I get my new ideas from the media, and this week has proven to be interesting reading out of Vanity Fair.
I like Sebastian Junger. He always writes on subjects that are engrossing to me, like war, white slavery, and drowning. The latest story on why soldiers miss war was illuminating also. This process of refining individuals down to a group that sticks together and bonds under stress is only echoing our human species’ need to work as a group for survival. When soldiers come out of the war zone, and try to blend back into civilian life, it all goes wrong for many.
Our family has similar facets to a platoon where the family group of parents, children and grandparents form a cohesive group that enables the children to grow in security.
My family group was not such a one as the one to which my son belongs. He has mother in law, wife, child, sister in law living under one roof, and three nephews being underfoot for day care right there outside his home office door.
I was the middle child between two brothers who were four years older and younger than me. We had no phone, no close cousins, aunts, grandparents or uncles within two thousand miles. Our contact was by written letter and occasional photos. This was normal for me, and I prized my privacy when I got my own bedroom added onto the house. So it was out of the bunk bed and onto my own Hollywood bed with a lock on my door.
This is supposedly not a healthy way to raise a child. More primitive cultures or poorer families have to share one room for sleeping and even one bed for parents and babies. When I was studying other cultures, I was aghast at the habit of upper middle class Canadians who had separate lives in the same house. The children had rooms of their own and televisions in their bedrooms. After dinner everyone retreated to their separate lairs.
Even though I had been raised in semi isolation I did make friends of my own and still have them in my life today. Having to raise the last child in reduced circumstances did not mean that I lost the bonding with family, such as it was. When I had the money, I traveled those two thousand miles to be with my army of aunts and cousins in far off Michigan, and witnessed the importance that they put on knowing where all the houses were located that the grandparents and aunts had lived in through the years.
The tribe was paramount, and great pains were made amongst my cousins to maintain contacts and bonding through hunting parties, family reunions, and visits to far flung children.
The human species needs the connection of belonging, and even if the circumstances are challenging, such as war time or rooting for a home team in sports, it is the connecting that is important.
Since reading Mr. Junger’s article, I have been doing some thinking. I used to think that having a baby in bed with the mother was dangerous; all it means is that the mother is on hyper alert and does not get quality sleep, but the baby feels secure. I used to think that family reunions were tedious and a trap of over eating, which they are, but the overlying point is to re-unite those who have perhaps been out of the family circle for a time. I used to feel pity for the Amish teen agers who were stifled in their choices of life style, but now realize that there is very little suicide amongst that group. It has less to do with morals and religion than to the traditional treatment of children. In that society children are valued and know where they rank in the hierarchy.
I used to think a parent who wanted his adult children to stay at home with him was being backwards, and that the children needed to fly away out of his nest, but now I realize that he needed the comfort of the group.
I saw firsthand the effort that my granddaughter went towards holding a first birthday party for her child so his father could have a big family group around him right before he shipped out for a lengthy cruise on an aircraft carrier. This sailor is not in jeopardy of being isolated, as he has re-enlisted for the next ten years. He will be with his “tribe” while his wife goes home to her parents for the support she needs.
I never got into the spirit of things during my enrollment into a religion. Since it was not of my choosing, I had no trouble at all in abandoning when I got the chance. I do however understand how people can cling to a dysfunctional religion. It is the ancient lizard brain working overtime telling this weak human that if he abandons the group whether it is Catholicism, LDS, Scientology or Tea Party, he is going to be at the mercy of the Law of The Jungle and not survive, or at least not thrive.
Contrary to the urging of our lizard brain, we can break away from the group and go it alone.
The groups vary in what they will do to prevent this loss, ranging from shunning, to persecution and harassment.
The future concern for parents is that their children tend to isolate themselves with electronic games, so even if a family game of Parcheesi seems boring, it can be very healthy for the family dynamic.