Gone are the days when families looked like the image above. Ozzie and Harriet, the Cleavers, the Cunninghams, the Waltons, even the Evans family from one of my favourite groundbreaking 70s shows, Good Times, barely resemble what's become the norm in today's society. Mom, dad and the 2 kids have been replaced by two mommies, two daddies, divorced single parents, grandparents raising their grandchildren, etc. There is still every reason to believe that the children of these "non-traditional" families will emerge just as "well-adjusted" (even more so in some cases) than the offspring of a "traditional" family unit. Parents are parents, no matter which colour, gender or generational group they belong to. Good parenting is a gift, and bad parenting is, unfortunately, all too common. All the parenting in the world, good or bad, is never enough preparation for the realization that family can sometimes prove to be the catalyst for sorrow, rather than joy.
I am a firm advocate of teaching your children to be independent; learning the lesson of self-reliance as early as possible will encourage children not to think the world owes them something. Instant gratification and having everything you want can lead to major difficulty in adulthood. Knowing one's limitations and accepting them can be a tough pill to swallow, but self-sufficiency is the key to being able to withstand the stormy times that will certainly rumble through every life. Weathering the bad with the good can shape a person in ways that will endure well into old age. If you can get there without bitterness and remorse, then you're way ahead of the game.
I took the liberty of inverting a lyric from a popular 70s song for the title of my post. The song "Family Affair" by Sly and the Family Stone says, "Blood's thicker than the mud". I did this because I've learned that blind trust in family isn't always the smartest course of action in life. I don't believe there is any such thing as "unconditional" love between humans, but I do believe in the milk of human kindness, and that altruism is capable of existing in some people. The problem is, you'd better be damn sure that milk isn't past its freshness date, or that that altruism you detect isn't a disguise for something else. It's not always easy to spot a fraud, but God help you if you discover one too late. The fallout is never pretty.
There are mine fields in the most traditional of families. There are booby-traps lying in wait everywhere you turn. Avoiding them all is impossible, but learning from your mistakes is always the best way to proceed. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and move on. I'm generally not the most optimistic of individuals, but I'm not the most pessimistic either. Whether it's mud or blood, you're still going to need a pretty sturdy spoon to stir them both. The key is to stir, not shake. What will shake out in the end will show you there is no difference between blood and mud. The key is to determine the quality of both and go from there.
Have a great weekend.