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Category: Family

Sing a Song of Family

July 28, 2022

I love to sing. I love music. I love families. As I pondered this month’s tenet of valuing families, a memorable song from the era when we were raising our children popped into my head on instant replay: What Does it Take to Make a Family? Each verse describes attributes of families and concludes with the words, people who sing a song. I could remember the tune and some of the lyrics, but mostly I recalled the tender feelings about families it created in my heart back then and does to this day.

Families create a song that never ends. Each of us began in some variety of family—traditional, safe, nurturing, scary, broken, or institutional. My family’s song had many verses and variations on the theme. We laughed, played, sang, fought, yelled, struggled, and were far from ideal or perfect. But we had each other, warts and all. I always knew I was loved, even if I didn’t love everything about how our family functioned – or, sometimes didn’t.

As is often the case, I saw goodness in the families of my friends and compared them to our less-stellar situation. I took their example and tucked it away, knowing I wanted some of their verses in the family song I would compose someday with my own husband and children. This was a great gift to me. However, in the process, I also overlooked the richness of our family’s composition because it was not ideal. In hindsight I see and hear again themes from my childhood that demonstrate love, culture, education, sacrifice, forgiveness, and willingness to help those less fortunate. The point is, your family may include some of the best measures of music in your life, even if it has verses filled with pain and disappointment.

Fast forward to the years when I married a noble man named Clyde, and we welcomed five children to our clan. We tried diligently to apply the positive aspects from our birth families, adding variations to our repertoire from friends, family, and study. Despite our best efforts, we had to deal with discord caused by our human weakness, the choices of family members, and a misguided determination to hide any flaws in our song from those listening.

The sweetest notes of my life are centered on the ensemble with Clyde and our children. They taught me to find joy in watching them grow, thrive, and soar. (I might also add that their covers of our family song in their families are much better than our original version.) They clearly came to see my lack of skills, patience, and organization, but they loved and believed in me despite it. Like any powerful piece of music, our family song includes high notes and low – ups and downs, delight and despair, success and failure. But it is my all-time favorite hit.

Recently, my sweet sister passed away. I went back through old journals looking for memories about her. Unfortunately, I didn’t find many details. What I was shocked to find as I perused my scribbled notes from that busy stage of life were measures and verses filled with self-doubt, dismay, and discouragement. So many entries focused on my faults as a housekeeper, mother, wife, sister, and daughter. I was stunned. I simply did not recall feeling like that. What came to mind were the joys and the happy music. I wondered if I remembered things to be better than they actually were. Naturally, I concluded that the truth was in those few thoughts penned in moments of doubt and likely exhaustion. I spent a sleepless night wondering if that happy family song was simply a fantasy.

As is always the case, perspective made things clearer. Like the situation in my first family, we had undeniably hit some wrong notes that are part of our family’s song of growth and learning. I also could not deny the reality of all the beautiful music we shared. My husband and daughter hushed my fears with love, encouragement, and assurance that ours is predominantly a song of joy and celebration.

Some lyrics of that song in my head explain how the love and support of family members can transpose the key of our family’s music from minor to major:

What does it take to make a family?

One that won’t break when the bumps come along?

People who work, and love, and laugh!

People who sing a song!

What does it take to make a family?

One that is there even when you are wrong?

People who all forgive and help!

People who sing a song!

I recognize that for some families dealing with abuse or serious challenges, the road to happy music may require new arrangements or a complete revision. Families are a living creation of God and can always change and evolve.

Take heart and believe you can create a joyful life song, even if it requires new beginnings, faith, and heavenly help. In the meantime, focus on the happy notes and enjoy belting out your unique family song.

Credit:  What does it take to make a family? My Turn on Earth, Carol Lynn Pearson and Lex De Azevedo. 

Campfire song credit: Photo by Kevin Erdvig on Unsplash

Family silhouette credit: Photo by Timon Studler on Unsplash