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Archive for Wednesday, January 22, 1992

FAMILIES

January 22, 1992

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One scans the scandal sheets at the supermarket, and is quickly reminded that Roseanne Barr and her family are on the outs about alleged earlier mistreatment, and that Michael Jackson's siblings are not exactly enamored over how the father handled their upbringing. Then there is the case of former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur who says she was years getting over the long and degrading sexual abuse by her late father.

These tips on a disturbing social iceberg remind us there are innumerable other cases of child-parent conflict, not only among celebrities and public figures but for many lesser-known citizens. The picture is disquieting, to say the least.

Yet while all this is a dark side of humanity, there is an overwhelmingly positive face on the coin of parent-child relationships that needs to be emphasized. We need to be reminded, and to remind ourselves, of the many productive and inspiring family ties which go on without notice, because we tend to expect and desire them to be that way. Sadly, we note with great interest, and alarm, the aberrations without considering sufficiently the desirable and wholesome aspects of American family life. This has been the key factor in making the country great, and can keep it that way if people work to prevent further deterioration of the climate of home and hearth.

At the supermarket we may get so caught up with ``revelations'' in trash publications that we overlook the live and active mothers, fathers and children who are in that same market getting along well, and actually enjoying their associations. How about restaurants and parks where families appear in reasonable harmony? Look at all the youngsters in our schools who have solid family lives to guide them in the right direction. The prospects for stimulation and encouragement are endless. It's quite popular, even faddish, anymore to talk about dysfunctional families, ``Mommie Dearest'' terrorism, ``Daddy Dear'' abuse and longstanding disagreements. A lot of people make a lot of money exploiting such incidents, real, imagined and manufactured.

The trouble is, we so often become so enmeshed in the negative that we almost studiously neglect to accentuate the positive, to paraphrase the old Johnny Mercer musical classic.

Where family life is concerned, there is no free lunch or perfect wave. The ever-smooth and benign ``Father Knows Best'' ``Ozzie and Harriett'' syndromes do not exist, never really did, and never will. Even the ``ideal'' family has its differences, its adversities, its quarrels, its heartbreaks and its setbacks. But the fact is that a preponderance of American families are not the disasters some of our sensationalized entertainment and infotainment packages would lead us to believe.

Next time you get hung up on this family conflict or that, including your own, look around at all the good things that have happened, are happening and doubtless will happen because of family ties (again including your own). All things considered, there probably will be something like a 10-1 favorable ratio, maybe better, by the time all the tabulations are completed.

We're by no means as bad off as we sometimes allow ourselves to think.

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