Twenty years ago my husband and I were out for our daily walk, with our son in tow, discussing plans for my private practice. We were walking through, what was then, a newly established neighborhood with houses in various stages of completion. “Home Improvement” was a popular show at the time and we got to talking about the similarities between building houses and building families. And so, the name for my practice became Families Under Construction and the title for my monthly column, The Parents’ Tool Box.
Together we designed a logo and Jerry worked his magic and animated it for a website (Reload your page to animate):
The Parents’ Tool Box
Families, like houses, come in many different styles, colors and sizes. Building a family is like building a house. Each of us carries a blueprint for what we believe a family should look like. Many of us are carrying around faulty blueprints as a result of a variety of imperfections drawn in by previous generations of architects. However unintentional these imperfections may have been, they can range in severity from poor communication skills, inadequate parenting knowledge, conflictual marriages, and unresolved divorces to alcoholism drug addiction, suicide, and abuse. Our job is to identify the flaws in our blueprints and make modifications that will allow us to construct families that can withstand the elements of time and change.
The first step in building a house is laying the foundation. A solid foundation depends not only on the soundness of the raw materials used, but on the strength of the connections between them. Weakness in any single element or connection threatens the safety of the entire structure. The same is true for families. The foundation of a family depends not only on the health and strength of the individual members, but on the health and strength of the relationships between them. Discord in any single member or relationship threatens the stability of the entire system.
When building a house you choose the sturdiest materials available – brick, lumber, concrete block, cement. The most enduring building blocks for families are commitment, patience, understanding, acceptance, discipline, affection, determination, and communication, with love as the mortar that holds them all together.
But, no matter how carefully you construct a house, or how conscientiously you construct a family, they both require constant maintenance and occasional repair. Neither should be without a toolbox. The more complete the set, the more likely you are to have the tool required for the job. A parent’s toolbox has space for many unique tools that are not always readily available. The challenges they face, like screws, come with many different heads. One screwdriver just won’t handle them all.
I find it ironic that these days houses are built so close together that you can walk between them with your arms outstretched and be touching one with each hand, and yet families, especially parents, feel more isolated than ever before. The Parents’ Toolbox is a place where we can come together with our common questions and concerns – a place where you can shop for the tools you might need to add to your collection.
Each month, The Parents’ Toolbox will respond to a question or issue raised by you, the reader. This is your tool shop. The shelves will be stocked according to the tools you ask for. These tools are guaranteed to be carefully crafted and intended for use in building families to last.