What I was going to do this month of January was explore our Family Culture, a phrase that struck me when I first heard it as ridiculous, but then quickly burrowed under my skin. Like a tick, I suspect. Or some other nasty thing with teeth and self-absorbed intentions. In the midst of this faintly ominous striking and burrowing, I happened to walk past a classroom whiteboard asking in its plaintive, earnest, whiteboardly sort of way:
What is the definition of culture? Is one culture ever better than another?To the latter of which, in the world of the whiteboard, the answer is,
Of course not! Every culture is unique and as everyone knows unique = wonderful. Everyone (except skinheads, the NRA and other hateful bigots who constitute, if anyone does, bad cultures) -- everyone knows all cultures everywhere are equally valuable. Once you get to understand them. Except maybe this rich and materialistic one we live in which we (think we) understand all too well and feel a little guilty for enjoying with all its ease and convenience which is really* exploitation and alienation of/from the natural world and other people.At least, that's what the whiteboard seemed to say as I stood there, communing with it. Thinking about cultures where I, as a woman, would not be able to read what it said. Cultures where questions and their answers are usually more dangerous and openly ominous than just ridiculous.
I think now it was, in fact, my chance to interface with Whiteboard that actually prompted the burrowing in of the sneaky idea that there might be different Family Cultures and some value to looking at what made them different. And by different here I don't mean different as in delightfully diverse in equally marvelous and exciting ways (though certainly there are different lovely and loving Family Cultures) but different as in there are differences that make a difference, that can be weighed and compared and chosen for or against, differences that may share some characteristics across otherwise differing family situations.
Because part of the eye-opening process of going through an adoption is realizing there are official entities out there who, though they are careful never to say one type of "family" is better than another, are most definitely looking for particular qualities of parenting and family-making that their experience has led them to conclude allow better chances for the precious and endangered young people they are hoping to help to recuperate, retool, and thrive. Differences that may also be best, perhaps or maybe even surely, for the nurture and cultivation of not-yet-quite-so-damaged young people also.
In brief, Whiteboard, the answer is, I think,
Yes. Some cultures are better than others.And I perhaps know something, or some things anyway, about what makes them better.
I began to image I would explore which habits, customs, undergirding beliefs, attitudes, expectations make this particular Ranch-Style-Daylight-Basement-Halfway-Up-the-Hill-in-the-Techno-Rural-Pacific-Northwest culture a valuable culture, a healthy culture for raising children -- which I and the State of Oregon's Department of Human Services, happen to think it is.
In pursuance of said exploration, I began to collect ethnographic details from the members of this tribe, What do you think makes our family culture what it is?, which I sorted alphabetically. Because I sort everything alphabetically. Because lining things up alphabetically allows the kind of random welter disguised as order that is definitely part of our culture here Halfway-Up-the-Hill.
And thus, I came a cropper.
Which is a phrase from the culture of British fox-hunting perhaps, or from the culture of historical novels definitely, and it means I am in trouble and can't see my way forward from here.
Is our slightly CDO (a more satisfactory way of saying OCD) insistence on alphabeticality (in the spice cupboard, for example) really all that essential to our Culture? But if it is not, what is? What is ephemeral fluff when everything is so of the moment, so small, so repetitive, so much like daily meals? Isn't everything bringing some kind of trace mineral, some micronutrient to the table?
Is it condiment or main dish, if I take a day and admonish, January firstly:
A is for Automate it! - Assume the best - Act as if - Answer as accurately as you can - Answer by asking - Assume you will be overheard - Apples - Apple crisp!! - ABBA (though I hate to admit it) - Admit and apologize (all ages, even/especially adults) - Alliteration! - Alphabetical order!! - Apricots, unsulphured - Asparagus Risotto at Easter and Almond Pomegranate Thumbprint Cookies
B is for Be the parent - Behold your little ones - Beam out love - Better on a Bike!!! - Bring a book - BE the change - Be Kind, Be Wise, Be Faithful & Take Joy - Bollywood - Blackberries & Breyers - Beans - Beans - Beans - More ways of eating Beans - Bread - Barley and Lamb at Easter - Big brown chair - Baskets everywhere
C is for Cherish each for what each is - sudden Course Corrections - Corrective rather than punitive - Code words to stave off catastrophe - Christmas Cookies - Coconut beans & Chapatis - Cheerful goes further - Cook from scratch - Cinnamon - Chore charts - Cubbies for clutter - Cubbies for clean clothes - Carry your own calm like a candle within you - Courage more than safety - Clowning & charming rather than coming down hard - Carry through on consequences - Consequences common and commonplace - Count down from 5 - "Come, Come Ye Saints"- Carry your own coat (and sweet et cetera)
I ask you.