The next few days on Parent.co will be quiet, as we take a bit of time off to enjoy the long Independence Day weekend with our families.
Only about 68% of visitors to Parent.co come from the US. About 20% of the rest of our visitors come from Australia, the UK, India, Ireland, New Zealand and Brazil. Dozens of other countries make up the difference.
Here in America, our most patriotic holiday is also one of our most family-centered. We picnic and watch parades together, gather in backyards to barbecue, and host celebrations with relatives.
America is organized around the rights of the individual, but family remains the basic building block of American democracy.
Where I live in Vermont, the state motto is Freedom and Unity. This motto sums up America's seemingly opposite ideals. It also describes what I think of as an ideal family dynamic.
Freedom - for every family member to realize their potential.
For kids, this means experimenting with new projects, testing new skills, learning new ways to represent themselves as they change and grow over time. Freedom to fail, freedom to succeed.
Freedom is a necessary condition for growing kids into healthy, capable, independent, self-reliant adults.
For parents, this means freedom to keep growing - to follow personal passions and interests that made us interesting, compelling people in the first place, before we were consumed with raising family.
Unity - the family, together.
The importance of family unity has become a political term, which is too bad because it limits how this value is discussed.
Family unity doesn't necessarily mean a traditional nuclear family. That's not the current reality of most American families. (Nor was it in the past - historically, the traditional American family arrangement wasn't nuclear, it was multigenerational.)
It also doesn't necessarily mean shared values, cultural traditions, even a sense of internal harmony.
Family unity means willingness to share in sacrificing for each other in ways big and small. It's the feeling of security, empathy (in the truest sense of the word), and love shared by a group of people.
Happy Independence Day
Fireworks and barbecue. Freedom and unity. Here's to a happy Independence Day, wherever you live!