316. Portrait of a Family

Once in a while, I get really impressed by a family. I know, on some level, that every family has its ups and downs, but sometimes all I can see are the ups. I recently went to a child’s birthday party at the home of a family that impressed me. Having been to many children’s birthday parties, and having seen things that have bothered me, I was ready to have to politely ignore some of what I saw, and do my best to focus on the positive.
But I didn’t see anything I had to ignore. It was immediately clear to me that both the mother and father were involved with the children, and loved them. Both had thought about the party, and had planned it in a way that it was fun for the birthday boy, his little sister, his friends, her friends, and the adults who came. There were activities that included all the children, and there was lots of cooperation, and as far as I could see, little competition.
This was a family who lived in a home that reflected their commitment to their children. Both parents had parts of their lives that didn’t involve their children, but it seemed as if they’d thought about how to live those parts of their lives without neglecting the children at all. Both children clearly felt loved – felt as if they were important to their parents.
The house itself gave me the impression that this family was not struggling to make ends meet, but unlike other families who are doing okay financially, their home was not full of things the children shouldn’t touch. Both the physical layout and the way these parents related with their children made me wish this family could somehow be displayed as a model for others.
I know there must be details I haven’t noticed. Perhaps each member of this family has a habit or two that really bugs another member. And I don’t know what the family had to go through to get to the seemingly sublime point I saw. Besides, I know I’m sometimes quick to let people turn into heroes.
But please allow me this model family. If I’ve partly fictionalized them, let’s let it be. But at least part of what I saw was really there. There was no television. The birthday boy was made to feel special without his non-birthday sister being made to feel superfluous. The children who came to help celebrate the birthday had fun, and did not seem to notice that video games were absent and junk food was at a minimum.
So those of you who feel, as I once did, that the pressure to be like everyone else and give in to popular culture is too great, please know that there is another way. It takes real commitment, but it can be done. I saw it.

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