We are working on a new book about the joys and trials of a large family, with the objective of trying to capture some moments in a kind of family that doesn’t exist much anymore.
We’ve been having quite a time coming up with even a working title for the book.
Dad (Richard) wanted to call it “The Last Family,” dramatizing how few large, sprawling, home-as-center-of-the-universe families are left in today’s demographic.
Mom (Linda) wanted to call it “We Must Have Been Crazy,” emphasizing the joy and wildness of the mishaps, mayhem and adventures that come with having this many different personalities under the same roof.
A couple of our kids favored “Oh, What a Time We Had” to underscore that it is downright fun to live like this.
The title that we are leaning toward now was actually suggested as a joke, referring to one road trip where a window in the back of our big stretch van got opened and the wind sucked out a pair of trousers that 5-year-old Noah had packed in a paper bag. “Those were my best pants,” he wailed as he watched them get run over by the cars behind us.
Big families are a lot like that. They get blown around, they take a lot of hits and there is a lot of wailing. But inside the big, old van, there is a lot of love.
Our favorite song while we lived in England was a British children’s tune that said:
At half past three we go home to tea, or maybe a quarter to four,
When five pairs of feet go running down the street and in at their own front door,
And it’s rough and tumble, rattle and noise, mothers and fathers, girls and boys,
Baby in the carry cot, cat by the stove, a little bit of quarreling and lots of love.
We live in a world where individuality and independence and “freedom” are valued more — worshipped more — than interdependence and integration and commitment to family.
As a broader society — and this is reflected in our literature, our entertainment and our lifestyles — we have forgotten that real family life produces levels of love, complexity, irony, humor, joy and an infinitely richer texture than solitary experience can ever generate.
Our family’s experience is anything but perfect — anything but uniformly positive. But what we have accomplished and what we have failed at have been joint efforts, and a whole vanload of perspectives and empathies and resiliencies are better than one.
Even as our world becomes more connected electronically, it is becoming less connected emotionally. Whereas it was once nearly impossible to live alone and independent from others, people do it all the time now, and the social and psychological costs are immense.
Human beings, particularly children, need and crave an identity larger than them, and if family does not provide it, they will find it in a gang or maybe an online chat room. Our children are part of so many cultures — from the Internet culture to the peer culture — but when there is no core family culture, they are like neutrons without a nucleus.
Richard and Linda are the founders of Joyschools.com and New York Times No. 1 best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or at www.valuesparenting.com.