I believe in the nuclear family. (not the x-men kind)
I believe in the traditional family structure: the father works, the mother raises children until they are school aged, and the children go to school. Recently, this has become a radical, if not bigoted, approach to thinking about the rules of modern family. Still, I hold onto to these beliefs. I use to think my ideas were rooted in a foundation while everyone else was blowing wherever the progressive winds took them. Now, I am not so sure.
My ideas of how a family should feel and behave are rooted in my personal family experience. I was raised in the military and almost all my friends had dads that went to work and moms that stayed home. While I watched many of these family structures fracture and fall apart, including my own, it still felt like the right ideal to strive towards.
Many of my beliefs can be traced back to religious principles of the family unit. So I thought. I was raised on Bible stories and it wasn’t until I began reading the Old Testament myself when I began to notice countless examples of very strange family units. One husband: a thousand wives. One husband: a wife, another wife, some slaves. One husband: and some dude’s daughters for a present. The examples are endless, and not intended to bloat the word count. As it turns out, I have trouble recalling any ‘traditional’ family in the Bible.
Recent movements in Lutheran (which I am) theology have now accepted homosexual pastors, in relationships, as leaders of church congregations. This further muddies the water of my belief in the nuclear family. I thought my original beliefs were based in my religion, an obligation if you will. I thought I was supposed to believe in the nuclear family because that’s what God wanted. Now the issue has become much more confusing.
There are many children that have been raised with love, patience, kindness and a high level of involvement from several sources outside their biological parents. These people would have a hard time imagining their childhood being any better by taking these people away; especially when it is for the sake of some socially constructed structure based on little more than anatomy. In cases such as these, conforming to the nuclear family would cause unnecessary stress and restriction on an otherwise happy home.
People who have grown up with an endearing grandmother would have a hard time being convinced that their childhood was somehow flawed. The family dynamics may be different but the love they felt was real. They might ask why meeting some arbitrary guidelines to the dynamics of family is worth sacrificing all the love and experience that shaped them into the people they are today. It would be hard for many of these people to identify what was part of their lives were missing because they lived outside the family lines.
Surrounding a child with the responsible and loving adults is more important than putting them under the control of a neglectful mother and father who claim genealogical dibs. Any argument that would take a child out of his/her best environment is silly, if not malicious. More than this, people raised within non-traditional families may feel stronger bonds in their home life than those raised in the nuclear family. These non-traditional families are tied together by love and general concern for children when many nuclear families are formed simply because someone was too drunk to pull out.
The child is the most important element of any family and in the majority of cases, non-traditional families are built around meeting that child’s needs. One would be hard pressed to explain why a loving figure that is meeting the needs of a child has to be taken away for the sake of conformity. People that have grown up outside the traditional family would laugh at the idea of trading in their loved ones to simply fit in. For these people, creating a nuclear family would exclude too many people they love.
These people may even feel in a nuclear (pun intended) war with the pro-traditional family campaigns. Idealizing the dual parent household can make children feel rejected from normal social groups during critical times of their development. Father-daughter dances might look cute on a photograph but we hardly stop to think of the girl outside the frames, the girl that couldn’t go because she didn’t have a father. Mom and Dad might look swell in the Norman Rockwell painting but there are there are for more guardians capable of raising a child in a safe and loving home.
Current trends seem to be heading away from the nuclear family and it would be easy to give up on this antiquated delusion. Holding onto these old time notions seems to do more harm to children and the countless non-traditional families that love them. I believe in the good old day but I can’t prove they were ever really here. Regardless, something inside me still wants gets lost in a snowy Rockwell Christmas Eve. Logic could prove me wrong, but sometimes, believing in the magic feels so much better.