It has been suggested, more than a few times, that the so-called breakdown of moral behaviour and personal values in the "west" is a direct result of the disappearance of the nuclear family. No, not the family living in the shack at the bottom of the garden wearing aluminium space-suits and cultivating Uranium, the other Nuclear family*. Children and young people no longer view their primary care-givers as role models, and the latter do very little to warrant any such respect anyway. Children fly the nest at an ever-decreasing age, and even when still occupying the nest they spend more time with their friends, real or virtual, than with their own flesh and blood. Ask any Southern English youth today what the 3 most important things in their life are, and the idea of 'family' isn't likely to make an appearance in their answer.
Over recent years, with my own development and maturity, the growth of my own flesh and blood and my time being so far away from them, I have come to appreciate certain truths about the family dynamic. The affection, tenacity and endurance of family is one of God's greatest gifts, or at least has been in my life, and anyone who knows me even slightly will know that I do not say that from behind rose-coloured glasses**.
My time here in Santiago has confirmed and inspired my almost all my thoughts and desires about family. Latin America is still very family orientated. There is no Latin American "Super-Nanny" that I'm aware of. Hispanic Youths are not sent away on shows such as "The world's strictest parents". Even drug cartels and crime rings are structured around blood ties, and loyalty (or so I'm told) is to family above all.
Each member is respected. From the smallest baby to the oldest grandparent when somebody talks everybody else listens. Every action is a source of entertainment. Every event is cause for celebration. This week alone I have attended 2 birthdays, a graduation celebration, an acceptance into University cocktail and a retirement celebratory lunch; and all in the same family. And at these gatherings I find all those present are fully up to speed with all the latest goings on in my life. I am peppered with inquiries about my timetable for work, my latest acquaintances, my most recent outings and my general wellbeing and happiness during my time in Santiago. I have been adopted as a member of the family, and my life now forms part of this chain of conversation, where nothing is too mundane or trivial to be left out. Every happening is worth a conversation.
It is true that you do not choose your family, and yes this explains why indeed family can be so hard at times. But even if we do not choose our family, we can choose to jolly well make the most of whatever we've been given.
*To be honest, the nuclear part isn't that important, I would just rather leave out the word "traditional".
**They are distinctly peachy!