What is happening in our culture right now, is happening inside of our homes . . . and is it killing our kids?
Bigger is better, and acquiring and accumulating is progress? I don’t think so.
Last year attended a number of Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) screenings, and was reminded of a very important value: less is more.
When I was growing up, I loved hanging out at my best friend’s house because she was one of four siblings. Her house way busy, noisy, people on top of each other . . . and it was great. There was always someone to interact with, someone to listen to, and connections to be had.
I equally enjoyed visiting one of my kids’ friends’ homes when they were in elementary school. This family also had four children and lots going on. When I had tea with the mom in their kitchen, I often had to be careful to check my chair first so that I did not sit on any jam from that morning’s breakfast! Their family was very laid back, with lots of love and attention. What struck me the most was the bedroom that the four siblings shared. One small room with bunk beds on each side, and a dresser to share in the middle. They needed their basement for a mortgage helper, or at times to house one of the grandparents. Amazingly, when the basement was no longer occupied and available for one or more of the kids to move down to, no one wanted to go! The eldest child was already in high school at the time, but they enjoyed their shared space and did not want to leave the comfort and fun it provided.
At VIFF, there were some scenes in three of the films that particularly grabbed me with the importance of close proximity. One was in the film The Lockpicker, where a very poor family had the teenage son and his younger sister eating celery and peanut butter on their way to the bus. There were a couple of scenes in this film where the siblings are hanging out in their room together, sharing space, and offering comfort to one another in difficult times.
Quit Staring at My Plate is set in Croatia, where not uncommonly, a family shares a very small flat. This reminded me of when I visited my cousin who was living in Budapest, Hungary. She lived in a studio flat and the shower was in the kitchen! I could literally flip my eggs while washing my hair. In this Croatian film, the mother, adult son and young adult daughter end up all sleeping in the living room after the father has a stroke and is confined to the only bedroom. What struck me as valuable about this was one particular evening when the daughter stays out late. She is rebelling and engaging in some risky behaviours. When she returns home, she must lie down next to her mother. In this circumstance, it is easy for the mother to know how late the daughter came in, and that she had alcohol on her breath. Although conflict breaks out as a result, in the end the daughter chooses the closeness of her family.
Lastly, another interesting example of living on less and in close quarters comes from the film Gimme Danger with James Newell Osterberg Jr., better known as Iggy Pop. He fondly looks back on his childhood and says “I was so lucky to live in close quarters, in simple circumstances, with my parents.” He was an only child who grew up in a trailer park, even though his parents had good jobs and were not poor. He even attended Tappan Jr. High, which is still considered the “rich kid” school. When Iggy was discovering his love for music, his parents gave him the only bedroom, their bedroom, so he could have his drum set and practice. I love that he talks about this in a positive light.
So what does that mean for us today? Should we all sell our big houses, give up having our own bedrooms, and move into a trailer park or a one room flat?! Perhaps, that is one option. Another more viable option is making time and space in our homes for connection. Out of potentially 21 meals per week (breakfast, lunch and dinner, times seven), how many of them do you sit down as an entire family and have conversation? No devices, no television on, just good old talking and debates about our lives and what is going on in the world. Certainly Trump getting into office is good for at least one or two meal conversations! Misogyny, global warming, racism … Trump may be on the wrong side of the fence, but it certainly puts these important issues at the forefront for discussion and understanding.
Our kids are lost and longing for connection. If they don’t get it at home, they will go elsewhere to find it. Find ways to foster connection in your home.