And Another Thing

Family values vary from one person to next
By: Susan Rushton, And Another Thing
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My mother wouldn't approve of what I'm doing right now. Right now, I'm upstairs writing this and my husband Don's downstairs fixing his dinner. She'd say I should be downstairs cooking for him, not scribbling on the computer. If not cooking for him, at least eating with him. I'd agree with her if this happened all the time. But we eat dinner separately only occasionally. If it happened all the time, I'd start to wonder. But most of the time, I'm in the kitchen gathering stuff together for us both to eat. I'd rather gather than have him gather. Don't tell him I said so. But if I do it, I know I'll have something I like, and I'm pickier than he is. Those are some of our family values. They may not be traditional, but they're family values anyway. We're a family, after all. We like eating together, and we do most of the time. I'm continuing my discussion of family values from last time. Two weeks ago, I talked about a scheme my niece and I have cooked up ” our own monthly book club, where she chooses a book from four I suggest. This results in many things other than my giving her books. It connects us, makes us important to one another. I've also started connecting with a cousin in Washington ” via the very old-fashioned post office, and pen on paper. More family values, none of which have been mandated by the government. We connect because we want to, not because a church or a government says we must. My thinking about family values started because my siblings and their spouses and children are getting together this summer to scatter our parents' ashes. Both of them loved the mountains, so that's where we plan to meet. The impression I have is that although it will be hard, it will also be fun, and a delight, and good for us. I think we all predict a lot of laughter ... because that's what happens when we all get together. Because we value laughing, and we value each other. Family values ... Alison Sweetser ticked them off after some thought.  It's tough, she said. What are traditional family values? Love. Honor. And respect, truthfulness, emotional generosity, and tolerance. But love is the big package. It includes all those others. Alison didn't mention religion or God, but neither have I. Maybe she assumes the presence of both, but it's none of my business. It's none of anyone's business. Ken King did bring up religion when I asked him about family values.  Religion should be in there, he said. It doesn't have to be my religion. And tradition, he said, involves man, woman, husband, wife. One man, one woman. Plus charity, helping others. And kindness. I could get on a soapbox, but I won't. When I spoke to Donna Brooks, Easter was just around the corner, and she was looking forward to nearly 20 people gathering for Sunday dinner, all of them family. That's certainly traditional. And the values? Honesty and trust, she said. The ability to listen when there are problems. Not to judge, but to be supportive. And unconditional love: let people be who they're going to be. Finally, she said, I think a belief in God is important. Believing ” and practicing what you believe. Joe Lentini, like Ken King, talked about marriage. In addition to viewing marriage traditionally ” between a man and a woman ” he believes family values means valuing the marriage. Take your vows seriously, he said. And don't get married too young, or too quickly, because you should stay married. And keep drugs and alcohol out of your relationship, because if you don't, they become a third person in the room that destroys relationships. Asking these four about traditional values was instructive. It's clear that we can make up our own minds about these ideas without other people trying to decide for us. And while I may not agree with all of them, that doesn't mean we can't continue talking. I get the impression from the big media that the topic is so volatile that it's not discussible. My experience gives me hope. Susan Rushton's column appears every other Sunday in the Journal. Her e-mail address is