Families

We were having a conversation recently about how different families are in their configurations and the differences in the length of generations in families. Both of us were born when our parents were in their thirties and we were in our thirties when our children were born, and our sixties when our grandchildren were born, so we tend to think that such separation is the norm. However, my family of origin is large and spread out due, in part to the addition of children by adoption. My oldest sister was seven when she was adopted and she had her first child when she was young. She and my mother were pregnant at the same time and my brother was an uncle when he was born. By the time we had our son, my mother was already a great grandmother.

We have friends whose baby was born when her father was in his forties and he was the last child of his mother, also born when she was in her forties. Their baby’s grandmother is in her eighties. We know others who have become grandmothers in their forties.

Then there are the many different configurations of families that occur through divorce and remarriage. We know a blended family with a high school graduate on one end and an infant on the other. The children in the family are “yours” “mine” and “ours.” In our church family we have single mothers and single fathers and reconfigured families and traditional families (whatever that might mean) and families with a lot of children and families with a single child.

This great variety isn’t something that we invented. If you read through the bible, you’ll find families with multiple mothers and step children growing up as a single unit. There are widows who have children and daughters-in-law who become part of their in-laws families even after their husbands pass away. The genealogies of the bible contain adopted and grafted family members as well as direct descendants. There are women raising children alone and at least one story of a grandparent raising a grandchild. There is no single type of family that is a typical biblical family.

As a result, we were comfortable raising our children living hundreds of miles from their grandparents. We knew that we would always have elders in our church family who would act as grandparents to our children in addition to our parents, who continued to provide love and support for our children. Our children loved their regular visits from and to their grandparents and felt at home in their grandparents home. When our children grew up they didn’t feel a need to remain in the place where we lived. Our first grandchild was born more than a thousand miles from our home. Our youngest grandchild was born in Japan and hasn’t ever lived on the same continent as his grandparents.

Still there is a deep hunger to be with our children and grandchildren. Our grandchildren who live in Washington know our camper better than our home. Two of them are sleeping in our camper as i write and they have spent as many nights in our camper as they have in their own beds whenever we have visited. The third was here for story time before heading home to sleep and will be over for breakfast in a few hours. Having the camper in the yard and the children floating back and forth seems as natural as anything.

When we began to think about retirement, one of the first conversations we had was about where we might live. During our active careers we lived where the church called us. We knew that we would be distant from family because of our choice of career. We were so fortunate that we each had one parent who chose to live near to us when they neared the end of their lives, so it seemed natural that we would move to be nearer our children when we were able to make a choice about where to live.

That is easier said than done. We live in a mobile society. Our daughter’s husband is pursuing a career in the Air Force and they will move sometime in the next year. They likely will make more moves before settling on a permanent home. Our son, in whose yard we are currently camping, is looking towards a slightly larger home on a larger lot. With the increase of telecommuting as a part of the modern workplace they need an office room in their house, something their current home does not have. As they grow more and more of the food for their family they have used up most of the land around their home for garden. Although they are enjoying the fruit trees they have planted and each day we eat well from the garden, they can envision having more room for plants and animals. Right now the plan is for them to see if the current home will sell and they can make a move while interest rates are low. It is likely that they will purchase a different house before we sell our house and find a new home to purchase.

Add to that the complications of the pandemic which seems to be rapidly spreading with recent increases in infection rates back in South Dakota and changes in jobs and the way that people are working. Then there is the uncertainty about schools. Our son and daughter in law have been home schooling for six months now, not by choice, but because their schools closed in the spring. It is uncertain how much face-to-face schooling will take place. If the move to a new home means a change of schools, it might be much less dramatic than would have been the case when the children were attending school every day.

We’ve been talking about what it means to live in uncertain times. It certainly is something that people of faith have endured int the past. Just like lots of different families, the bible is filled with families on the move and adapting to the whims of kings and governors and changes in the weather as well as the spread of illness.

It is a good time to be flexible and to shed some of our notions about what is normal. We are fortunate to have open options and a future that might take many different shapes.

As I keep saying, at least we aren’t getting bored.

Copyright (c) 2020 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!