Sounds of Rihanna blasted from the guest bedroom, which probably had several outfits strewn across the carpet. I could hear a young teenager singing along and dancing to music unfamiliar to me. While my children were growing up, I knew the names and sounds of everyone they listened to. Now that I have grandchildren, the music has changed, and I’m learning new lessons about parenting and family structure.
Two months ago, our son and his wife welcomed a new baby into this family. My daughter-in-law invited me to be her labor coach – almost an unthinkable role for a mother-in-law 35 years ago.
Throughout the week, my husband and I took care of their three other children, each from previous marriages. Since this was during a school vacation, we also invited our other granddaughter to stay with us. Though my son is no longer married to her mother, we feel close to her and love staying in touch.
All these children are a blessing to our lives, and I’m grateful that we’re able to welcome them into our hearts. The love we have for them continues, even though the family units have changed.
I’ve found insight on the meaning of family through my study of Christian Science. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered this Science and founded the Monitor, described “man,” including both men and women, as entirely spiritual. All are spiritual and are united within the great family of infinite, ever-present divine Love. “Man,” she wrote, “is idea, the image, of Love; he is not physique” (“Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” p. 475).
The book of Ruth in the Bible presents a similar line of thinking. Naomi tragically lost her husband and both her sons. She encouraged her two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah, to return to their own families. Orpah left, but Ruth chose to stay with Naomi, and they journeyed together to Naomi’s homeland. Ruth’s faithfulness and devotion to Naomi brought them both a blessing – a new life – and Ruth eventually married Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s. Broadening and deepening the family relationship, Ruth and Boaz had a child.
Naomi and Ruth had no obligation to remain together. To me, these two women had a deeper sense of family – one that relied on commitment, loyalty, and love. They didn’t share a bloodline, but they did share a “love line.”
Having been married to Naomi’s son, Ruth became familiar with Naomi’s faith tradition. She told Naomi, “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” (Ruth 1:16).
As children have continued to come into our family, I am continually reminded of Ruth and Naomi. The reasons they stayed together are why families succeed. It isn’t physical ties alone (or even at all) that create successful families. It’s the moral and spiritual support we share with one another. It is the loving environment in which each member feels safe, secure, and cared for.
As the music subsided and our oldest granddaughter emerged from the back room, we rounded up the younger boys and headed off to visit with the newest member of our family. As we crowded around the receptionist to pass through security on the way to the birthing center, no one questioned whether we were all family; it was obvious as we held hands bouncing down the long corridor to the baby’s room.
With divorce rates conservatively heading past 50 percent, the face of the family structure continues to change. Children may bounce from one family to another, with no say in how long their parents’ marriage will last. But mothers and grandmothers, fathers and grandfathers do have a say in how well we welcome and maintain these relationships within these family units along the way. Such moral and spiritual commitments help ensure children’s continued success, whether they are coming into our family or heading to another one. What a joy to be able to provide each one a loving and stable family unit that doesn’t have to change. What a joy to know there is always room for one more – always room in our hearts for one more – as each one continues to share in new joys, in the unbroken home of our Father-Mother God.
As the vacation week ended, our grandchildren moved on to spend the final weekend with other family members. It wasn’t hard to let them go. I knew as they turned their corners, in that very moment each was being cherished as the precious child of God’s ever-expanding family.