My wife once posted a meme on her Facebook profile attributed to Mother Teresa: “Love begins by taking care of the closest ones – the ones at home.” This made me think about some things my wife and I are trying to accomplish in parenting our four young girls.
Has anyone else ever noticed that we have a tendency to treat those outside our family better than those within? Domestic conflicts are probably one of the most common sources of conflict in the world. And I’m not going to talk about abuse here, that’s a whole different ballgame. I’m just talking about the everyday bickering and arguing that happens between spouses and children.
Now, Liz and I never fight. After all, we pledged our lives to one another and made a covenant to always put one another’s needs above our own. We always assume the best of one another and treasure each other as a gift.
All right, all right. I’m lying. We fail at that a lot, even though for the most part we DO get along and like to be around each other.
Here’s where I’m going with this: Even though my wife and I did all those things about pledging and covenanting, and did them on our own volition (nobody forced us), we still have times where we don’t get along.
From our love came four beautiful, precious children, all of whom have very distinct and different personalities. And because of homeschooling, they are around each other all the time. And because they are all different ages, they are all at different places in their development. They also all each have a strong will to do what they want to do, making for blow-ups and screaming matches when these wills collide. Which happens often, because they are always around each other.
So, what to do. I mean, it’s hard for Liz and I to get along all the time. How can we really expect all of our girls to do so? Except, we have to try to help them learn how to do this. Because, you see, what they don’t understand this point in their lives is that they are all they will have. Family is the primary unit of society for a reason.
What I’ve come to realize is this: if you can’t love the ones at home, how can you love the ones outside it. We as a society tell people, “Be yourselves,” but don’t like it when they actually are. It’s easy to love people who hide their “negative” feelings. It’s easy to love people who are always polite to you. It’s easy to love people that only show their best side. If that’s true love to you, then you have a weak love, a love that would collapse beneath the weight of a burden.
I don’t want my daughters to have a weak love.
I want them to hold each other up. In our family, we teach our daughters that they are the ones who will be there for each other.
Friends come and go. Friends abandon you. Friends have families of their own.
Now I know that there are cases where family abandons their own, and it’s friends that pick up the slack. But that is not what we want for our family. I have found that if family can truly love one another, then they can love anyone. For if you love your family, you have a strong love, a love that can stand up under its own weight.
This world is harsh, and people are unreliable. It tells you that you have to make it on your own. You have to support yourself, by yourself. That’s not what I want for our family. I want my children to support each other, to be there in a way that the world isn’t. In our family, we don’t do it alone. In my opinion, that’s not why God put us together.
My job as the father of this family is to create a support system for my daughters that will last a lifetime. I am attempting this so they don’t have to face this world alone. I want to truly teach them that love does begin here! Once they learn that, they will learn that it doesn’t end there.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.