WHY IS A FAMILY?
Having briefly reviewed the eternal nature of God, ourselves, and certain laws which influence us, we move to a consideration of the conditions surrounding the life we are in the process of living now”-- this present segment of eternity known as mortality. Each of us is born into a family, and each thus becomes at birth a member of a group that may range in size from two on up. It must be remembered that there are more members in a family than those presently alive on the earth.
FROM ALL GET TO SOME GIVE
Of all the creatures of the earth, the human infant is the most helpless for the longest time. The mother conceives bears, nourishes, and protects the child, meeting most of his basic survival needs. Every child has an incredible ability to make his needs known, a power which from the earliest days borders on genius.
The total dependence of the newborn baby drastically curtails his freedom. His simplest bodily needs have to be met by someone else, and he can do little for himself to maintain his own life. No normal child, however, is content to remain so dependent any longer than necessary. Only a crippling of his powers through illness or injury can keep him dependent. Some may be more passive than others, and the maturation process is not exactly predictable--different "buds" of our nature come to flower at different times. There is a certain schedule, though, for physical growth, motor ability, language development, and mental and emotional stability. Physical and psychological maturity are reached at about the age of twenty to twenty-four years, a span of infancy unprecedented in the animal kingdom.
Such a long maturation span obviously demands someone to care for the developing child. You may not think of yourself as an "infant", but scientifically you are so considered for a few years yet if you fit within the broad bounds of "normal." The fact is that you are not yet fully independent in many ways, fully able to fend for yourself in the complex world you are inheriting. You are cutting yourself loose, it is true, but up to now and for a while yet you need your parents. In his wisdom the Lord arranged that there would be two of them, a mother and a father.
Experts in the field of human relations point out that maturity is many sided and individuals develop at very different rates in the various facets of maturity, Our bodies need physical health. Our minds need knowledge, goals, a philosophy of life, discipline, and training in creative self expression; our spirits need vital, practical faith; socially we need to express and receive love, acceptance, and a feeling of worth. In each of these there is need of developing strength self-direction, and self-discipline.
Many things in our environment affect our degree and speed of maturity. We draw upon many things, we may rebel against some the relationship we establish may make us hero or heel in the sight of others and may result in happiness or misery in our own lives.
Let us now look at a few of the problems that parents face in their monumental responsibility in the home and consider how you might help your parents, rather than frustrate them in their efforts to bring you safely to maturity.
President David O. McKay has set forth the idea of the Latter-day Saint home: "I picture heaven to be a continuation of the ideal home..."1 In spite of good intentions it is an unhappy fact that the average home in the Church witnesses much more conflict and contradiction than can be reconciled with this ideal. That some conflict within the home can exist to allow for growth is attested to by the fact those who have grown up in large families are usually better able to cope with the problems of life than â€œonly children.
Home is the place where you learn to live with people learn it in all the moods and struggles of learning. Home is where in bitter moments you wonder why you are stuck with each other and in your happy moments you wonder how you could have been so lucky. The latter mood is almost always more lasting and true than the first.
The experts on home conflict list four major areas of frictions:
1. Power struggle. What are the rules? Who is going to enforce them? Why should I keep them? The major problem is that parents and son or daughter can often be right in principle --all can be pushing for something”--good yet they can be wrong in method. You want to do as your parents ask, but your defenses bristle when they put steel in their voices. Every child knows the tone of voices that means You'd better jump, or else!
Revelation tells us that the way of leadership in the home, as in the Church, includes tenderness, gentleness, patience, and long-suffering. It also includes being frank as well as ridged and even sharp rebuke if (and only if) it is followed by an increase of love.
If you care enough about the great joys of life, you can put up with great amounts of pressure and struggle. Of the many indications of this fact, here is one:
Vince Lombardi, the late coach of the champion Green Bay Packers football team, is a case in point. He initiated the most rigid rules of training; the most ruthless pressure to practice and play (even with pulled tendons and broken bones); ceaseless scolding, intimidation, comparison, threats, etc. He demanded more and more from his men when they thought they had already had enough. This man was a tyrant! The team members would all agree time and again that they intended to quit the whole business. When the games and the championships were won, however, the coach broke down in tears as he told them of his pride on their effort. Every man on the team wanted to say he thought Vince Lombardi was the greatest man in the world.
He insisted that they sing together (even those who couldn't carry a tune). He insisted that they pray together. He offered the Lord's Prayer before and after every game. He insisted that they consider themselves men of God and that they do their best, for otherwise they were cheating themselves and their Maker. He is insisted, too, that they treat one another as brothers, and not one of them was ashamed to say he loved his teammates. You may not think love can grow out of such turmoil, but it did.
One of the saddest but most common attitudes in young men and women in their late teens is the feeling of all rules and no love. They yearn for attention, warmth, being cared about (which is not always the same thing as being cared for.) Like a baby robin with his mouth open awaiting the food, they have waited, but in vain. Instead, there are often rebuffed and rebuke. Eventually they may give up. Then slowly they build a shell, a protective covering, saying inwardly, I'd rather settle for no love than risk giving mine only to have it bruised and scorned. Parents, too, sensing the imminent departure from the home nest and constantly plagued by fears for their childrens welfare, often are unable to see that yesterdays curly-headed toddler is really almost grown up, step up the rigorous enforcement of rules. As a result, both parent and child what terribly both to give and to receive love, but they are working against each other.
Such an attitude bred in a child shows up not only in his relationship with his parents, but in his relationship with God. He drudges through duty, hating every minute of it. He can't even pray well, uncertain, often, whether there's anyone there to whom to pray. He does not want to risk getting to close. He would rather go his own way, with a closed in form of emotional independence. The truth is that his need is compounding. His relationships with everyone, including himself, are forced instead of free, choked and partial, instead of outgoing and whole. The longer this pattern persists, the more it breeds distrust, hostility, suspicion, and a refusal to recognize or listen to love. No matter what language love speaks or who speaks it. It does not get through to him.
2. Differences in abilities. "Anything you can do, I can do better." This phrase often marks the pattern for rivalry within the home. It builds pressures and tension among those bearing a family resemblance and name there is the greatest (and potentially delightful) variety of makeup. You should no more try to stamp your father with a hard and fast image than he should do it to you. One may be bookish, one athletic, and one a loner. There is room for all in a good home, and each one should be respected for his own abilities and interests and encouraged in them”even parents.
3. Faulty communication. "You don't understand me! " is one cry that helped to precipitate the generation gap. Communication of one's thoughts, feelings, frustrations, and concerns should be going on both at the surface and under it most of the time. To communicate one must put things into words in one's own mind. Vague feelings and impressions, and mental images are hard to tell about. How, for example, do you describe the way you see a remembered face or the feelings that face conjures up for you: unexplained terror, uncalled-for resentment, or unexpected tenderness?
Some families have a quiet time just before bed when the day's toughest experiences and the happiest ones are reviewed. Others do the most important talking over the table or in the midst of chores. It is a sad day when we start going it alone, storing up a variety of feelings that we reserve for others and fail to express at home. The tragic line of youth is, "Oh, I can't tell Dad. It would tear him apart." The relationship between youth and parent should be the last one to tear anyone apart. The communication of the real man-to-man or woman-to-woman truth should be there. You should be able to say it like it is."
The attitude should be, "You may not fully understand this, I'm not sure I do, but this is the way I feel” knowing there will be an arm around your shoulders and an unfailing I'm always here." If you will analyze it, you will see that help is not necessarily a quick and ready solution to anything. Most often the kind of help we need is the kind of help you get when you hold hands with someone you love.
Sometimes we underestimate our parents ability to understand, and we forget that they have plowed through experiences very much like the ones we know and many worse than we have seen. They were not born yesterday, as the saying goes. Usually they would prefer to know the facts, whatever they are, than to fumble in the dark of uncertainty. Wouldn't you? Do you get uncomfortable when your best friend confides in you? Where do you think you got your composure? Your parents have some too more than you know.
4. Value conflicts. There is a long list of things about which you care about most and about which your parents care, too. Here you overlap and mesh with little trouble. Every new generation, however, establishes its own patterns and preferencesmusic, dress styles, dancing, painting, cars, teen idols and preferred personalities, whatever is stylish. You have to realize that your parents parents were as bewildered as their children are now by the patterns their children set a generation ago; but that, it they had seasoned judgment, they opposed and drew the line only where soul-growth could be stunted. Wisdom should assure you that within years, believe it or not, you will not fight for the same fads or styles which seem so important today. It will not matter nearly so much then. It never has been possible to make all generations agree perfectly on such matters, but they have been committed to something more inclusive and more important”the gospel. On things that matter less, parents and children often agree to disagree.
We sometimes take the view that we are growing up quite independent of our parents, that they live in their world and we live in ours, and that our areas of common interest are very limited. Actually this is not the case. Most of youths needs, concerns, interests, and achievement responsibilities are held on common with their parents. There are, of course some areas which are unique to each and it is mostly in these areas that conflict arises. Even here, however, communication will bring understanding and harmonious relationships.
Though admittedly there can be conflicts, there can also be ways of resolving them.
1. David O. McKay, Secrets of a Happy Life, ed. Llewelyn R. McKay (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1960), p. 18