Monthly Archives: February 2015

Father Knows Best?

Speaking of Brian Williams…I don’t mean to pile on, but I was reading about this BEFORE he got really famous for his war stories…

A recent US Magazine article recounted a weird and disturbing story about the father-daughter relationship between NBC news anchor Brian Williams and his actor daughter Allison Williams. She’s currently acting in a very popular HBO cable series. The interviewer asked Mr. Williams his reaction to watching his daughter performing in a pornographic raunchy sex scene during a public premier viewing of the show. He brushed it off as just part of her job and nothing to be shocked about. He was coming off as the ultra-cool BFF-Dad.

I wonder what he really thinks? Are parents actually capable of turning their children over to any sort of depravity just to prop up an artificial friendship?

Social scientists who study the family tell us that for the past twenty years, parents have been spending a whole lot of their energy trying to become friends with their kids instead of playing out the traditional parent role. There are a number of reasons for this. Chief among them is the sheer lack of time that parents (40% are single parents) spend with their kids.* Who wants to use up that time enforcing rules or being a disciplinarian? Today’s hurried single parent wants to have positive time, building a loving relationship, squeezed in between school, practices, homework and social media.

We’ve invented a world of work that isn’t situated between 9-5. Technology has broken down barriers meant to keep us safe at home raising our families. Now we jump to work at the sound of the next beep. Our fractured families are equally ill-equipped to manage the overbooked lives of our children. The family has been fractured by broken relationships AND intrusive commitments from outside (too much homework, too much work/work, too much extracurricular careers). The parent-child relationship is being fractured because of a new family life that’s filled with busy-ness that turns parents and children into managers, customers, performers and clients when they relate with one another.

Children today and teenagers tomorrow need parents. Families need a parent-child relationship so that real people are nurtured and meaningful relationships are formed. They even need parents who would be horrified to see them performing soft-core porn on HBO.

*Some recent surveys seem to indicate that parents today spend as much if not more time with their children as parents of yesterday did. But when we dig a little deeper we discover that it’s not the same kind of time. It’s time watching from a distance at practice, sitting in the same room watching different entertainment programs and driving carpools of kids around the city.

Looking for Love at the Movies

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People have been complaining about the movies ever since they were invented. Our culture is organized around many values that are economically oriented.  Sex doesn’t really sell, it just gets our attention.

Don’t you think that the book and now film Fifty Shades of Grey have gotten a lot of attention? I wonder what they’re selling?

Dr. Miriam Grossman, a medical doctor with training in pediatrics and in the specialty of child, adolescent, and adult psychiatry recently posted what I thought was a very much needed response to the popular culture craze over Valentine’s Day related to the film Fifty Shades of Grey.

Please take a minute read her post here.

The film is very popular and making a lot of money on it’s opening weekend release. I think it’s difficult to teach and demonstrate healthy sexual relationships in this culture we have built. It’s even more of a challenge when mom is reading the book at soccer practice.

I don’t usually go to the movies in the evenings. Out here in the suburbs the experience had become more akin to the Conquest of the Planet of the Apes as the teens took over the mall and the neighboring multiplex theater. Of course the theater itself was being operated by teenagers…

Over the weekend teenagers stormed a movie theater in what reminds me of a scene from any number of current apocalyptic horror films. A witness at the end of the CNN interview hopes that the kids will be punished by their parents. That’s wishful thinking. Ever try to get a cat back in a bag? I’m afraid these kids don’t have parents. They’ve got one parent (who’s trying to be their friend), parents who are working all the time, or a family so fractured that it no longer works.

I did go to the movies during the evening over the Valentine’s weekend. It was eye opening. Love was everywhere and appropriate dress was optional. I kept wondering who’s dad let you out of the house like that and does he know where you are at this hour (and what you’re doing in public?).

While mothers create our civilization, I think it is the duty of fathers to protect it. When things start to fall apart – and everyone agrees that the American family is in free-fall – we look for someone to blame, but really someone to be responsible and solve the problem. We need some everyday heroes.

Fatherlessness in American produces moral chaos like we witness in an oversexualized media. Increasing teenage deviance, behaving like packs of wild animals, happens because there is no literal or figurative presence of a dominant, just and good father figure in the home and community.  These teenagers all lined up to get into the mall night club that night had such empty looks on their faces. I was probably over-diagnosing the whole situation but it made me wonder about what might be missing from their lives. Most didn’t look happy or excited to be out having fun. It was an empty stare.

So much that we worry about with our teens is really a deep longing  to just belong.

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot

 

 

Too Poor to Make a Family?

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A 2006 report, Charting Parenthood: A Statistical Portrait of Fathers and Mothers in America reveals some important connections between social class and family patterns.

Poor men and women were the least likely of any income group to be married, with the proportion married increasing as income increases. For example, 41 percent of poor men were married in 2001, compared to 66 percent of men with incomes at three or more times the poverty level. The marriage gap was even wider for women. Only about one in every three poor women is married, while about two of every three women with incomes at three or more times the poverty are married.

This difference undoubtedly reflects both the more advantaged backgrounds of those who marry, and the advantages of having multiple earners in the family that marriage can bring.

The percentage of poor men and women who are married has also been declining over the decade. Cohabitation is more common among poor men and women, declining markedly at higher income levels. Overall, 40 percent of all cohabiting relationships involve parents with children in the home.

There are numerous other facts, some alarming, many seemingly routine, but all ultimately describe an American family that is changing. While there are many reasons to explain current family patterns, the one that I wanted to point out here is the economic one.

Since the slow death of the great recession household incomes have still failed to rise. The number of people living in poverty and dependent upon the government for basic necessities continues to increase. Panic still plagues the middle class who are worried about jobs and taxes. These economic symptoms are causing people to organize themselves into different kinds of family patterns, new arrangements that harm today’s children and tomorrows future.

We are creating an ever widening gap between rich and poor. Our poorest citizens (with the largest birthrates) are raising children in broken families because the economy still isn’t working. These families will pay a brutal price right now as they try and manage families with children who stand a greater chance of:

  • A distorted self-identity
  • Poor health and obesity
  • Joining a delinquent subculture
  • Early exposure to sexuality and pornography
  • Lack of preparation for academic learning

But it’s our collective future as a society to which we must pay attention when we think about what’s happening now to these children.

Everyone is trying to solve the latest economic problem. We are American capitalists and the object of the game is to increase profits. There is nothing new here. But, Americans have also been very much concerned about the welfare of all our citizens, realizing that we’re all ultimately in the same boat. Raising the living standards of our neighbor actually helps us all.

As a significant segment of our population (45 million currently living below the poverty line) preparing their children for the future, it is our entire society that ultimately pays an even more terrible price.  As our leaders make economic decisions, let’s be certain to remind them that it’s our children and our future that’s really at stake.

 “Our hearts of stone become hearts of flesh when we learn where the outcast weeps.”  – Brennan Manning