Family – It’s What We Do

The word family should be an action verb. Like party and vacation. Here’s one suggested use: say a co-worker insists that you and your spouse come over on Saturday and try out his new massage table. You could say, “Sounds cools, but we family together on weekends.”

When you make family a verb, it sounds like you’re actually doing something, not just sitting around watching Family Guy. It also lessens the possibility of further inquiry, implying that what you do in your home is really no one else’s business.

Not everyone is into roasting wieners, building airplane models, and reading Babar till the Old Lady croaks, but you have to admit it’s what you do with your family when you’re together that counts.

I grew up in a neighborhood where kids branded one another by ethnicity. Arguments escalated into what today would be considered hate crimes. Kids hurled slurs at one another for infractions as minor as cheating at kick ball: Kraut! Polack! Wop!

Some were born in the Old Country; others first, second and third generation Americans.

Now the Italians in the neighborhood really knew how to family. They were tightly-knit and kept their kids within close range. You never saw these kids hanging around the township playgrounds entering pie-eating contests or circling the block on fat-tire bikes. And you never saw their mothers stick their heads out the front door the minute the street lights came on, yelling, “Giuseppeeeee, it’s a-time to come hooooome.”

These kids were already home. I pictured them bent over the sink, scraping out encrusted lasagna pans, or maybe watching their dads smoke a cigar in the living room. And then their moms would put the lace tablecloth back on the dining table and sit down to plan an older daughter’s wedding.

I tried to think of other reasons for my dark-haired friends’ scarcity. I knew they they attended Catholic school and had a ton more homework; maybe they had to iron their own uniforms, too. They could have been too snockered to come out and play. Everybody knows Italians let their kids drink wine with dinner.

In my house, the kids got up from the table and scattered like buckshot before we’d even washed the spaghetti sauce off our faces. Everyone could tell what we’d had for dinner.

That didn’t happen with my kids. They had friends, but also chores, homework, and lots of family time. We took walks, played Boggle, Wahoo, Chinese checkers and Moon, or we read chapter books.

My husband always told the kids, “When your friends want you to do something you don’t want to do (meaning something stupid), tell them your dad won’t let you. Make me the bad guy.”

Sound advice. Sometimes kids need an excuse to get them off the hook; a way to avoid loss of life and limb without looking like a wimp. It’s part of the family as verb concept. For example, if Justin and Kurt are walking home from shooting hoops and Kurt has a dumb idea— like, “Let’s climb up the railroad trestle and scream our lungs out when the train goes by”—Justin can tell him, “Sorry, dude. Dad said I gotta go family.” No specifics needed.

Did Justin and his father ever discuss climbing railroad bridges? Maybe not, but it doesn’t matter. Justin has permission to use family as a buffer between him and potential trouble.

Doing family is an idea whose time has come. So let’s family. FFG

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