Living in the Now

Family life for many people in 2011 is dramatically different when compared with the way most of us lived in the 60’s or 70’s. How or why remains a matter of contention with some citing a shift in family values, the reduced longevity or expectation from the institution of marriage or the pressures placed upon us all in the 21st century when compared to those in previous generations: all have credence. Whatever the reasons there is no doubt that as individuals we’re forced to be increasingly flexible in our expectations, whether at work or at home. Indeed, one invariably impacts upon the other. Relationships within innumerable family units today are certainly different, even complex. For example, when a woman has been married for twenty years, has three children with her husband and then decides to sue for divorce. She then meets someone else, re- marries, and her daughter has a baby (Freddie or Gemma) who, in turn, is left by the natural father to bring up the child on her own. The daughter then meets the love of her life and decides to marry and settle down. Yet this baby has a biological extended family including another grandmother, aunts and uncles and perhaps a wayward father who might want to connect with his son or daughter, even though during the last eight years has seen him just a handful of times. In law, this man: this ‘stranger’ has rights. Then there is the man who has married the woman, He too brings with him brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces and maybe children of his own, who in turn all have families of their own. As Freddie or Gemma grows up, whom on earth do they call daddy? How many grandparents does a child need? Apart from anything else there is the strained diplomacy required amongst a group of people who have been thrown together in the best interests of the child, with everyone having this opinion or that opinion on the best way forward in the child’s best interest. I found it difficult enough as a child coping with the foibles of those few adults around me. The grown-up things which can confuse a child. Arguments, whispers behind closed doors, who’s not speaking to who for whatever petty reason. Yet given all of this, I still can’t help but feel that despite the complications of some modern relationships it’s the quality of life of our children that matters. Regardless of whom we are or where we live, we all need the love and support of those around us to give us the confidence to face the world as it is: not as it was or might be. It would be easy for those in the ‘traditional’ nuclear family to criticise others who find themselves as players in the new ‘extended’ scenario, but surely part of the joy of being alive is the unpredictability of our existence. Every single child deserves our respect, although sometimes, keeping track of birthdays can be tricky!

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