Speak the Truth … For Strong Families

As published in Front Line, Vol. XL, No. 1, April 2019

Speaking the truth about the movement to sterilize some of the future generations through chemicals and surgery, abort babies of deluded young girls, and the crusade to shut down all discussion that is not approved by the progressives requires doing something else. It also means educating, supporting and promoting the historic nuclear family of a biological mother and father.

Twenty-first century America not only has accepted the muzzling of truth, but also has been sold a lifestyle that, if continued unabated, is guaranteed to end America’s freedom and opportunity as set out by our Founding Fathers. Sexual licentiousness puts self-pleasure before historic understandings of the critical and moral role that the nuclear family plays in maintaining and perpetrating a free and prosperous civilization.

Large Family iStock-91840130 From the earliest times of mankind, a man and a woman came together and created children which were the next generation of society. From the beginning of time, the entire world has been based on a family created by a woman and a man cultivating offspring. Because homosexuality cannot yield procreation, and adultery and easy divorce destroy the nuclear family, the preservation and transmission of America’s blessings down through healthy families becomes essential.

Mitzi Perdue is the author of several books on the family including How to Keep Your Family Connected and How to Make Your Family Business Last. Going back several generations, both her family and the Perdue family have maintained family businesses for over 125 years. To this day, both families serve as role models for how to keep your family together. The adage of “the family that prays together, stays together” is well founded. Popular TV programs such as Blue Bloods that have weekly dinners in which praying at the dinner table each week with all family members present reflects this adage and demonstrates Mitzi’s commitment to family.

Mitzi prepared the following talk for the 30th Educational Policy Conference in January:

Keeping the Family Together

Can you put a price on having a high-functioning, intact family? In theory, you can’t, but in practice, I can. I intend to make a case that putting the time and effort into cultivating family harmony is the best possible investment any of us can make. Let’s start!

Come back with me to the day before Thanksgiving, a year ago. Karla Adams and I were walking up Madison Avenue. (By the way, Karla isn’t her real name, but the amount of money I’m going to be talking about is real.) With the holidays right around the corner, the storefront windows were decorated with evergreens, dancing elves, cotton snow, and twinkling lights. Karla and I darted between the shoppers, laden with so many parcels and bags that they couldn’t see where they were going.

“It’s such a happy time of year,” I said to Karla. “I can’t wait to go home to Maryland for the family Thanksgiving!” I was beaming, imagining the 50 or so of the family members gathered around the five long tables that it takes to hold us all.  … But then as I looked over at Karla, I saw her expression change. She turned pale, her walk becoming stiff, as if she were in pain.

“Karla, what’s wrong?” I asked.

“Mitzi,” she sighed, ‘I wish I had a family to go home to.”Shopping iStock-525964317

“But you have a brother? Can’t you spend Thanksgiving with him?”

“No!” she answered. Her vehemence took me aback. I watched as she fingered the fringe of red and green plaid scarf around her neck. She said, “I never told you, but Joe and I haven’t spoken in ten years. The last time we saw each other was five years ago. We were in court. We were arguing about our inheritance.”

“Oh no! That’s awful. Isn’t there something you could do to put things back together again?”

“He testified about me in court,” said Karla. The bitterness in her voice weighed down every word. “He lied. To get a bigger share, he lied. He proved to me that he cared more about the money than he cared about me. I can’t forgive that.”

She paused for a moment, as if remembering the court case, maybe even reliving it. She said through pursed lips, “When Joseph lied about me, he burned all our bridges.” I stared at her, horrified. This terrible thing had happened to my friend, and I’d never known until now.

Karla continued. “Our parents left us each a billion dollars, but you know what? I’d give every penny of it if only … if only I could have a family to go home to.”

Family Harmony

Earlier, I told you that in theory it would be hard to put a price on family harmony. But I can tell you that there’s one person out there who would give a billion dollars to have a family. A billion dollars is serious money: it’s a dollar every second of the day for 34 years. Karla would have given every penny she had, because no amount of money could make up for the pain of not having a family. Let’s think about this for a moment. Your deepest happiness or your deepest misery will come from your intimate relationships. When these relationships go badly, the pain can permeate every hour of every day. Money can’t make up for that. What good does it do to succeed financially if you fail as a family?

So, what can the rest of us do to avoid being part of a story like Karla’s? Every family has a culture, but is it one that came about by accident or by default? Karla’s family left it to accident whether she’d learn some crucial values such as: relationships are more important than money, and you can’t always be right. Stories are the way we instill our culture. Whether it’s an individual or a family (or for that matter, even a nation), we are the stories we tell ourselves.

We can’t leave it to accident … or actually we can leave it to accident, but if we do, we risk the kind of outcome I just described with Karla and Joe. Brain scientists tell us that we are wired to remember and be influenced by stories. Stories are important because they give us direction. Stories bind us together, and it’s stories that make us who we are. They’re like little computer programs, guiding us in how we react to things. So, the way to instill values is through the stories we tell. And doing that takes time. It means spending time together! And that means making spending time together a priority.

Family Meals

The best and most practical way for most families is having meals together. About 40% of American families eat three meals or fewer together a week. 10% of families have no meals at all together. If you divide families with three or less meals together in the course of a week and those who have five or more meals a week together, an extraordinary pattern emerges. The families that spend time together by having the most meals together have the following benefits:

  • They have better relationships with their parents.
  • They do better in school.
  • They stay in school longer.
  • They’re less vulnerable to drugs and other substance abuse.
  • They’re less likely to have trouble with the law.
  • They’re less likely to be involved in teen pregnancy.
  • They have less depression.
  • They have less obesity.
  • They’re less vulnerable to eating disorders.

Having meals togFamily Dinner iStock-947251824ether isn’t going to cure all dysfunction, but it’s something you can do to improve your odds of having a high-functioning family. By the way, I know this isn’t easy. Between work and school activities, this is hard, hard, hard. However, when you have the choice of having a meal together or not, pick having the meal together.

Making a habit of this is one of the best things you can do for your kids. That’s your time for emotionally connecting with them and instilling in them the values that can give them the best chance of a healthy and fulfilling life.

As an example of the influence of stories on behavior, the Henderson family [Sheraton Hotels] has a story that reaches across more than 70 years and influences all of us even to this day. It’s one we heard over and over again at the dining room table. Although my siblings and I were the Sheraton heirs and heiresses, our parents wanted to encourage us to be frugal. They wanted us to live below our means and never to be ostentatious. Here’s the kind of story that influenced us.

In the early 1930s, my brother Ernest attended the Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Massachusetts. One year, my parents decided to invite all 25 of his little classmates to celebrate his birthday. It was to be at our family home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and it was my brother’s tenth birthday.

Since my parents were in the hospitality industry (my father had co-founded the Sheraton Hotel chain), they knew how to be hospitable. They knew how to put on a party. The whole thing should have been flawless, but it wasn’t. At the end of the afternoon the large parking area in front of the house turned into a traffic jam of Rolls Royces, Duesenbergs, and Bugattis. One by one, the uniformed chauffeurs picked up their little charges. That is, all except the little Rockefeller child.

Mother noticed that he was hanging around looking lost. Now Mother was famous as a hostess, and it was characteristic of her to be kindly and considerate. She asked the little Rockefeller boy, “Can I telephone your driver for you?”

“No, Mrs. Henderson,” replied the little Rockefeller. “My parents give me 25 cents a week allowance, and I have to save five cents of it, and I have to give five cents of it to charity. I’m supposed to use the rest of it to cover my expenses, but this week I spent it all on candy and now I don’t have bus fare home.” He did get home safely, because my dad took him home.

What did we learn from this story? We admired the Rockefellers for bringing up a child who lived below his means, who was required to budget and to save, and to be philanthropic – and to have consequences when he didn’t. My parents admired this approach so much that it became a role model for all of us.

These, and stories like these, influenced my siblings and me to this day. We could all afford to fly first class, but none of us do. We would always rather give the money to charity. Other stories included stories of how we’re resilient, and we get back up after we’ve been knocked down. One such story was about how great grandfather went bankrupt three different times during the “panics” of the late 1800s, but he always recovered and made a point of honor to pay back every creditor. Over the years, we heard hundreds of stories like this and they formed our characters.

I’ve been talking about stories around the dinner table and how important it is to give these stories the time they deserve, but there are many other ways of embedding a culture.

Family Vacations

Another way to keep the family togetherFamily Fishing iStock-487081255 – endowed vacations. This works particularly well in both my family of origin and my family by marriage. We have endowed vacations. As the family grows bigger, you can’t count on having the cousins and the different generations really get to know each other, unless you have planned ways of getting together.

I think the reason the Hendersons stay together is, John Henderson created and endowed the annual Henderson Estate dinner that’s been going on since 1890. I told Frank Perdue (my late husband) about this, and he decided to endow in perpetuity family vacations. Family members get to know each other and value each other during these times.

Something that I remember from Frank’s and my wedding day: a friend noticed that at the reception afterwards, 12 of Frank’s grandchildren were playing on the lawn in front of my house. The grandchildren were all under 10, but even though they were in their dress-up clothes, they were all boisterously running around, playing some kid version of tag and obviously having tons of fun. Since I grew up in the hospitality industry, few things make me happier than watching guests having fun, and that includes kids.

Perdue BookBut then I looked at my girlfriend, and her body language showed that something wasn’t quite right. She was looking quizzical, obviously puzzled. I started wondering if something was wrong. Maybe the kids were too noisy for her taste. And then I found out what was going on. My friend said, “This is amazing! They all know each other! And the game they’re playing, it’s as if they speak their own shorthand language!”

The reason I remember this from almost three decades ago is that I was surprised that my friend was surprised. I expect cousins to know each other and have fun together. But then I realized that not everyone has regular reunions, and cousins don’t necessarily know each other well. If you’re a multi-generational family and aren’t already having regularly scheduled time to spend at least several days a year in each other’s company, then please consider it.

Teach your family members that relationships are more important than money. Share your family stories and make sure you have family vacations. …

EDITOR’S NOTE: Mitzi’s family was blessed with many resources to be able to gather every year and have lavish family vacations. Many Americans do not have that kind of resource. But as much as possible, it is important to make an effort to create close and enduring family relationships.

Here are a few ideas that won’t “break the bank” as you encourage your family to get together:

1) SkypeGoToMeeting, FreeConferenceCall.com

2) Facetime is another piece of technology to use for smaller families. On some phones, you can even have small conference calls.

3) In keeping with technology to help bridge a generation gap in some families, here are a few websites to investigate. It’s not a personal face-to-face communication or where you can give a physical hug, but it is what young people understand today.

Ancestry websites are a great way for grandparents and older grandchildren to explore their family’s history together. Some popular ones include Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com.

Keepy:  Share art-work, school projects and other things that grandparents love to put on their fridge, but might not have room for.

Kindoma: Draw, play or read together in real time.

Redeo: Lets you read together while your young grandchild turns the pages.

Scoot & Doodle: Collaborate together on homework.

ooVoo, Rounds, Skype, Voxer are examples of apps that allow you to send photos and videos, talk and text in real time.

Wheel of Fortune is a popular game app that grandparents and grandchildren of all ages can play together, no matter the distance.1

4) Start a new practice of writing family letters that tell about your daily life. (not just Christmas letters). Compose your letter with your immediate family members. When you receive a response, make it a point to read the letters together with your immediate family members while having dinner. And, then compose a response while you are still at the table, and mail it back to the family that sent the latest “family letter” to you. If your families live in different states (or around the world), pick a family state each month and pass information to other families through your family letters, i.e., “I just heard that Johnnie was inducted into the National Honor Society.”

5) If you live in the same city/state, meet once a month at a park/restaurant, and post the outing on Facebook for those who could not attend. Change it up occasionally to peak the interest. You won’t always have full attendance, but posting the pictures will keep the interest and enthusiasm going.

Each of us looks at today as a normal uneventful day and expects tomorrow to be the same. However, in just a moment, life can change forever with the sudden death or illness of a loved one. Cherish and nourish every relationship you have while you can.

Begin, or be the family that continues the tradition of yearly family reunions.

Remember, SOMEONE has to be the initiator!

(Endnotes)

1 Fowler, Kimberly, “Technology Brings Grandparents and Grandchildren Closer Together,” A Place for Mom, Inc., March 9, 2018, https://www.aplaceformom.com. (Accessed April 18, 2019.)