Tom and I attended an incredible documentary the other night.
The intensity of the message hit me deeply, on so many levels, it has taken some time for me to process before sitting down to write about it.
The film was created by Focus on the Family, an organization based out of Colorado (www.focusonthefamily.com). The narrator, Tim Sisarich, a married father of five from Australia, traveled all over the world to interview psychologists, authors, doctors, and of course families themselves, to get a look at what's wrong with the family today. His work was meant to shed light on how the struggles we are facing in our homes and relationships right now are, and have been, seriously changing the landscape of what family looks like.
The message of the documentary, in a nutshell, is this:
Family IS the foundation of life. When we devalue sexuality, we devalue marriage. When we devalue marriage, we devalue parenthood. When we devalue parenthood, we devalue children.
During the past several decades, society's gradual acceptance of casual sex (a/k/a"hook ups"), out of wedlock children, and "alternative lifestyles" has been intended to allow each of us to feel better (their term was "free") about ourselves and our choices. But in reality, this movement has caused us to feel just the opposite.
For example, while many young men and women appear on the surface to be happy to join in the party, subscribing to the kind of dress, dance, talk, and behavior that can make them appear to be completely nonchalant in how they conduct their intimate relationships, the message the documentary shared was deep down most young adults really want to be loved and accepted for who they are. What (especially young woman) are really looking for is a connection (one deeper than sharing the sheets for a few hours). She knows in her heart the carefree, casual, sans commitment lifestyle we see everywhere today is, at the end of the day, very unfulfilling and empty.
So, our "free-er" attitude about sex has rolled into developing a [slowly changing] attitude regarding the disposability of marriage. People are more willing to throw in the towel on something when it becomes too difficult to work on. Marriage vows usually include some verbiage about richer/poorer, sickness/health, loving and honoring each day for the rest of life. While this film acknowledges there are instances when it is necessary (for the safety of parent and/or children) to part ways, many couples decide it would be easier to give up and move on than to continue to work through the issues they face.
The other point Sisarich's research highlighted, is the growing number of couples who decide not to marry, rather to cohabitate, and those who choose not to have children. Again, this contributes to the ever-changing (evolving doesn't seem the appropriate word to use here) look of the foundation of life: family.
When we shift our attitude about marriage in these ways, we begin to discredit the value of parenthood. I can speak of my own experience by saying I know there are characteristics and attributes Tom brings to our marriage and to our children which I could never replicate. I bring a flavor and an approach he cannot mimic. And our kids need BOTH of our personalities, strengths, and perspectives in order to help them see and experience the world from a more balanced viewpoint.
Many children have, and continue to grow up in, single parent homes. Many only receive one approach and perspective, and the parent who is braving the daily grind alone has enormous strain put on them to attempt to be all their child needs them to be. Without a male and female role model in a child's home life, the child lacks an inherent and basic desire to be loved and feel accepted, just by the sheer and essential knowledge the people who brought them into the world fail to care enough about them to be involved in their life.
When we devalue ourselves as parents, essential to the importance of our child's balanced upbringing, we are led [in the film] to believe that children themselves are not valued. I realize this sounds like a big leap, but remember I am summarizing a 90-minute documentary.
Sisarich goes on to share some staggering statistics with regard to the number of children in the United States who are aborted every year after the parents receive a Downs Syndrome diagnosis (SEVENTY-TWO PERCENT). Or, another example of how we regularly devalue children, the incredible number of baby girls who have been aborted in China (163 MILLION!) over the years in an effort to control the population as well as because males in that culture are thought of as the stronger, dominant sex.
The film claims we are getting to a time when children may be aborted in this country solely based on their sex, or on their looks.
I can't say that could never happen, could you?
(Maybe now you understand why it took me a few days to think about this film before beginning to process it through writing).
All the while Sisarich is interviewing people for the film, he is also looking not only at the dynamics of his wife and children, but back on his own upbringing. Before leaving home on this journey, he felt he was doing a good job as a husband and father. Through his research he begins to understand the gravity and importance of his role as dad to his four sons, and especially to his daughter (always a topic that hits close to home for me).
Upon reflecting on his upbringing, Sisarich acknowledges his mother did not divorce his father, even when he went to prison for stealing a large sum of money. She was more concerned about the effect it would have on he and his four siblings. His father, upon his return from prison back into the family life, ended up revealing (many years later) a long standing affair he'd had behind their mother's back. This was something Sisarich had been struggling with for many years...forgiving his father for the way in which he'd treated his mother.
Like I said, this movie hit me deeply on many levels.
After watching this documentary, my feelings about what creates the best possible environment for a child to grow up in was confirmed. Within the context of married men and women. That being said, I also believe there are plenty of kids who have emotional challenges growing up because they have parents who have emotional wounds from their own life experience which have not been tended to.
And, after watching this film, I cannot fathom a higher calling than that of being both married and a parent. Marriage and parenting is definitely my greatest joy and my biggest challenge. I am so grateful and blessed to have been called to do both. I work hard everyday (as do so many others) to give my best effort to both my husband and my children.
This film really made me think hard about the changing landscape of what family looks like in 2014, and it also frightened me as to what our kids will face in the future if we don't work hard now to make our marriage and family life our top priority.