Catapulted into young widowhood with a small son to raise, I was totally unprepared to be a single parent. During my eight-year marriage, I had been a cheerleader, on the sidelines applauding my young husband. It was his role to make all the big decisions. After all, he was head of our family, right? Hmm. So when I found myself on my own, a cosmos with a small satellite to nourish and protect, I had real difficulty thinking of my little household as a family. Families had two adults, didn't they?
Then someone I respected pointed out that although small, ours was indeed a family. That revelation touched a nerve — and helped mightily to change the routine of our tiny household. Almost daily, we'd go for a walk after supper and have a heart-to-heart about the day's happenings — what happened in his school that day, his after-school group's doings and (if I could get a word in sideways) his assignments. On weekends, we had long talks in the nearby park, between throwing and catching the ball. My memories of those days still give me much joy, and I hope you take the hint and put in place some regularly scheduled (and uninterrupted) time for you to commune with your beloved family. Take as many pictures as you can. And remember to date the back of each one to help you jog your memory in later years.
And while your kids are still living at home with you, I heartily suggest you begin to schedule weekly family councils. Believe me, your children will give you a bright-light picture of yourself when you start to live close up. It's as seen from their perspective, of course, but you can bet it's unsullied, untouched by influences that can cloud the minds of most of us (purported) adults. You could do a lot worse than walk around your world with the self-image given to you by your children. (Oh, how I wish it to you!) How to achieve this place in their hearts?
Ask your progeny whether there's anything they'd like to know about you. You might suggest they make a list of their questions/topics. Remind them that there's nothing too sacred to ask you.
In private, read the lists and make brief notes for yourself. Prepare your ideas, giving yourself room for spontaneity, of course. Develop a point of view for each response — even if it stirs up some dust. (Isn't that the purpose here, to clear the air?) There's nothing like controversy to clear up misunderstanding, which in turn can deepen the closeness between generations.
Call a family meeting. The day before the meeting, procure an audio or video recorder, and at breakfast on meeting day, ask all concerned their feelings about being recorded. (Any hesitation and the idea is dead in the water.) Ask that all phones be turned off and left in another room — and remind everyone to bring a pad and pencil to the meeting. Make plans to hold the council on a night when there's nothing planned the next day.
(More on this topic next week.)
DEAR READERS: We've uncovered a treasure-trove of "Single File" paperbacks — in perfect condition, ready to read. Send $15 and your address to: Susan Deitz, C/O Creators Syndicate, 737 Third St., Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. I'll send you a signed copy.
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