The farmhouse where Joanne and her daughters lived. Supplied
A house is a home if love and respect are shared and practiced by all family members. Home is a place of comfort and safety where you can be yourself, in a shared space. At home you can share the joys, sorrows, trials, and triumphs of life with family members. If a family lives in shared love and respect, home is the safe refuge for the whole family from the troubles of the world.
When a guest or new member arrives, everyone has to adjust, but the new member also has to learn the dynamics of the family. When I was a girl, my grandfather died and my grandmother came to live with us. That changed the family dynamics a lot, because Grandma had very strict ideas. Whether it’s a new baby or a relative, the learning of love and respect for all family members is essential to everyone’s happiness.
As a single parent with two school-aged daughters, we bought an old farmhouse in the country outside of Edmonton because my girls wanted horses. We learned together how to care for them, and we all shared the chores of living there. We also had major renovations to make, in addition to caring for the collies, cats, chickens, and horses, so we had lots of responsibilities. We each had skills to contribute, so we negotiated and took turns doing various chores. We made a list each week of the work required, and decided together who would do what. Each night we talked over supper about events of the day. We learned to listen and help each other, which helped all of us to feel valued.
A home can also expand to include outsiders. One day we were told that a neighbour girl had attempted suicide, partly because her parents were alcoholic and abusive. The girl asked the social workers if she could come live with us for a few weeks. As a family we decided we could expand our home to help her. She was best friends with my daughters, so she fit right in. We sat together at the dinner table and talked about events of each day, and learned from each other. We listened with respect, and that also helped this girl learn new ways to behave at home. With the help of social workers, this girl gained confidence, and was able to return home after a few weeks. She and the social workers helped her parents and siblings m
end their own home’s love and respect. Our family learned a lot about helping and caring for others.
Creating a loving and safe home where each family member is valued and respected for themselves is essential to everyone’s happiness. It’s the key to a lifetime of success of each family member.
Dr. Joanne McNeal is a retired art education professor, artist, singer and musician. She has lived in McCauley for almost 12 years.