So, your family is going along fine. The two of you have a great relationship going, and you decide that it is time to expand, and add a baby. What a joyful addition!
Except for the diapers and the exhaustion and the fact that one of you possibly now feels neglected.
And then the baby starts to talk! Too cute!
And then baby learns to say, “No!” And the games begin.
What is the appropriate balance between permissiveness and authority? When does baby get to have her way, and when will this be an issue? What supports baby’s growing ego strength, and what turns him into a little monster?
Then we have the homework struggles. And adolescence. The hormones are flying. Mom, junior, everyone becomes more volatile.
And maybe Dad has less patience. Or just checks out.
Maybe it feels like no one is listening to anyone, so voices get raised. This can result in such a loud din that everyone really stops listening to one another.
And what of the parents’ relationship – this is the security that everything else depends upon.
And what if both parents are same sex? Or interracial? Or if there is a disparity in age or forcefulness of personality or earning power? And what if money is tight? What if these factors add additional stressors to an already stressful situation, with the community potentially not supporting the union in helpful ways?
And how about the fact that our extended families tend to be separated by so much distance? In a traditional family, if mom was upset, junior could always go to auntie for understanding. What if auntie is across the continent, and junior doesn’t know her?
Or what if she’s right next door, and keeps butting in? How about in-laws?
How about single parents, raising children with all of these factors ratcheted up by the fact that there is no helpmate?
Or blended families? Whose rules govern, when we do it one way at Dad’s house, and another way at Mom’s house?
And what if mom or dad came from an abusive family, and is confused about how to do it right?
Then the kids are ready to launch, but they don’t. What then?
Or drugs enter the picture. Or daughter gets pregnant and isn’t able to support the next generation yet? Or son suddenly becomes a dad with the same difficulty?
Sometimes, it helps to have a time and a place to work this stuff out, and help us remember how much we love one another. And that perhaps watching Married with Children wasn’t the best training for building a happy, healthy, supportive family.
Note to all – laugh tracks on sitcoms frequently reinforce mean-spiritedness, rather than positive interactions and gentle humor. It’s no wonder we are so confused!