Pitching For The Family
I take no religious cue and quote no reference text in saying that a Family is an institution. However loosely, it has a purpose and a mandate, an organisation and a structure, values, behaviour and attitude norms, and interactive processes to abide. That it is not a formal or legal entity, and is without a documented basis to exist or function in the way it does, does not mean that it should be flouted nor automatically invite transgression.
The family is like a lamb or cow you could easily slaughter. If we do not, at least among Hindus, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists, it is because they give us more while they are alive, healthy and strong.
People in other cultures constantly invoke individual rights to disown and deny, and walk away from the cohesive ambit of their respective families. Also, parent’s make a life in togetherness difficult by attaching conditions; and marraiges today, with or without pre-nuptial agreements, already envisage a separation sooner or later. As a result, families keep getting dysfunctional all the time and are destroyed within the span of a few generations.
But the family is the closest and the most immediately natural group, of which we are a part. To avoid going generic, I would present my view of a ‘ fictional ‘ family, as it would be in the Indian context : one perhaps I myself would be happy to have despite the imperfections and peculiarities of its individual members !
A family aims to …
01 To Pursue Collective Material Abundance and Emotional Happiness
02 To Promote Personal Growth – Professional and Intellectual
03 Honour Individual Goals for their Spiritual Fulfillment
Not every member of the family would be inclined or capable of furthering along the stated purposes and values. There would be those who would stop at the material and the emotional. Others would be more willing to put in the effort for educating themselves further and a rare one might pitch for more morally evolved strengths and awareness.
The personal values and rules of behaviour however is set for all by the instituted purposes : at cooperating among themselves for collective material abundance and behaving with sufficient care and mindfulness, especially towards the weak and more disadvantaged, to allow collective emotional happiness.
The family could have additional commandments in their values system… say,
” We will never wrong others,” or
” We will respect facts and truths against our opinions or assumptions,” or
” We will always restore trust among each other and act in fairness,” etc.
These exposures form our ‘samskaras,’ the bedrock of values-perspective we bring to the world as adults.
The Father in the family is the head of the institution, above all, by virtue of his being in a position to best represent the family values, guide it through the present and keep its future in his trust.
The Mother, again, is a position in the family that keeps it together, serves its vital needs and answers the emotional call of individuals in the family.
It is clearly important that the Mother and the Father have an open and smooth communication line between them. They must have the maturity to come into conflict on occasions, even rage at each other on issues, but withdraw sufficiently well in time to reassess and cool off enough to understand the other’s stand. It is necessary to appreciate that what is on table is institutional in nature and not a matter of mere personal preference. For instance, a member’s need for food cannot be ignored just because one is busy or does not “feel” like it. Similarly, a decision to invest cannot be taken at the cost of essential need of a member or if it makes the family’s material life miserable.
All members are to be as children of the family. Adults must add to the family’s purposes to the best of their abilities. They also have a responsibility towards themselves which, if they do not, would adversely affect the family as a whole.
Children, yet growing up, must obviously strive to add to their learning, experience and skills, emotional balance, conviction on facts and capacity for critical thinking.
All children however, regardless of age, must defer to the Father and Mother of the family, who are dedicated to its purposes.
A family that does not have a place for personal imperfections and peculiarities, even vice, is heading for extinction. Institutionally, it should be able to encourage the individuals with patience and love, for them to establish a moderation in respect of such deviations. Other members, despite conflicting values, should be able to accommodate the departing behaviour or deviant goals, and accept the person for what he or she means to the family in institutional terms.
No member of the family, including the Father and the Mother, should be expected to be a paragon of ALL personal virtues at ALL time. And, it is actually easier to accept the odd weakness or failing of anyone when the primary identity is institutional, rooted in the family.
Let’s raise a happier family;
let’s contribute better
to the happiness of one
we are already a part of !
It seems to me that life is more “flowing” than about hard divides : nesting and unnesting. Of course, they are very admissible concepts : the building up for children to grow up and withdrawing so as to send them away. But that it excites one to implement in practice, or not, or to what extent, is a cultural matter.
The Indian way would always keep the family meaningful to the children, wherever they might go and howsoever they choose to live. They are always welcome to their parents home, whatever their need or motivation. Sometimes it’s just so that may relive the child in them … and go back to their post to take on the world. After all, one needs a parent or another child’s company to really be the child.
On the other hand, we have the concept of “outgrowing,” which is more in the mind and in our knowledge. There is a more real dismantling of the sense of earlier attachments and ownership … a flowing out of the family memes, even while continuing to anchor the legacy in children’s expectations.
It’s only after the final departures of the parents do they realise and accept that they can be children no more !