Today’s assembly was on the topic of family, and was in our local secondary special school. It was great to be able to take the family into the school, and Daniel loved doing a little bit of football skills. Afterwards they had a tour of the school which they thoroughly enjoyed.
Last time I gave you an overview who I am, today I want to introduce you to my family:
- Hannah – the person who makes our family work!
- Daniel – loves football
- Joshua – loves crawling and climbing the stairs!
I’ve shared a bit about my family. Christmas is a time when we all hang out together as families. Think about your family? Do they make you smile or squirm? Perhaps they make you feel angry or sad. Does it make you want to thank your parents or throttle them?
We all know the image of the perfect family – happy marriage, two children (a boy and a girl, of course), an ideal home and so on …
But the reality is often, even usually, very different. Some of us have to live with the realities of sibling rivalry, marriage break-up, and unrealistic parental expectations. Some of us have to live with the consequences of illness, emotional stress and financial concerns. Some of us do not live with our birth families.
The Jewish religious leader and regular contributor to Thought for the Day, Rabbi Lionel Blue, was recently interviewed about his early family life. He gave some thought-provoking comments that may help us as we consider family life today.
Lionel Blue recalls that when he was a boy, his parents were always arguing. He acted as the referee. The natural order of life is that parents look after their children. Sometimes it doesn’t work out that way. Lionel Blue felt that he was the parent and his mother and father were the children.
Many children today take on the role of carer in the home, perhaps looking after their parents, or their brothers and sisters. It may be that their parents act irresponsibly. A mother may be too ill to care for her children. Parents may be out at work at all hours and never be at home to care about their children’s lives.
One day, when Lionel Blue was grown up, his mother said to him: ‘Lionel, don’t ever have children, darling. They can cause you such pain and I don’t want you to suffer that pain as I did.’ What a thing to say to your own child!
Even today, children can be seen as a burden. Children cost so much in various ways. They make so much mess. They cause so much stress and pain. Children can be made to feel that their parents’ lives would be better without them.
When Lionel Blue told his parents that he intended to become a rabbi, they were both disappointed. His father wanted him to be an athlete and boxer just like him. His mother wanted him to be a property developer and to deliver the family from poverty.
Parents often want their children to achieve what they never achieved. They put pressure on their children to follow a particular career path. They find it hard to let their children follow their own heart and mind.
Growing up as a Jew through the Second World War, Lionel Blue inherited all his parents’ fears. He grew up not expecting to live a long life. He had given up all hopes of a future.
Sometimes, the world can seem a scary place to children. It is portrayed as full of doom and gloom, a bad place full of danger and temptations. Children can look at the current financial crisis and evidence of climate change, and wonder what the future holds.
Show the children each ‘holding together’ object and ask what it might be used for. What do they all have in common? They are all used to hold things together. Ask the children to choose a suitable object to hold together each of the following – letters, papers, socks.
Tell the children that our bodies are made up of many different things, such as bones, muscles, organs, fluids. Our skin is what holds all that together.
Imagine if our bodies were held together with elastic bands instead. What might they be like? Imagine if our bodies were held together with nuts and bolts or screws instead. What might they be like?
Explain that our school is like a body of people. We all live and work and eat and play together. What would be a good way to hold us together? Let’s see if we can find out.
Ask for 12 volunteers to form three groups, each with four children. Group 3 should consist of older children. Groups 1 and 2 will each need two more children to help fix them together. Group 3 need a teacher to fix them!
Group 1: Let’s try some elastic bands. Have some fun ‘tying’ the group together.
Group 2: Let’s try some clothes pegs. Peg this group’s clothes together.
Group 3: Let’s try some screws. The teacher should appear with a large screwdriver and screws and pretend to want to screw through ears, knees, etc. (the more outrageous the better).
Obviously none of these things can hold us together. Ask all the groups to now form a circle and join hands. Have some of the adults primed to join the circle and one or two random older children. Explain that it is caring for each other that joins us together. As you learn in school to live together, to work together, to eat together and to play together, we hope that we will learn to care for one another.
Rabbi Lionel Blue always calls God ‘my friend in high places’. Please listen to the words of this prayer and make them your own if you want to.
Our friend in high places,
we thank you for the joys of family life.
There may not be many, but most of us do have a family,
and sometimes there are joys.
We remember those who are carers in their own home.
Help us to support them and care for them when we can.
We remember those who feel they are a burden to their parents.
Help us to value them and enjoy life with them when we can.
We remember those who feel pressured to succeed by their parents.
Help us to accept them and relax with them when we can.
We remember those who are worried about the future.
Help us to reassure them and have fun with them when we can.
Some of us are those children.
Help us to talk to someone if we need advice,
and to ask for help if we need it.
Our friend in high places,
show us our friends in everyday places.