Family Values

April 13, 2016

One of the many things that occur when two people get married is the merging of family traditions, values, mores…  I don’t know how long it takes to figure it out.  It probably depends on the couple and how adaptable they are and how diverse their families are, but I can assure you it doesn’t happen overnight.  Nor does it happen in a matter of months or even years.  Just when you think you “have it” and you’ve got some notion that the two of you are on the same page… for some, kids come along.  Very quickly you realize there is much more to be worked out, learned, negotiated and argued over.  If you hadn’t discovered it before, you rapidly realize how different your parents were regarding their rules and expectations.

A few simple examples:

Making dinner.  If Ellen’s mother was making dinner and there were 3 people, she made 3 pork chops.  If there were 5 people she made 5 pork chops.  When my mother made dinner and there were 3 people she made enough for the neighborhood.  If there were 5 people she made enough for the neighborhood.  If the neighborhood was there she made enough for an army.  To this day Ellen tends to underestimate quantities of food necessary for events and I overestimate.  Just a little aside… Ellen’s mother had a recipe for how many potatoes to put in potato salad.  “1 potato for each normal person and 5 for Bill.”  😉

At the dinner table:  When my family sat for dinner it was understood that you were to eat everything on your plate, including peas, brussel sprouts, broccoli and other disgusting things.  But my dad had one additional rule.  We had to eat within the time limit he gave.  If not he would pile more revolting food on our plates.  I have very clear memories of crying my heart out as my dad was heaping additional peas in front of me.  Let me add that there was no feeding it to the dog under the table or filling our mouths and going to the bathroom.  That might explain my girth.  Just sayin.  Ellen’s family on the other hand had a similar rule about finishing what was on your plate but each of the kids was allowed to opt out of one food from the family menu.  Ellen’s was pizza.  Back then it was that awful Chef-Boy-R-Dee in a box stuff.  The worst pizza EVER!  Another aside:  I have been intrigued over the years to hear from a number of people of my parents’ generation who have said they were not allowed to speak at the dinner table when they were children.  I guess the idea was that Dad had come home from work after a long day and he didn’t want to hear a bunch of kids.  Or it was some respect thing.  I don’t really know.

Expectations:  We learned rapidly in our marriage that “expectations” caused most of our problems.  You’re going to think that all I do is contemplate food… and you wouldn’t be completely wrong but…  In our first year of marriage Ellen… um… shall I say… uh… she couldn’t cook toast.  So I was often either helping her in the kitchen make something out of a disaster she had wrought… or I was just making dinner myself.  I was sure that was pretty special and I thought she should have appreciated and recognized it as such.  After all, my dad might have starved if he had to turn the stove on.  (That being said he could have taken it apart and rebuilt it.  But cooking on it was out of the question.)  What I didn’t know was that Ellen’s father cooked her and her siblings’ breakfast many days before they went to school.  Get it?  My expectation for men cooking was that it was unusual and special.  But for her it was only part of her everyday life.  Thus I didn’t get the affirmation and appreciation I thought I was due.

It would not take me long to list dozens of dissimilarities between her family and mine.  Given some time I could probably come up with hundreds.  None of these things are “right or wrong” they are just “different.”  And yet we tend to treat folks as if their way of doing things is “wrong” particularly if their ways are different from ours.  Okay, no doubt some things are “wrong” but it behooves us to figure out when things are “wrong” versus when they are just “different.”  I suspect that disparity explains some of the tensions in our culture.   You know what I mean?  Some people (me) think abortion is “wrong” and not God’s intention.  I think someone ought to speak on behalf of unborn children who cannot speak for themselves.  Others think a woman’s right to her own body trumps a child in her womb.  Thus “tension and discord.”

What we have tried to do in our culture is worship the “god of tolerance,” thus we think we can live in diversity with little conflict.  Um…. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….  Oh that was a good one… let me catch my breath.  I sort of got myself there.  Honestly, we live in conflict because we are broken human beings.  ALL OF US.  Not because we can’t agree on some things.  Utopia is a pipe dream.  We have enough history to affirm that.

It would be an interesting exercise to go through our list of “values” and determine which of them are “right and wrong” as we see them versus which of them are “different.”  Of course it takes a certain amount of courage to do that.  After all we might find ourselves challenged regarding long standing beliefs.  And of course we might ponder why we believe the things we do and affirm them.


Oh wait… was I supposed to say something “religious?”  Hmmmmmmmmm…  Okay, read Leviticus 2:12-16:

12 “‘If your offering is a goat, you are to present it before the Lord, 13 lay your hand on its head and slaughter it in front of the tent of meeting. Then Aaron’s sons shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. 14 From what you offer you are to present this food offering to the Lord: the internal organs and all the fat that is connected to them, 15 both kidneys with the fat on them near the loins, and the long lobe of the liver, which you will remove with the kidneys. 16 The priest shall burn them on the altar as a food offering, a pleasing aroma. All the fat is the Lord’s.

Um…. Uh…. Yeah.

Have a blessed day!


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