I’ve begun thinking lately how we identify with our families and how modern families are lacking in this area. Surely we value family traits like matching noses or similar senses of humor and even heirlooms, but rarely do families have tangible items that identify them as a part of their family.
For most of us, our families do not have a current coat of arms, or signet rings. The tombstones of our dearly departed are void of family mottos. Our houses are merely “home” or “the house on Highland Street”.
Certainly there is more to uniting a family than simply adopting a phrase or agreeing on a doodle to put on stationary; I do not intend this to be an article about the state of the modern family. This post is a bit more whimsical and romantic than that. Not “why don’t we have family emblems anymore?” but rather “what if we did!”
There are so many grueling un-pleasantries that come with growing up. One of the true joys of being an adult is starting a family of your own –expanding your existing families, continuing the good, correcting the bad, and carving out a unique niche for your own household. What if our intention of starting a family went beyond just creating children to creating and embracing a family identity? What if we gave our children not just their material needs, but a sense of place and belonging within our families?
What if we officially symbolized our family’s values?
Especially in our Cathol-o-sphere of friends, it’s not uncommon for a family to name a particular saint as patron of their home and family: a saint who’s story or identifying virtues attract a family to imitate. I’ve also heard of choosing particular virtues to strive for as a family. This isn’t to say these parents want all of their children to be exactly the same or that individuality isn’t encouraged, but rather they mark out what is valued in their family.
I think it is fair to say our family has un-officially adopted Saint Benedict as our family saint. The Benedictine Handbook, in particular, influences our parenting and our household management. Benedict is also a patron saint of students. The Carruth love of books is often a subject of jokes. Ryan and I find books and learning to be among the true delights of life and excitedly share this with our children. We read to them encouraging curiosity, learning and problem solving at every opportunity. Respect for words, and the skill necessary to write them are among the traits we enjoy and hope endures within our family.
What virtues describe your family? What virtues do you want your family to strive for? Faithfulness, Bravery, Hospitality, Eutropalia (having child-like joy and fun)? As I mentioned, our family values the love of learning, but there are also virtues we are constantly striving for. I think the most obvious, blaring one is consistency. We understand that in order for our house to run smoothly, orderly, and without attracting bugs, we have to have routines. We try, gosh darn it, but we’re still failing (speaking of, I still need to make the bed…) It is safe to say, consistency is a virtue we all, as a family, are working towards.
If you could choose a family motto what would it be? Ryan astutely suggested (as a joke) for our family Awkward, but Well-Meaning which, like most things, sounds better in latin — Imperitus sed Benevolens. I think that is self-explanatory. While ours is a motto describing our current state, another family may choose a motto involving the best traits their family: Semper Fi or what they hope generations to come will remember: To Thine Own Self Be True
If you could design an emblem for your family, what symbols would it include? I’ve actually been turning different ideas around in my head, but I keep getting stuck. I like the idea of using the imagery of each of our children’s saints, but the biggest problem is, what about when we have more children? I guess this is why families would create an emblem and stick with it for generations. I like the idea of a child sitting under a cypress tree reading a book — maybe the Benedictine Handbook — surrounded in laural wreath style by the flowers of Evangeline and Felicity’s saints. On the top, our family motto: Imperitus sed Benevolens.
What about you? Do you have a name for your house like Camelot or The Burrow? Do you think having a unified goal or motto or emblem could help bond a family together? Would you like to have something that showed you are a part of your family, or would you like for your children to grow up with these things in mind?