For some weird reason, I guess because my kids all shared the same house rules, chores, and listened to the same parents all their lives, I assumed they’d grow up and hold the same beliefs and take complimentary life and career paths.
This could not be further from the truth.
Sure, there are some similarities between the five of them in terms of what they value and how they go about their days, yet each of our [now mainly grown] children are on vastly diverse paths and they have myriad beliefs about topics neither Tom nor I spent much, if any, time talking about in our house during their childhoods. This is so interesting to me!
I imagine I am not the only parent who has looked around in amazement sometime during the past year and a half and wondered how this happened within their family or extended family.
Our family, like many I know, have become divided on some of the main issues troubling the country right now and, on a larger scope, the world. I sensed the tension and took action I felt was important, I’d like to share it with you in case you are running into a similar challenge and would find my suggestion valuable.
After some thought on how we could all try to better understand one another, I started a family email thread with my husband, our kids, and my daughter-in-law. I invited each person to voluntarily participate and to link one article or video resource at a time that they felt was important for the rest of us to learn from about their point of view. The goal was to help one another better understand where each of us was coming from, not to try to convince the others to change their opinion. I suggested only one link from each person so as not to inundate everyone with hours of information that could never be fully digested. Some of the family took me up on the offer, others passed.
Our family’s differing perspectives come from so many outside media sources and are mixed with each one’s personal life experiences and beliefs. We are a microcosm of our community, the country and beyond. If we can’t figure out how to listen to one another in order to better understand and appreciate different perspectives, how will we ever be able to do this on a larger scale?
Overall, the process has lasted about three weeks and it’s been going well; everyone who is participating has been good about taking the time to review the links and offer their thoughts in a constructive way. There have been moments of fear and even sarcasm but we’ve been able to work our way back to meeting on neutral ground. I have learned so much about my kids!
I don’t know what I hope to accomplish with this activity other than to keep the lines of communication open as we navigate a really interesting and challenging chapter of our lives. Family is foundation, what we work on within these relationships is taken out into the schools, communities, and often touches people we don’t even know. When we listen to understand rather than to jump in and defend our point of view we can learn a lot about others and discover what we can agree on. This is a building block!
I believe everyone is doing the best they can based on what they know and on their lived experience. With this as a belief I have been able to hold the space for opinions that are much different than my own. We don’t all have to believe the same thing, in fact I think that would get kind of boring, though I do believe we have to work at strengthening and building a more connected world. One family at a time.