As a kid, I used to watch the slew of Friday Night Shows: Full House, Family Matters, Cosby Show, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, and I used to think, "Why doesn't my family look like that?" It was considered groundbreaking that TV was showing things like a "Single Mom" in Grace Under Fire or Murphy Brown, or a wealthy black family in The Cosby Show. I loved shows that looked different than the ones I saw at school or church. But I wasn't gravitated to them because they were different: I was drawn to them because they were happy.
Research now bears this out: families don't succeed because they are a nuclear family (mom, dad, two kids) they succeed when the members support each other. When they have boundaries, clear hierarchy, and clear rules and consequences that provide a safe place for everyone to fall apart and seek shelter. What makes a family happy is not their socioeconomic status, but their ability to show love and empathy towards each other. I've seen wealthy (like, wealthy: servants, groundskeepers, etc) families be absolutely miserable and saturated in substance abuse and domestic violence. I've also seen poor families - where every member over the age of 10 had a job to keep a roof over their heads- love each other unconditionally. As parents, I think we have this idea that we need to give our kids the world on a silver platter in order for them to succeed. In reality, our kids need US in our healthiest selves. They need love, affection, and understanding - with a healthy dose of boundaries mixed in. Sometimes I wonder, in our determination to give our children what we never had, if we eliminate the challenges that they need to develop self-respect and determination of their own.
Family Therapy is not about taking sides. It's also not about a therapist coming in saying, "And how does that make you feel?" Every five minutes, either. Family Therapy is about being coached; about normalizing what weirdness comes with running around with short people every day, dealing with eye rolls and slammed doors, and the challenges that we face. Families are their own living, breathing organisms that create their own masterpieces day by day by day. Family therapy is not a quick fix or magic wand. Changes are slow - and sometimes we have to zoom out to see them- but they are real, and they're beautiful.