The Meaning of a Family ….
“It’s a boy! No, it’s a girl! No! It’s a Family!”
Jenny didn’t think much about family. Friends were the focus of her life, right through her schooling years. Family was always there, but never important. She was really close to several girls who she shared her life with for many years. It’s funny how quickly those friends faded out of her life once Eddie came along. Now he was her life’s focus.
Eddie quickly became the centre of everything for her. She spent all the time she could with him and soon longed to be his wife. Two years of marriage had been full of fun, despite the unavoidable upsets along the way. They did everything together and she loved sharing her life with this great guy.
From time to time people at work would ask “When are you going to start a family?” She always dismissed the thought. She really didn’t plan to become a baby-minder or a washer-woman in a hurry. There was so much to do and enjoy. And being child-less meant she and Eddie had plenty of freedom. She also enjoyed her work and didn’t want to give that up for a baby.
She kept contact with her family, especially for birthdays and things like that. And she grew to understand his family too, although they were not exactly her type.
Then came the BIG news. She just couldn’t wait to tell Eddie and she really hoped he’d be happy. This wasn’t exactly how they’d planned it. After a lot of talking they both began to warm to the idea of parenthood. Thus began the eternal pregnancy. Jenny was sick a lot of the time, missed a lot of work days and dropped out of social engagements. By the time that phase was past she had a huge lump in her tummy that made everything more difficult.
Jenny relied heavily on Eddie, even though he didn’t know a thing about babies. Her mum gave her advice, but Jenny didn’t enjoy her mum’s way of telling her things. She kept away from Eddie’s mum who always wanted to know everything.
She stayed at work as long as she could and then took leave, with her job held open for her. Once the baby could be put into care she would be back to the work she enjoyed, that paid her quite well. Besides, she and Eddie had big plans and you can’t have any fun on one income, especially with a third mouth to feed.
This new journey awakened strange thoughts and feelings within her. Deep-seated instincts stirred her heart. She felt joy and fear like she had never known them. Thankfully Eddie was there to cling to in the more difficult moments. At times she pleaded with him to stay home, rather than go out with his friends. She felt that something was missing when he wasn’t there.
She had heard her mother plead with her dad to take more responsibility. Surely Eddie would never be irresponsible like her dad was. Surely he would be there for her every time she needed him. But already he became cross when she clung to him. He hadn’t married a liability, but a playmate. He wanted to keep things going as fast as he could, but she sensed a longing to prepare a quiet place for the life forming in her womb.
That’s when she realised she really didn’t know Eddie at all. She had always expected him to be her knight in shining armour, so she always ignored his failings as minor faults. Now she began to see him as someone who couldn’t care for her as much as she wanted him to. This was all a very difficult time for them both.
They both kept up the dream that they would handle this baby like no-one else ever had. They would be untroubled by the intrusion and maintain their high life with gusto. The kid would just have to adapt and fit in. That’s the way they wanted it and they persisted with that anticipation.
Pregnancy classes helped them learn what her mother could easily have told her. Somehow it felt better to learn from a teacher than from mum. There was something clinical and professional about the hospital and the training program. So now they knew everything they needed to know, and it only took a handful of sessions.
Beautiful things were bought for the baby. Their child wasn’t going to suffer the indignity of hand-me-downs or anything from a bygone era. It was all modern, shiny and new; fresh with the smell of plastic. Those family things her mother wanted her to use could go to her sister. This was something ‘new’ and better than her mum had done in her day with the more limited means of those times. Modern inventions were always better than the clumsy and chunky things from yesteryear.
Getting to hospital was no problem at all. Everything worked like a breeze, just as they planned it; except the baby decided not to come. She was sent home and told to wait for the right time. That unsettled her, but Eddie just couldn’t understand that she needed him. He was all bravado and silly talk, which made her laugh, but left her feeling empty, and a little bit lonely.
The next time was the right time. The full deal came her way and she struggled through it bravely, even though it was a long labour. Eddie was there for some of the time, but he hadn’t expected it to be so long, so he took several breaks, for rest and food. He was not there when the baby was born, rather suddenly in the end.
The doctor held the newborn infant in his gloved hands and announced with authority, “It’s a ……”
Well, what do you think it was? It could have been a boy or a girl. But actually it was much more than that. Jenny gave birth to a ‘family’. Well, to be accurate, the family already existed. Jenny and Eddie were a ‘family’, but they just didn’t know it.
Many people don’t realise they are a family these days. They are too busy being ‘individuals’ and doing their own thing. They grow up without valuing their own childhood family. Their peers make up the main focus of their life. They even argue with their parents in order to pursue the values their friends have given them.
Their peers are replaced by their sweetheart and they move into marriage. The childhood friendships are not as enduring as the family bonds, yet people still hold those temporary, responsibility-free relationships ahead of their family. But eventually their beau becomes their reason for being alive. They may even pursue relationship with him or her against their parents’ advice and best wishes. They are individuals who demand the right to do what they think is best.
When they get married they don’t see themselves as a family, but as a ‘team’. They become two individuals agreeing to be together because it’s a lovely idea to them both. “Starting a family” means having children. But they have already become a family, only they don’t know what a family really is.
Usually, by the second child, a couple begins to think in terms of family. But many people still live as individuals with new responsibility. They don’t see themselves as part of a family, but rather as ‘having kids’, or having a ‘missus’ to look after. Many families go through life never knowing that they are indeed, a family.
As the children grow and form friendships with a new generation of peers, the cycle continues.
Part of the re-discovery of family is to recognise what it is and how important it is. Those who think of themselves as a ‘person’ fitting in with others miss out on the depth and wonder of what God created for them.
What did it take for you to realise you are part of a family? Of if you don’t realise it yet, what will it take to get through to you?
I pray that God open your eyes to the significance of what you were born into and what you are creating in your own married and parenting. It’s called family and it’s far more special than you might realise.