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31. Family

It is natural and normal for family bonds to be strong.  Blood connections are important.  As wonderful as friends and colleagues are, there’s nothing like relationships with people who’ve known and cared about us since our birth, or with those we’ve known and cared about since their births.  Love, respect and understanding for our parents and other ancestors is key.  Maintaining living and loving connections with our siblings and their families is important.  Our elders frequently care about nothing more than being able to spend time with family.  Family visits are the ultimate currency in retirement homes.

 

For all the lip service about family values in the U.S., we don’t all do a very good job living them.  Many families are now fragmented.  We live far apart from family and see each other infrequently.  For some, it’s stressful to join family, at holidays and special occasions.  We carry family relationship baggage, unresolved issues that let family members push buttons to stir emotions and resurface resentments.  We fear judgment, criticism and not meeting expectations.  We’re too stressed and busy to be together.  We forget our family stories.  We don’t remember or are OK with what we’re missing.

 

Much of that is a product of our culture and its values.  We don’t have enough time for our children, because we’re so busy working, so we don’t get adequate love, attention and shared experiences as children.  We don’t have enough time for our youth, so we don’t get enough support in the difficult years when we’re trying to find and feel good about ourselves.  That creates resentment. 

We seek work elsewhere, where the money is, so we don’t see each other enough, grow apart, don’t know each other as well or share enough experiences.  When we are together, we watch TV or fritter time away on separate electronic devices, rather than connecting and sharing real experiences together, so we don’t feel connected and bonded.  We eat lousy food and don’t enjoy that together.  We think about the past, future, problems and work, so we don’t share the present, even when we’re together.  We don’t have time for our elders, so they are in old folks’ homes, isolated and feeling abandoned. 

It’s extra hard for young parents, because grandparents, siblings and other family members are too far away to help with babysitting to provide badly needed breaks.  It’s all on the parents, which makes it more stressful, necessitating spending even more money for childcare, and earning that money, which takes even more time away between parents and children, creating bad feelings.  We choose career and money over family, which family may experience as painful rejection.  Grandparents suffer and feel resentment from lack of time with grandchildren. 

We let go of family farms, lands and businesses and move apart, because we can’t make money with them any more in competition with soulless mega-corporations.  Our small towns die, where we lived, thrived and cared for each other as close families for generations.  We fear family members will make financial demands on us, and we’re too greedy or poor to share now.  Many of us can’t afford to visit family, because we don’t have the money to travel that far.  Wealth and income disparities in families create separation.  Politics are so divisive now that family members don’t want to see each other because of simple differences of opinion that are now so loaded people hate each other over them.

It’s painful to see and experience, but many family relationships are stressed and damaged in the U.S.  Family’s needed.  Making family function well and having plenty of time for family are important values.

 

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