They say it takes a village to raise a child – and I believe that’s true. Equally true, and perhaps even more powerful, is knowing that you get to pick or sculpt the village and how your family interacts with the village to form your own micro-culture.
Historically, “culture” meant high culture — the best and brightest of all that is, according to Matthew Arnold (1822-1888; he felt that the middle class was populated with philistines!). You know, opera and sonnets.
Over time, we’ve come to see that culture makes meaning in everyday experiences such as clubs, photographs, fashion, tv and movies, pub life, magazines, leisure activities, city, country, or suburban living, even decor. And of course, food.
How do you see your family?
Indoor, bookish, gaming — or outdoor, camping and hiking?
Free range, helicopter, attachment, Tiger mom, Dr. Spock, Dr. Sears?
Civic joiners involved in team sports, Elks, Kiwanis, boosters, community watches, volunteer groups, scouts?
Traditional, progressive, big, small, diverse, biracial, monocultural, one generation, or three?
Community builders, starting from scratch and building on your interests in music, book clubs, crafting?
Constructive protestors working for change in environmental protections, school testing, racial bias, littering, or other social causes?
Guided by the teachings and folks in your church, temple, or in-home services — silently or with music or singing and clapping?
Purpose-driven, shaped by cancer, diabetes, prematurity, or other outside forces?
Whatever your family culture, those cultural themes and goals are borne out in your family activities, your books in the home, shopping practices, vacation decisions, dinner conversations, even the natural and built landscapes…
Are your family rules structured, set by parents ahead of time, or do you have family meetings or are you all taking it as it comes, playing it by ear?
Quiet and private, thoughtful, intentional, and goal-oriented?
Sporty, political, self-reliant, fun, coping, non-insular?
Do you host things?
Go out to things?
Belong to a co-op?
Is your family shrinking? growing?
Is your social group comprised of whole families?
Is it based on your kids and their friends?
Your adult friends and their kids?
When my kids were small we attended everything in whole-family groups that we’d met at daycare.
Choosing a daycare that centers on your workplace, religion, or ability to participate in co-op care effects your culture.
As our kids grew, a couple of our closest families moved out West, a couple had more kids and stayed in the daycare scene, and we all scattered into different public and private schools.
This feels specific to Pittsburgh — a college-saturated city that folks pass through for college, grad school, post-docs, first teaching jobs, medical fellowships, or research stints.
Or maybe they are from here and have their own family networks. Neighborhoods are fairly discreet, held in place by rivers and bluffs.
Building a family of choice takes work, travel.
As a researcher in cultural formations and in the power of popular culture, I know that all of our choices make meaning.
Let’s start a conversation about sculpting that family culture so that all of the family feels supported.
Let’s look at families in context, taking some of the onus off moms. I wrote last year about diversity in family shapes and how, statistically, there’s no “typical American family” any more. No single family structure numbers 33% of families in our culture.
Now let’s catch up to who we actually are. Let’s acknowledge family in all its various heights, depths, angles, colors, patterns, sizes, and shapes.
Let’s shape our families deliberately from the inside with respect to our own diversity, not to the parenting bestsellers of the moment.
Let’s support families heartily from the outside, so that when there is a medical epidemic like obesity or diabetes, we don’t immediately turn to moms.
So that the next time there is a Columbine, Virginia Tech, or Sandy Hook, we don’t immediately blame somebody’s mom. So that our failures and our kids’ failures, the environment, sexual identity, and entitled kids are not all ‘blamed’ on moms — so that women don’t have to pay so heavily for gaps in health, instances of violence, or social problems. Let’s get off moms’ backs.
Please join the conversation in the comments section here, or come on over to Funnermother on Facebook and work together on talking about deliberate family culture and supporting each other — let’s all be funner. 🙂