about the joint someone, who I thought I could trust, gave me that was laced with something that would make it “better”. I wasn’t aware of the “enhancement” and had a very bad experience. My husband told them about the crowd of people he hung out with for a while. When these “friends” started to get into behavior (crime) that he was uncomfortable with, he stopped seeing them. They taunted him but he stuck to his guns. Most of them are now in prison or on parole. My daughters have heard my sister’s stories about drinking too much and spending the night “bowing to the great God Porcelain.” I told them about situations with boys I got into unintentionally, how I got out and why I was glad I did. When we let our children know about blunders we have made and the regrets we have, we give them the chance to learn the lessons without having to make the same mistakes.
One of the greatest advantages of large families is the wide variety of relationships available to all the people in the group. Grandparents are a great resource. They have the advantage of a wider experience of the world in general and child rearing in particular. Sometimes when an issue comes up, we, as parents, don’t know where we stand. This is where family is helpful. When my oldest daughter wanted to go to her first concert with her best friend, my initial “motherly” reaction was, “No way!” My husband and I had attended several concerts when we were first married, and we remembered the trouble there was with people drinking too much beer. There were fights and we were concerned that she could get caught up in a situation that she could not handle. We talked to my father-in-law about it. He reminded us that we would have to let her start learning to handle tricky situations, with proper supervision. We told her she could go if she had a “body guard”. Fortunately, her best friend’s father was willing to go with them. The situation was resolved to the satisfaction of all parties and she had a good time.
Another purpose of the grandparents is to spoil the grandchildren. This they can do and yet not undermine the parents. When my daughters visit their grandmother, they get undivided attention because they are there only one day a week. The love and acceptance is unconditional. Papa knows the answer to their homework, makes them find the answer the hard way and really wants them to learn but they also know that he loves them very much and only wants them to have the greatest opportunities possible. If they say they need something, he will move heaven and earth to make sure they get it.
My daughters are very lucky to have four uncles who live nearby. They are all very different; some are serious, some are fun-loving and like to joke around. Girls form their ideas about men from the examples they have around them. My daughters have examples of men who are hardworking, educated, loving and committed to their families. My husband’s brothers’ favorite pastime is to watch sports on TV and argue about the details of the game. When we all get together, especially during football season, all five (including Papa) sit around watching whatever game is on. They love to start arguing about a call or strategy. They will all stand together shouting, good naturedly, their views about the issue at hand. The little kids like to get in the middle and join in. They don’t really hear most of what the others are saying and never come to a resolution. That’s not the point anyway. They just love to spend the time together. We women love to watch, and laugh at, the interaction.
My daughters also have valuable relationships with their aunts. The rapport they have with one in particular is very important to them. They talk to her more like a contemporary rather than an elder. They feel they can talk to her about issues that they would feel uncomfortable discussing with any other adult in their lives. They know she is an adult with wider experience and knowledge but is not judgmental. We know she holds the same values we do and trust her to give advice in line with those standards.
There are also lots of cousins, some of whom they like and some they don’t. However, they learn from interacting with them. They learn how to relate to people of all ages (the cousins range in age from 17 years to newborn). The older cousins like to go off together and talk. There is something special about talking to people they have known all their lives and with whom they share family ties. It is like having a larger group of siblings without the rivalry. One of the aunts started what she calls the “Double Digit Club.” When a child reaches the age of 10, all the “Double Digits” get to have a slumber party at her house. All the children look forward to that magic age when they get to be a “big kid.”
These kinds of ties will be valuable, as the grandchildren get older. At some point, they will be left only with each other and their families. The grandparents will die and we children will be the grandparents. We will help our children pass along to their children the values and standards we have passed to them. We will spoil our grandchildren and yet, not undermine the parents. We will give them undivided attention and our love and acceptance will be unconditional. We will give advice and ask advice. We will continue to be the extended family, the “village” to raise the child.
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