Love is Love...


Posted By: Carol M. Pate, Ed.D.

Love is Love...

Not necessarily blood.  I say this because I am one of eight “raised” by two parents. Raised in quotes because I’ve always wondered what makes a family, as I rarely had the feeling that we were a “family”. 

Yes, we lived in the same house.  We had little to no money for most of my childhood/teenage time.  We also had little to no conversation between my parents and siblings as my father was gone either working or drinking and my mother was immersed in the daily chores of changing diapers, or clothes or putting food together.  It was a family that quickly overwhelmed the parents that brought us to life.  

We were a family according to federal definitions that provided free milk for our school lunches.

My siblings and I also didn’t experience much of a “family” in school either, from elementary through high school.  Some of us became poster children/teenagers for the shame society said, “you don't belong".  I suspect that for whatever reason, our presence in school created a sense that to care for us would have been too much…and in all honesty, they were not all that wrong.

Finally, growing up in the middle of a desert, with cactus, scorpions, snakes, spiders, centipedes, and the relentless beating of the sun offered little to no comfort either.  However, the space between me and society that my first 18 years opened gave me a perspective on family and what makes a family that I wouldn’t otherwise have had.

I offer this perspective as we move into the 2020 holidays and winter reflective times:

Having and raising children takes some of the fiercest love and commitment to be “good enough”.  I have seen and worked with countless children/teenagers loved and unloved all over the globe, and I’m gratified when I see love, and saddened when I see neglect. 

Being open to seeing connection and love allows one’s idea of family to grow and expand.  I was not taught this, I experienced this. I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of seeing lovingly fierce families headed by:

Mothers and Fathers (gender specific)

Mother only (gender specific)

Father only (gender specific)

Mothers and Fathers (single genders)

Grandmothers (I am sure children are raised by grandfathers alone but I haven’t had the pleasure of this experience yet)

Guardians/loco parentis

Bi-cultural; Bi-racial mothers/fathers (see all choices above)

I would probably not have had the pleasure of these families had I joined my parents’ world.

What is also true is that too many children are asked to carry shame that is laid on them by the “adult” society.  Children know that their parents are not perfect; and sometimes embarrassingly so. However, shaming them for the so called “sins” of their parents only further exacerbates the disconnection they may already feel. 

Finally I don’t automatically judge when I see and/or hear a screaming child in the store or on the street. If I am able and the space/place is right, I will offer a hand.  All parents need a hand, sometimes two, sometimes more.  

Today, in this world where we slice and dice every and any family arrangement, I’m calling for a pause in our judgment of what makes a “good mother”, “good father” and/or a “good family” and look a little deeper into the dynamics of connection.  COVID-19 has even added more stressor to the life of parents. 

Having/raising a family is not for the faint of heart, it tests hearts and minds every day.  I knew my heart didn’t have what a child of mine would need during my childbearing years and therefore I didn’t have/ or birth children.  

I applaud every and anyone/or more who take this courageous journey and come out the other side as “good enough”.

Our children deserve to be cared for and loved, no matter what the family structure looks like. I’m reminded of a line in a Sir. Edward Dyer’s poem – “love is love in beggars as in kings”.

This holiday and reflective season you can be appreciative for what you have, your “good enough” family.  If you happen to see, or have in class, or otherwise experience what you consider a “not” good enough family/parent, then help where, when and how you can. 

If you cannot, then I ask that you don’t add shame. It’s not theirs to carry. They may have enough.

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