I had a chance to read Bruce Feiler’s latest work, “The Secrets of Happy Families.” As a father, husband, brother and son I am always on the lookout for clues on family relationships. Happiness in general is a topic that I think should receive more attention. Feiler consults with experts in their field and tries to apply the principals to his own family. There is an extensive bibliography for more in depth study.
The book is broken up into 3 parts. Adapt all the time, Talk a lot and Go out and play. Adapt all the time did not do that much for me. The biggest take home message was a ritualized family dinner is pretty valuable. I have certainly found this to be true in our home. My goal would be to have a sit down time together daily if possible. I most likely will not try the agile techniques or develop a family brand.
Talk a lot is pretty straightforward. The topics were pretty broad. My biggest take home point was that I really should read “The 5 Love Languages” by Chapman. The Chapman franchise has included spin-offs to include men’s specific books and children’s love languages. The sections on conflict negotiation, finance, talking about tough topics, talking about s**, grandparents and rearranging furniture were insightful. I am not ready to put any of those in place, but will have a reference when I am.
Go out and play was an interesting section. I learned the lessons on being a sports parent the hard way and the book reinforced that. I would nag my children to pay attention and participate appropriately. Now I know to hang back and just be supportive. I got to use some of the family vacation ideas during the New Orleans trip. We never got to full blown competition and rewards, but I did inspire some gentle competition in the pool. I don’t ever see us getting to a family reunion, but it is important the kids feel the continuity of our family.
All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way – Leo Tolstoy