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Not all books have a prologue, but this one does. It does because I wanted to tell you why I wrote this book and why I think I have something to say.
First, I would establish my commitment to the family. I am writing about the family in a firm spirit of devotion to it. I believe that when two people join their lives together they make a moral commitment to each other and to any children born to them. They commit to live life together as well as they can and to provide their children with a healthy and functional environment in which they can grow to adulthood.
The world is very complex. People often feel alone and overwhelmed. They seek a place where they can talk, play, help each other, learn together, work toward commonly held life objectives, and love and care about each other. They want a place that provides support they can count on. I call that place the family. This book is about that place.
This is not a professional book written from the perspective of research. I have read a lot about the family, thought a lot about the family, and decided to write this book from a personal perspective. If you read it thoughtfully and find places where you feel like saying, “I disagree,” I will be happy. That means you are a thoughtful reader and have reacted to something important. This book is not written from the point of view of “being right.” It is a heartfelt representation of the things I have learned in raising my own family and working professionally with many individuals and families. I am not sure I can adequately express how much I want to help people with their families. There is no personal investment we can make that is more significant than what we choose to put into our families. Families are where the most important things happen.
While growing up, I saw what appeared to be some very good and healthy families. I also saw families who struggled. I became intrigued with what constitutes a healthy family when I married Sherri McUne of Burns, Oregon. We began a family that ultimately included ten children born in a period of twelve years. At that point in the evolution of our family we had eight children, the oldest being seven. At the time of the birth of our last child, we had ten children, and our oldest was twelve. That rather large family has taught us a lot over the years. Some of the lessons we learned about family life are in this book.
What constitutes a healthy and happy family? Sherri and I were not sure we knew initially. We have a large and complex family, a natural laboratory in which we are continually learning about family life. We are still trying things out, hoping we can learn and get better at it. The whole experience challenges us to the max. We have worked hard at it and tried to learn from our experience and mistakes. WE have also learned from the experiences of other parents we know who are trying to raise their children. Parenting in our family has been a wonderful experience at times and, at other times, frustrating and highly overwhelming. Most parents would probably agree.
My professional work has also focused on the questions of what makes a healthy family. Three months after our second set of twins was born, I completed my Ph.D. in counseling psychology. Two years later I became licensed as a psychologist in the state of Utah. Many years have elapsed since then. I have spend thousands of hours with individuals, couples, and families, helping them with their family struggles, hopes, and dreams. My counseling practice has taught me a lot. I keep asking myself, “What is it that families ought to pay attention to?” That has been the quest of my professional life for many years. I have also taught young adult development at the university level for thirty years and run a residential treatment program for troubled youth. I conducted psychoeducational group sessions at the Utah State Prison and learned much from the inmates’ stories of their upbringing.
I have always wanted to help families be happy, healthy, and strong. This is my contribution to your family as well as my own. I believe in what I have written, and a copy of this book is going to each of my ten children, who all managed to survive growing up at my house. I love each of them very much. I have worked hard to make these writings sensible and meaningful for their benefit, as well as yours. It is a product of my personal, family, and professional experiences, and it is sincerely and lovingly written.
I now pass it on to you, the reader, hoping it will give you inspiration and practical ideas you can use the minute you begin reading it. I hope as you finish this book that you will feel encouraged and inspired about your family. I hope it will help you understand the key fibers that make up the family tapestry so that you can wrap your loved ones in the warmth and strength of a healthy family.
Finally, I believe that regular, everyday parents like you and me have a big job to do as we attempt to raise our families. I hope you’ll join with me, a regular parent, in trying to learn some things about how to do this big and important job.
Posted June 25, 2008