All in Our Family

How are you staying in touch with your grandchildren during the coronavirus  lockdown?

Maybe the root of so many of our problems is that our families are falling apart?

While our society seemed to be falling to pieces every evening on the television screen, for so many reasons, depending on who you were hearing from, I couldn’t help but think there was a basic cause. For a long time I have looked at the numbers, the outcomes, the long term effects and I honestly think that almost everything that’s wrong with our society right now can be traced back to the fragmentation of our families.

We decided during the decades of revolution (Civil Rights, Sexual, Youth, Women’s) that our own personal happiness was the ultimate goal in life. It’s in the Declaration of Independence, after all! This goal was so much easier to pursue once our economy boomed after WW2 and we could focus our attentions on inner and subjective desires for satisfaction, instead of external and objective standards of success like surviving the winter or having enough to eat.

Fragmented families started to happen because we decided that other people (our spouses and children) weren’t making us happy anymore. Instead of leaning on each other to help and making sacrifices for the sake of someone else, we started looking at our family members as sources of our own happiness. If they dropped the ball, it was time to bail and maybe find a replacement. I need to find someone who will make me happy, not I need to make someone else happy.

Here's The Number One Reason Couples Fight In The Run Up To Christmas |  Her.ie

What do families in America look like today?

During the current quarantine the divorce numbers in America are twice as high as they were a year ago at this time. What’s really discouraging is that newlywed divorce numbers are ALSO twice as high as the were a year ago! Being locked up and facing a seemingly unending crisis together is just too much for many.

People don’t just wake up one day and decide to become self-centered. Our culture is one with an economy that’s oriented around selling more and more stuff. The prevalent hook is guaranteeing happiness – buy this pillow and you’ll get a good night’s sleep, feel rested, refreshed (and so much happier the next day).

There are more couples living together than married. People who live together do so for approximately five years – then they either break up or get married. It’s not a step before marriage, not an alternative. People are afraid of the marriage commitment, of failing at something so important, at not finding happiness.

Right now, less than 20% of households in our country are composed of a married couple and their children. This is true for 86% of African-American children. This practice is setting these children up for an almost impossible future and brings harm to society as a whole.

“Childhood, after all, is the first precious coin that poverty steals from a child.” ― Anthony Horowitz

A majority of children in America will spend part of their growing up years in a single-parent home. On average, children from single-parent homes don’t do as well in almost all measures of life (health, school, social, economic, etc.). Every semester, my student learn this yet the overwhelming majority tell me that if they were in a marriage with children and were not happy they would get divorced. Ending marriages for the sake of personal happiness is today a very strong belief and practice here in America.

Happy Single Mother and Teen Stock Footage Video (100% Royalty-free)  15559906 | Shutterstock

Even though they are working outside the home in more numbers than ever before – many more in college-prepared careers – (more women attend college than men) women still feel the bulk of the responsibility for home and family work. He’s not really sharing the burden very well.

In times of social conflict why don’t we look at our families as a possible cause?

While families in our society are in collapse, we feel helpless. What can I do to stop the flood from spilling over the levee? All you can really do is to keep loving your own family. Sometimes that means keeping your big mouth shut and just loving people in the middle of their mess. Praying for someone you love is different than talking about them to others. Criticizing never does anything good. 

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” ― Frederick Buechner

 

Dads Seem to Matter

“Blessed indeed is the man who hears many gentle voices call him father.”― Lydia Maria Child (abolitionist)

In my family class right now we are studying the phenomenon of fatherlessness in America. I think it’s difficult for most of my students – who grew up without a father – to learn about how devastating this choice has been for children and our society. It’s a personal situation that’s already happened that you can’t do anything about right now. So, we try and focus attention on the future – making thoughtful decisions about our families that are to come.

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”  ― Umberto Eco (author)

Children in America today who live in fragmented families – without both parents – are more likely to experience:

  • poor learning in school
  • less time spent on homework
  • health problems
  • less preventative healthcare
  • economic hardship
  • loss of friendships
  • early initiation into sexual activity
  • emotional and psychological stress/anxiety
  • conflict within the family
  • loneliness
  • early launch out of home
  • abbreviated childhood
  • prolonged adolescence

Our divorce rate is not really on the rise. Living together has become the new norm. Women are waiting longer to have children. The number of children in each family has been shrinking (the White birthrate is now below the replacement level). While most couples who live together plan on getting married, most children in American today are NOT living with their biological mother and father. Single parenthood, by choice is on the rise. When you hear the term “single parent” historically it almost always referred to a single mother. But that is changing – today, single fathers comprise almost 1/4 of all single parent households (in 1960 it was 14%).

“An almost perfect relationship with his father was the earthly root of all his wisdom. From his own father, he said, he first learned that Fatherhood must be at the core of the universe. [speaking of George MacDonald]” ― C.S. Lewis

Sociologist David Popenoe has written that,

The decline of fatherhood is one of the most basic, unexpected, and extraordinary social trends of our time. Its dimensions can be captured in a single statistic: in just three decades, between 1960 and 1990, the percentage of children living apart from their biological fathers more than doubled, from 17% to 36%. By the turn of the century, nearly 50% of American children may be going to sleep each evening without being able to say good night to their dads.

What about our fathers? Are they really necessary? Couldn’t anyone share in the responsibilities of helping to raise children? Childcare workers, pre-school, relatives, friends?

In his book Life Without Father, Popenoe writes,

Fathers are far more than just “second adults” in the home. Involved fathers – especially biological fathers – bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring. They provide protection and economic support and male role models. They have a parenting style that is significantly different from that of a mother and that difference is important in healthy child development.

He believes that there is something unique that fathers provide to families and especially to their children.

What do you think?

 

“Then came the reflection, how little at any time could a father do for the wellbeing of his children! The fact of their being children implied their need of an all-powerful father: must there not then be such a father? Therewith the truth dawned upon him, that first of truths, which all his church-going and Bible-reading had hitherto failed to disclose, that, for life to be a good thing and worth living, a man must be the child of a perfect father, and know him. In his terrible perturbation about his children, he lifted up his heart—not to the Governor of the world; not to the God of Abraham or Moses; not in the least to the God of the Kirk; least of all to the God of the Shorter Catechism; but to the faithful creator and Father of David Barclay. The aching soul which none but a perfect father could have created capable of deploring its own fatherly imperfection, cried out to the father of fathers on behalf of his children, and as he cried, a peace came stealing over him such as he had never before felt.” ― George MacDonald

George MacDonald was a Scottish author, poet, and Christian minister.

He was educated at Aberdeen University and after a short and stormy career as a minister at Arundel, where his unorthodox views led to his dismissal, he turned to fiction as a means of earning a living. He wrote over 50 books.

Known particularly for his poignant fairy tales and fantasy novels, MacDonald inspired many authors, such as G.K. Chesterton, W. H. Auden, J.R.R. Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and Madeleine L’Engle. Lewis wrote that he regarded MacDonald as his “master”: “Picking up a copy of Phantastes one day at a train-station bookstall, I began to read. A few hours later,” said Lewis, “I knew that I had crossed a great frontier.” G. K. Chesterton cited The Princess and the Goblin as a book that had “made a difference to my whole existence.”

Elizabeth Yates wrote of Sir Gibbie, “It moved me the way books did when, as a child, the great gates of literature began to open and first encounters with noble thoughts and utterances were unspeakably thrilling.”

Even Mark Twain, who initially disliked MacDonald, became friends with him, and there is some evidence that Twain was influenced by MacDonald.