Sunday, March 29, 2015

"WHAT IS A FAMILY : A Museum of Memories"

                            Auckland Museum
"Memories not chosen, but given day by day, are also being collected. Is a slap in the face the first memory? Or is it the memory of Mommy still being there when the early streaks of dawn starting to come in through the curtains startle you into seeing that 'Mommy has been up all night because I had the croup. She didn't go to bed at all. Oh, Mommy!' You can't choose the first memory; you can't regulate what will be remembered and what will be forgotten. If there are enough lovely memories, and if there are apologies for making really wrong choices, then the museum will have a good balance and a nonromantic reality of what life is like.
Of course, there will also be memories of flare-ups, in the family. 'Daddy is awfully mad right now!' can be said by a four-year-old without any tragic results. ... The reality of the ups and downs of dispositions, of people's tempers or of their mistakes and actual sins, does not tear apart the museum of memories, nor does it have to tear up the home or split the family. A realistic facing of the imperfections, faults, weaknesses, blind spots, and sins of each other in the family, although it will never be a complete facing of the whole person, will be a measure of understanding the whole person which will give a preparation for the future. If every fault, weakness, imperfection, blind spot, or sin was able to be hidden from each other, the relationships and realities of having lived together as a family would be a hypocritical farce! To succeed in hiding everything but the good things in the years of living together, would be like a married couple never undressing in front of each other, going to bed clothed, never seeing each other naked, as far as the physical 'knowing' of each other goes. There were couples taught under Mid-Victorian asceticism who, although they produced children from their bodies, never saw each other without long-sleeved clothing during the whole of married life. It may sound impossible, but it took place! To never accept the fact that no one is perfect, while never allowing the family to remark upon our imperfections, is somewhat in the same direction - knowing a person only superficially.
.... Therefore, before speaking of the fact that our memories will contain upsetting times which we lived through, it is important to set forth the strong fact of our need for reassurance time after time, and the pleading with each other not to 'destroy' each other by constantly dwelling on the weaknesses (with a virtuous feeling of being honest or realistic or non-hypocritical). One can carry too far this pointing out or recognising or talking about faults. That is called by a good old-fashioned word - nagging. ... To recognise each other's good points and to have the family really admire each other is a basic source of stability in our lives. But to recognise each other's weaknesses and to speak of things that happened in the past which were a result of those weaknesses, is not harmful if kept in some sort of balance. The museum of memories will have memories not planned, not chosen and some of them will be good ones - and some will be of flare-ups, arguments, disappointments, as well as of sicknesses, accidents, and tragedies."
WHAT IS A FAMILY? Edith Schaeffer. p 200 - 202
I have been slow reading this book for over 6 months, sometimes stopping after only a paragraph to re read and think if this connects for me in my life and in my family.
The chapter the quote comes from is titled, "A Museum of Memories", and is chapter 9 in the book. Every chapter has numerous gems to challenge and encourage, so I am going back through the book to dig out and share the wise advise of this extraordinary woman, who died a couple of years ago in her nineties. 
1. Parents are to Hand-on a Realistic Understanding to Children, that People are Not Perfect.
I was interested in the way the above quote presented the reality that however we live, we are passing on a mixture of good and bad memories and experiences to our family. The writer wasn't accepting or encouraging poor parental behaviour, but she correctly said that as humans we will get things wrong and unforeseen accidents and heartaches will come into family living.
She rightly reminded us how ridiculously artificial it would be, if our children grew up in a household where all nasty aspects of behaviour and character were hidden. Her example of some Victorian marriages, illustrated her point here.
A family life of niceness with concealed weakness only provides a child with a veneer taste of true life. Well-meaning parents who strive for this sort of family experience, deny their child the strong building blocks which develop their understanding and discernment of life. A child needs to not only find within themselves, but see their own family members also struggling with imperfections, to understand that this is 'normal' or human.
2. The Result of Growing up Thinking Everyone Can be Perfect.
Edith moves to practically speak of what comes from an upbringing where a child does not understand that no one is perfect. 
Commonly, the habit of constantly dwelling on, criticising and being irritated by the weaknesses of those in our family develops, which simply divides and destroys the family. This becomes the pattern that children take into their school life, university, the work place and community. It will be their attitude for life and will be reflected in how they see their rights, amongst other things. The handed-on faulty family view, will generate many more faulty relationships with disastrous outcomes in the child's future.
3. A Solutions to Bring Stability.
We are not left here in a hopeless place, Edith suggests a model to give family stability.
Make a choice to stop fixing our eyes on the disappointments, faults and irritations and rather find, then give attention to the good points that are in people of our family.
She is not saying we are to ignore the bad habits in one another, but when they dominate and shape how we think of our husband, teenager or toddler, we only invite destruction into our family and pass on patterns of thinking to our children that will lead them in to a destructive future.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ Does this ring true for you? Do you need to rethink how you view people in your family? For the future of your children, as well as yourself, I thoroughly recommend reading this book.

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