Tennessee Mountain Stories

Normal Families

A friend was recently sharing with me how her adult children are causing her grief and the feeling of failure she has as a mother.  She asked, “Are any families normal anymore?” Well you guessed it, that got me to thinking…

Family 1.jpg

The question of normalcy is not about right and wrong but about what everyone else is doing.

The Cleavers defined family in 1957 and that’s the picture many of us maintain today.  Mama at home in high heels and perfectly coifed hair, Daddy comes home with an un-mussed suit to two children who are not never angelic but who always see their mistakes within the allotted 30 minute time slot.  Oh for a sit-com life! 

So when was the world filled with Cleaver-like families? 

Well, not in the Old Testament where the very first family was so filled with jealousy that Cain killed his brother Abel, Abraham fathered a child with one of his servants, Lot tried to prostitute his daughters to the Sodomites, and Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery.  It really just goes downhill from there with Old Testament families burning their children to satisfy a pagan god, men taking multiple wives (let’s don’t even get started on Solomon and his 1,000 woman harem) and warring and killing within families.  Now we know that God shows us the extremes of human depravity to teach us the importance of obedience and the cost of sin.

We’ve talked here before about families that gave away children because they simply couldn’t feed everyone; that created homes with children from more than one family living together.  When maternal mortality rates were near 40% in the 1800’s and the life expectancy just beginning to climb beyond 40, what we now call blended families were downright normal as men would remarry quickly after losing a wife in childbirth – sometime with the newborn surviving and needing care – and a widow had little means of supporting herself and her young children.

As we discussed here a few weeks ago  the census records often show us “boarders” or “servants” living in a home who we know to have been nieces or cousins; these people were more part of the family than paying guests.  Even strangers renting a room often married into the family in the days of limited travel and sometimes limited courting opportunities.

So this question of family troubles is nothing new – but Solomon said that, didn’t he? Ecclesiastes 1:9 “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”