Family Values

Individuality. Responsibility. Tolerance. Sense of humor. Creativity. And what do each of these wonderful virtues have in common?

All are the central values that we desired to impart to our children as they were growing up.

Values are strange things in that everyone, yes, everyone, has them yet most have not stopped to identify and critically evaluate them.Family_ValuesF

When our eldest children were still very small, Rene’ and I adopted the idea of imparting “family values” to our children.  Perhaps some are unaware that the term “family values” was a conservative, right-leaning buzzphrase about 25 years ago (perhaps still is?? Not sure) that translated into adopting a rather conservative spin on one’s politics. I felt this to be unfortunate as, politically, I am fairly middle-of-the-road and really did not want to identify with any political branding. Yet I am a strong believer in both family and values while believing it is very important to impart discretion and wisdom to our young (or at least attempt to…I still surprise myself that at my age I am quite capable of lacking both…but I digress).

The political right used the idea of family values to provide the primary pathos of their party…as if they have corner on family values that the left sorely lacks. I would argue both parties have values -just fundamentally different ones to be sure. There is a lot of, “if your values are not my values they are not values” thinking going on. Perhaps the most striking example of this is the issue of gay rights -as both sides accuse the other of lacking values. I believe both sides have values…just radically different ones, generated from different places with different moral mindsets. Kim Davis, the Kentucky country clerk who went to jail for refusing to issue gay marriage licenses, is, in my opinion, a 4 time married, law breaking, hypocrite who should quit her position or go to prison. That said, I do believe she has values…just radically different ones from my own.

We adopted the term “family values” NOT in the sense of imparting conservative, right wing SHtuff to our children, rather the adopting values we felt to be important. Have our values changed in the past 25 years? In a word, yes. For example, personally, I would not have selected the value of tolerance -as it suggests to “put up with” something/someone. I would replace tolerance with a phrase that goes much further… love, for example. I am still very cool with responsibility, sense of humor and creativity….perhaps even moreso today than 25 years ago.

Taking responsibility for your own actions -not blaming others when things do not go your way, owning up to mistakes, etc… is a central tenet of the Urb clan. Rene’ has grown to believe creativity is the root of all humanity and I tend to agree. And a sense of humor? Life would not be worth living without it…to take ANYTHING, yourself included, too seriously is a serious Urb offense. Even at our most serious, we have learned to seriously laugh at ourselves and each other. I seriously love that.

I am very pleased to report that I believe we have accomplished imparting these values to our now adult children. Each child embodies these 5 values, with each child seeming to strongly emphasize one value in particular. For those of you know my family, I believe you can guess which one matches which value.

HOWEVER, if we were to change one of our original values, perhaps a value we wish we could take back, it most certainly would be that of individuality.  I do believe a healthy dose of being a very strong individual is a good thing, yet, like any good thing in abundance, it can go south….quickly.

To be a strong individual has a tremendous upside, particularly as you are growing up. To be strong in the face of peer pressure, to not allow others to determine your happiness, to stand up to wrongs and indifference, to fully develop your own unique voice and use it without apology, to question authority and, well, question everything, are all wonderful attributes -so what’s the problem?

As I think about it, strong individuality is a lot like drinking- the best part is concurrently the worst part. The worst part of drinking is that you do not care and make reckless decisions -the best part of drinking is that you do not care and make reckless decisions.

As I age, I realize the immense value and importance of community. Terrifically strong individuals typically make for poor members of a community. There is a time to give and a time to take; a time to sacrifice and a time to be a bit selfish; there is a place for “me” time yet I now realize there is a much more prominent place for “we” time.

Rene’ is much more collectivist in her thinking than I am. While I tend to be “looking out for number one,” Rene’ is too busy helping numbers two and three to be concerned with her number one status -and that is a beautiful thing. If I could go back and alter the Urb family values, I would try to find a value that balances the concern for self with the concern for others. That, or just eliminate it altogether. As I think about it, if one is tolerant, responsible, creative, and has a sense of humor, the idea of individuality is somewhat redundant at that point.

So what do we got? We have a family, even counting Rene’ in a strange sort of way, of fierce individuals. They are who they are with no apologies. Whatever they want in life they attack it…with a vengeance.

This December, when my daughter Rose and her man, Nathan, come for their long awaited visit for a few weeks, the house will once again be stuffed full of strong creative and individualistic energy. Oh sure we will fight over where to eat, what time to go to a certain place, what meal to cook, what temperature to set the thermostat, the volume and movie choice on Netflix, to put the accordion and trumpet away, and even who gets the front seat.

I suppose that is the price to pay for four children who could all potentially change over the world.

So, like them or not, for better or for worse, we have identified our values and have attempted to consistently enforce them for about 25 years now.

And remember, there is no “i” in values. It only took a mere quarter century to figure that one out.

jimmysintension

4 Comments

  1. greatly enjoyed the drinking reference. time to work on a proper reply. keep up the work Jimmy

  2. Enjoyed reading your take on values. I agree that family values, from a politically speaking point of view, implies that “the other side” doesn’t have family values. And like you, I agree both have values, difference is they are shaped by factors that we generally don’t control when developing as kids, teens, then later as young adults such as who our parents are, religious affiliations (or lack there of), and where we grow up just to name a few. And even within individual values there is overlap between individual politics and “party affiliation” politics.

    My parents are not political people in any way shape or form other than one could more or less figure where they would fall in the political spectrum based on their social and economic likes and dislikes. I think like most people my parents values were derived from their parents mostly, but part of them they figured out or reshaped on their own based on experience, sort of like you at this stage in your life. And like them, I feel I’m like that too in that i have fundamental values gained from them such as do not steal, work hard, be kind to others and be faithful to your spouse or significant other for example but some I’ve modified to fit my personal experiences such as my view of marriage and if marrying according to traditional standards really matters in the grand scheme of things when the divorce rate is what it is today.

    in terms of your evolving views on individuality and community, what I’ve learned over the years is that we are not computers pre-programmed to only think one exact way every time, so because of that we have to be wise enough to understand when individuality is the better choice, and when community fits better. That goes for just about anything in life I think.

  3. I very much agree that “concern for others” are more important than individuality. The idea of individual is a poor principle to rely on. Children need to have more ” concern for others” value than being only independent. My reason is based on Ecclesiastes 4:9 ” two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: if one falls down, his friend can help him up […]”. Children need to be courteous,”Good Samaritan” and humble to care for others as well for themselves. If they do so, they will build a lot of good relationships with their family and their friends. They’ll earn trust, love and understanding. We all need to depend on each other; how can the individual succeed his values if nobody helps him? This is why I agree with jimmy opinion that children need such values and most important, they need “tough love”.

    • Thank you Chris! I really appreciate you sharing your perspective. As my blog suggests, I certainly agree with you…yet we cannot undermine the value of strong individuality as well.

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