Archive for the ‘Midlife’ Category

When you get to the point of having kids, one of the impacts is that you likely get to see how much things change between your experience and theirs.  There are countless things written about how the pace of change is higher than it has ever been and how it is growing faster and faster. Even with regards to written information I saw something that said what was produced (mainly on the internet) in the last two years exceeds everything created in the prior two hundred.  I used to have an expectation when I was very young and had just learned about the library that by the time I died I could read everything. I realized how wrong that was pretty quickly and this pace of creation has sealed the deal. Asides from not wanting to read everything any longer (there are far more topics I really have no desire to explore in any way either fictionally or non-fictionally) even in the areas I am intrigued about there is far more material than I could ever consume in a lifetime.  

This is just one area where the pace of change is incredible, but the things that drive me loopy as a parent and make me wonder how different it is from my parent’s experience with me as a child continue to increase all the time.  I am a pretty simple guy at heart and I’ve settled in to a belief that I can keep myself quite content and busy for decades with access to my library and a streaming service or two when I want some video entertainment. Even some of these things, that are normal now, are still a recent novelty and that was more of what I have been thinking about for the last few weeks.

As I study history it is fascinating how even within someone’s lifetime and certainly just a little beyond that, nearly everything has changed incredibly.  Just 100 years ago (which can be in a few centenarian’s lifetimes even now) WWI was still going on. Weapons that caused ghastly amounts of damage and suffering were being used such as the machine gun and the various forms of gas on the battlefield.  Gone were the “gentlemanly” days of battle when things happened mostly one on one. Many of the people who were living then could have remembered back to the Civil War and carnage they entailed and been amazed and how much more killing could be done just a few decades later.

Depression era family

People now in their late 70s and older would have been alive for at least part of the Great Depression.  The lack of ability to get even the most basic or resources was everywhere and is a stark contrast to the “worry” we have today with the vast social safety nets put in place by most developed nations.  Food pantries, unemployment and other social welfare programs and other safety measures exist to at least provide some cushion in times of hardship. Life in the US at that time was already far ahead of most other nations, in part because we had escaped the devastation of lives and infrastructure that most of the rest of the developed world had gone through.  The progression through WWII and the decades after was ever increasing and as technology started having a daily impact lives were transformed.

The home became full of gadgets and appliances.  Washing was no longer done in a tub with a washboard and elbow grease and clothes left to dry on the line but instead was able to be done in a machine that did a lot of the work.  Initially you still had to run the clothes through rollers to press the water out, but quickly faster spinning machines were able to suck the water out using the power of centrifugal force and clothes dryers appeared.  One could say progress slowed on the clothes washing front but even recently we have seen HE devices that use less water and cleaning products and keep driving innovation forward. Every other aspect of home life was transformed in similar ways.  Brooms and dust pans gave way to vacuums and Roombas. Outhouses turned into indoor plumbing.

TI-99/4A, the catalyst for my life’s work

As I move through middle age, I am amazed even over my relatively short lifespan so far how things have changed.  I still recall black and white TVs in our and my relatives homes. I recall when I had to watch what was on when it was on on a small set of channels I could count on my hands.  I remember cars that were gigantic and having a difficult time getting information about topics. I remember encyclopedia salesman, and vacuum cleaner salesman and other salesman visiting our house.   I recall being fascinated with typewriters that could “erase” mistakes with a white ribbon and then typewriters with tiny displays, that then led to spell checking before it went to the page and then led to my kids saying “what’s a typewriter?”  The horse and buggy lasted for hundreds, even thousands of years, but we’ve seen entire product life cycles comes and go in a span of a few years or decades, being made obsolete by something else, that was repalced by something else. In the short time I have been on this earth, we went from live TV only, to VCRs, to laserdiscs, to DVDs, to Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, to streaming on demand.  Similar changes have taken place with written formats, where books and newspapers and magazines are not electronic on Kindles and websites. I used to have to go to the library to look something up and now I can see it in seconds. We used to laugh that the processing power in our calculators when I was in high school was more than that in the lunar module that had landed on the moon barely twenty years before that and now we look at those calculators like the more arcane relics ever.  They might as well be abacuses for all the computing power they had compared to the smart phone I have now, which dwarfs my TI-99/4A computer I got for Christmas when I was 12. It came with a speech synthesizer, as TI was a pioneer in that technology, that plugged in on the right side and is larger than that smart speakers you can buy now that connect to the internet and are computers in their own right. Now my smartphone or car will talk to me and I can talk to it. All the speech synthesizer could do was talk to me.  The shame.

The change my parents will see over their lifetime will be dwarfed by the change my wife and I will see and it will likely be dwarfed by the change our kids will see, but I’m at the point now where I wonder if this is a good thing and how to stay grounded in that, how to manage that change so it does not overwhelm us and make us irrelevant, or worse, do us harm.  I recently came across a study that shows that brain scans of kids who engage with screen a lot show an thinning of the outer membrane of the cortex that is used to engage with the physical world. No one knows what that means yet, just that it is there, and it is beginning to be shown to be tied in a causal way to changes in the environment around us that we have embraced.  Could similar things have happened with earlier generations as we moved from walking everywhere to riding in carts to motorized transportation in our musculature and ability to support our own bodies over a lifetime? Highly likely, but these changes did not occur multiple times over one lifetime as they do now. When I got that TI-99/4A I knew that is was the start of something amazing but I in now way predicted anything close to where we are now and I still likely have decades to go before I die so I have no clue what will be the landscape in various areas of life compared to now.  When I watched the Jetsons as a kid, I could not wait for my flying car before I was 30. That did not happen, but I have a phone in my hand that is thousands if not millions of times more capable than that TI computer was in about the same time period. So while I cannot predict what the change will be, I now it will happen, and I have to determine how to handle it.

My concern now returns, as it does often as a parent, to my kids.  I think I am seeing a lack of capability in dealing with change in a healthy way.  I’ve talked about this in other posts about attention spans and inability to focus, have patience or do other things.  My concern is that just like I cannot foresee the change itself I believe our kids are doing things that they have no idea what it will cause them years down the road.  Are their brains developing in ways that will cause problems? I recently heard about the latest popular thing among kids, Mukbang, which is watching videos of people eating.  When I was a kid I has a hard enough time watching the real people around me eating, let alone searching for and then watching other people I do not know eating on a screen. I struggle with simply thinking that this behavior is not an indicator of something else.  But what? Is it good or bad? Does it indicate that we are not going to head to more extreme version of entertainment or is it the opposite, the shutting down of ambition leading to finding that watching someone eat a bowl of noodles is “strangely satisfying” as one kids described why they watch Mukbang videos.  Are we transitioning further into a state, as happened with texting years ago, where people would rather do something virtually than do it in person? What does that mean for our development as a social species? Does this help us drive more division and hatred because we no longer need to be civil to each other, because we can just sit around and watch other people eat and be strangely satisfied?  You can likely continue this butterfly effect for quite a long time, if not forever.

Is that fact that we struggle to find jobs that satisfy us a cause of dissatisfaction with work or is a symptom?  Work used to involve getting together with people and talking and working on things in the physical world together.  Now we e-mail and Skype and play with virtual models. We analyze things and microsegment and divide things into smaller and smaller pools because we can make simple ad clicks on a website turn into thousands of dollars if we just get enough interest in whatever we are saying or doing (some of the top Mukbang producers are making over $10,000 a month, making the “job” of eating and filming yourself doing it far more lucrative than the average income of a US household).  What does that mean? What behavior does it drive?

Overall I see the struggles in anxiety and depression just with our own kids and I begin to wonder if it is not a form of inability to deal with change.  In a world where change is constant and we are supposedly so good at it, are we reaching a point of overload, and are our kids the canary in the coal mine telling us enough is enough through the mental health issues that are becoming more prevalent?  I am concerned that the rate of change makes it impossible to study the impacts of change on us and we move on to the next topic to study because we do not have the time to figure out the impact of one change before we change again. I have memories of living in a time that was very different to fall back on.  I enjoy sitting and reading for hours because I learned I could do that. As I begin to think more and more about what I will do after I stop needing to work, I see a life more and more about basic things like reading, walking, talking with people and sharing time with them. As I watch my kids I see them mainly engaged with screens and I get more and more unsure if they would even be capable of that.   And maybe that’s OK, but maybe it’s not. And what is they determine it’s not but they’ve damaged their neurology enough that there is no going back? Where if they are not plugged into the matrix that they will have a mental breakdown and go into some new form of psychosis? My wife and I increasingly are having discussions about things we are amazed to see our kids are not capable of dealing with as we did at their age, almost as if they lack resiliency, sticktoitiveness and passion.  I see younger employees unable to focus and devote the diligent and sustained work needed to solve big problems. Will that ultimately be what slows down the pace of change? Wouldn’t it be ironic if the rate of change breaks the mechanisms in the human brain that allowed us to impart the effort to get here in the first place and causes us to stagnate as a species?

One of the gifts that is often overlooked that we need to thank God for is memory.

I have long been one to emphasize experience over things in vacations or other events.  If given a choice between two options such as going to a concert or buying some new clothes, I will always choose the concert.  Things that are truly needs, obviously come first, but if both the items above are wants, the experience wins every time.  A big part of this for me is that I can revisit the joy of the experience time and again, view it from different angles and perspectives and even get new insights thanks to the gift of memory.

Nowhere is memory more valuable than in our families.  As a blended family this can be a double edged sword as some memories of the “before time” can cause friction and tension where before they used to cause joy and pleasure.  For example, old traditions, some no longer practical, others perhaps “lost” because of an agreement with your spouse to compromise and just do something new, can cause issues especially if they are brought up by the children.  Suddenly the old dynamics of the earlier days, of sides, come up.  It might be a place that was regularly visited that has value to some but has little pull to the other “side” or to an activity undertaken as specific milestones in life that were fun for some but that seem stupid and silly to the other “side”.  How we look at memories can determine how this proceeds in a blended family.  Just as with any gift, it is not always only a good thing.  A new toy may be sheer joy and pleasure for the kids but a major irritant to one parent who cannot stand the noise or the mess it makes.  Similarly, if we choose to keep bringing up these old memories and lamenting over what once was and then starting to frame the new family as the barrier that exists in making it happen again, we are only headed for bad things.  Instead, I find that celebrating those memories for what they were, experiences at a place in time in a certain family configuration and just enjoying them in quiet times is what is best about them.  I do think this only works if you are making new memories, which comes back full circle to my focus on experiences over things.  I would imagine a life in which you stopped making new memories as a blended family and only lamented those things you used to do before you blended could very easily lead to heartache and sadness.

My own personal memory sink right now has to do with Marcia.  I wrote several months back about her decision to move out.  Since then contact with her has really been non-existent.  I reach out to her with an e-mail or text when I feel compelled to let her know something, to parent from afar if I really analyze what it is, and this results in at best a token acknowledgement such as “OK” but more often is just greeted with radio silence.  My decision, and only time will tell if it is “right”, is to let her live her life as an adult and not force myself into it, though as a parent there is some pain in a child just tuning you out of their life as if they flipped a switch.  It’s as if Marcia walked out of the house right after Thanksgiving, and much like we do when we leave the house every morning for work, looked over at the switch labeled “Dad” and flipped it to Off and then closed the door and drove away.  I have no idea if there was more to it than that (for my sanity I do think at times I have to believe there was) but in the end that’s what it feels like, an afterthought in her life on the way on to the cool things of the rest of the day.  So when I get to those points I choose to unpack a memory or two.  Perhaps it is something simple like a conversation we had, even are argument we had in her last couple years in the house, and see the good in it and her struggle to define herself in a world that she was railing against, or perhaps it was those older memories when I was her hero and we were doing something fun and exciting.  This is the gift of a memory.  It can change our perspective.  Depending on your mind though, it can be a danger.  I do not struggle with it often, and it is so rare that it is very easy for me to walk away from that cliff edge of resentment of why things are not the same, but I know of others who have this torment sometimes on a weekly basis.  These are the people who struggle to heal and move on and make the best of their blended family instead of focusing on them as the cause of why.  By the grace of God this is not a problem for me, but if it is for you, I cannot stress how crucial it is to get yourself some help or you will be heading down the trail to tension and strife that may lead you to another divorce.  When you unpack those one sided memories do not let them begin to rub you the wrong way and create judgements and barriers that can be difficult to erase.

Moving back to the true gift of memories.  The road continues on and the kids keep getting older.  Sure the big experiences build some great memories, but just as every gift from our loving Father, it is more important to appreciate the little facets of it.  Those memories that exist in the everyday, that spring forth just from the minimal effort involved in letting life unfold.  I believe I am more appreciative of it because of what has happened with Marcia leaving and those things that no longer happen.  It makes little difference if those things are negative or positive, what matters is that it has brought more to the forefront that we are closer to more of this than less, this nearness of getting to the point of the never more.

Shortly we will no longer have the sounds of a group of girls standing around the island in the kitchen and being loud and probably laughing at something I find utterly stupid.  The boys at the computer debating the best way to do something in their game at hand or talking about a video will be a thing of the past.  The house will not be quiet in the morning for about twenty minutes after I wake up and then start to echo with thumps and thwaps of footsteps or drawers or doors being moved as they all wake up and begin getting ready for school, it will just remain quiet.  We get a taste of “empty nest” on our weekends and for now my wife and I mainly view it as wonderful, but the prudent analyzer in me understands that part of this joy comes with knowing that it will end in a few days and they’ll start coming back, however one day they will head out and we’ll have no idea when they will be back and I know that will be less joyful.  This is when we need to look to the gift.

Memory will allow us to look back on all these trivial happenings, some that occurred more frequently than others, and recall.  We’ll recall them playing on the floor with the pets, being upset about some slight or other of the day, or the prayers we prayed for them each and every day.  The thousands of prayers lifted up to help them find their way.  When they all move away the home will not be empty.  There was a poem in the late 60’s by Bob Benson titled “Laughter in the Walls” and it fits well in what I’ve been talking about especially towards the end, when he says, “Every corner, every room, every nick in the coffee table will be crowded with memories”.  He goes on to list his particular memories, general enough for everyone to find something, as a commercial poet would be wont to do, but I will replace them with our own memories.  Our Creator gave us this wonderful gift, and I pray that all of us find the best ways to use it, rather than the hurtful ways it can be turned towards.  The goal for me is always good.  Thank you Father for this wonderful gift and for the wisdom to use it wisely.  To be able to say thanks for the memories and to enjoy the laughter in the walls.

The seeming monotony of life day to day makes it hard to see the forest for the trees.  As a child every day may be full of wonder as so many things are still new.  I had a conversation with Marcia driving back home the other day where she mentioned she had no idea how to even figure out “spending in life”.  When I asked what she meant, she just said, “you know like how do you live from day to day and know what things cost”.  It led to a conversation on budgeting, but it showed one of those glimpses into the fact that even as she approaches eighteen there are still a lot of things that will be firsts for Marcia.

One of the things that I have been dealing with and that has hung over our family for a while is a lawsuit about a house I sold many years back.  I was sued by the new owners in 2012 and after they appealed many times all the way up to our state’s Supreme Court we have finally come to the end here in 2015.  Asides from the gobs of money this process consumed to defend myself against something totally fabricated the emotional energy of having that hanging over me was immense.  I went to work, lived my life, and when I look back it seems like an extraordinary effort to move through it, but with God’s help to lean on it was not.  It is these types of things that when I pause to reflect show the extraordinary of the ordinary.

In my ordinary, I’ve gone through a divorce, moved states two times, had to dig out of tens of thousands in credit card debt my wife had amassed, lost a job and been told another is on the way out, and been accused of activities I did not commit.  It is usually only when I share my story with others that they stare at me in amazement and say something along the lines of “Wow, you’d have never known you had such and such in your life.  You seem like you have it all together.”  That I think is the extraordinary in the ordinary for every one of us.  We all have events, challenges and trials that very few know about and that we move through.  If we are not drowned by them, like some unfortunately are when they let a setback, or two or five, define their lives and never rise above, the world my never know, except for those times we choose to share.

The flipside are those many blessings that come of them and that only strengthen my faith in God as the one in control.  Some things I never see and even the ones I do I may tie together with coincidence that is not really there but that my frail human mind grasps for to show the good from the bad.  The biggest is how my divorce and everything leading up to it and after played out for a better result than I could have ever imagined.  A wonderful new wife and family that I could have never foresaw in the depths of years of trying, failing, and trying again to create a marriage out of a house of toothpicks.  It seems that at least in my case God gives me enough blessings to overshadow the struggles so that I have something to lean on and point me to Him when the next trial comes along.  The lawsuit and my current struggles trying to find out what my next act in my career will be after the current door has been closed are just the latest in my life, but when I am having a down day I just need to look back, and my wife is great at pointing it out to me, and see how other situations I felt were hopeless were worked out in ways I could have never imagined.  That faith that we live for an awesome God for who nothing is impossible and who is in control is a glorious thing.

The daily slog when we talk to all our kids and it seems like nothing is sticking in that weird mass of teenage brain only to suddenly have them say or do something that just baffles you is another regular bit of extraordinary that I have given up trying to predict or explain, at least for the most part.  My type A personality makes it almost impossible for me not to keep trying to figure it out, but I definitely have gotten better at just giving it to God.


So the struggles continue and I just keep praying that I will be granted to patience and wisdom to let them play out without meddling more than God wants me to.

The Mall Walkers

Posted: May 23, 2014 in Christian life, God, Love, Midlife

Not them and not the mall, but close enough.

Not them and not the mall, but close enough.

I am newly married and I find that being divorced it seems to make me a little jaded to the whole romantic wedded bliss environment that is pushed on us by the movie industry and others.  On the other hand, being divorced I learned a thing or two about what causes problems in a marriage both through my own experience and through helping with a divorce ministry and through my faith.  I’d like to think this ultimately makes me a better husband, though as I admitted above I have a little tarnish to my sparkly view.

I recently popped over to the mall during lunch.  It was a nice spring day and I was very surprised that just getting out into the sunshine on one of our first really nice days this year after a long, long grey winter was amazingly invigorating, inspiring even.  I was full of energy, had a dozen ideas fly through my head about all kinds of things and was really pumped up about my life.  After all I’ve been blessed by God with a wonderful wife, a great job, terrific kids, a beautiful place to live, material resources that comfortably meet our needs and provide a little extra for fun once in a while; in short I’ve got nothing to complain about.  As I was walking through the mall in this euphoric state, I came upon them; I’ll call them The Mall Walkers.

The mall was fairly deserted at that point of the midday Monday when I chose to visit and so it was certainly easy to see anyone who was there.  I saw them approaching, an elderly couple, leisurely walking.  Now when I said mall walkers, you were probably thinking that these were those power walking folks with weights in their hands, but this couple in no way represented that frenzied, hectic lot.  No, they were just the opposite, the other bookend to that alternative mall walker.  They  were as carefree as could be, I would guess both retired, simply enjoying the here and now and strolling through the mall before it will most likely tonight transform into the teenager, child-in-stroller, parent at wit’s end place that many of understand a mall to be.  Just as I know all the things I mentioned above as examples of my life were provided by God, I know this couple being there at that time was the provided by Him for my education just as well.

The moment I saw them, I went from the life I have now to what I hope God allows my life to end like.  I want to be The Mall Walkers.  I know nothing about them except what I witnessed in those brief moments and then what my mind has added, but again I feel it was an inspiration to make me be the best I can be.  The Mall Walkers were holding hands, smiling and just casually speaking to each other.  About what, I have no idea, as I certainly did not overhear anything, but it was certainly entertaining them both as they walked and smiled.  Were they reminiscing about a past experience, talking about their grandchildren or simply discussing what they had just eaten at the food court which they may have just left?  I’ll never know but in that moment their sheer bliss of life transported me from my happy state to an even happier one where I envisioned my wife and I doing just that many years down the road and being just as happy.  The Mall Walkers were obviously in love and totally content with just each other’s company on this sunny Monday afternoon at the mall.   My wife and I sometimes talk about how we are “old” yet newly married and how we missed the chance to have met decades ago and been one of those couples who get to their 60th or 70th wedding anniversary.  My wife always chides me for harping on the negative of that and points me to the correct focus; we can still have decades together and grow old together, even though we might not get to those astronomical numbers.  She’s right and in The Mall Walkers, I was given that glimpse.  After all, what if one of the things I did not know about them was that they were both divorced and had had similar conversations decades ago when God brought them together, and look at them now?!  God’s plan for our lives is what it is, just as it is for The Mall Walkers.

The gift God provided that afternoon was to instantly through The Mall Walkers take me what I hope will be at least 40 years in the future and to just imagine.  What will all our kids have grown up and done?  How many grandchildren and perhaps great-grandchildren will we have?  How will the challenges we face today be looked at by our 40-year-plus-in- the-future  selves?  Will they be something we laugh at, as perhaps The Mall Walkers were doing with one of their old challenges, or will they have consumed us in some way, removing a piece of our essence, our identity?  I felt an immense understanding in that moment that worrying about the moment is such a waste.  God teaches us that everything works for His glory and so if we follow His ways we will get to experience some wonderful things on the way.  Where will we have traveled?  How many people’s lives will have been made better because of our influence in them?  How many new souls will God have in His Kingdom because they ran across us just walking in the mall thanking God for the wonderful life He allowed us to live?  Is that what was meant to happen today?  I know God only knows but I am thankful for the experience and for the moment in time I came across The Mall Walkers.  I pray God blesses them with many more years and strolls together so they can continue to provide that impact to others and I can only hope we do the same in some small way.

All the petty things my wife and I argue about, all the dumb things we get upset about our kids about fall away when you change your perspective.  God teaches us to look at the eternal impact of things.  How we model life for our kids will impact how they model it for theirs and so on down the generations.  The Mall Walkers are not bitter and petty people, just happy and comfortable in their place in the world.  I believe they are God fearing souls who are an happy as they are because they are at peace that they have eternal life and a loving Father awaiting them and that in the meanwhile they are doing the right things here to those ends.  That’s all I can pray for with my wife and I.  She is wonderful and she makes me more wonderful because I am with her and we support each other.  Our trials are not her trials or my trials, but our trials.  I know The Mall Walkers spent their time the same way, lifting each other and other’s up just by their presence.  I love my wife so much I can’t wait for what we can do together to make the world a better place.  All we may ever do is point our kids in the right direction and watch them grow, but if that’s God’s plan then that’s OK.  If he has a bigger plan, I’m sure he will show us the way and give us what we need to accomplish that.

Life is good.  And God is great.

The ordinaries

Posted: February 6, 2013 in Family, Midlife

For whatever reason we seem to feel that unless something noteworthy is happening then something is wrong.  As a culture this has been ingrained in us with the flood of news and other programming that just focuses on the sensational. We do not hear anything about the President eating his dinner while helping his kids with his homework, or how Alex Rodriguez had his car towed one day because he got a squirrel stuck in his fan belt.  One could argue that this “public figures” are expected to do great things and so when all we hear about is how President Obama was involved in gun legislation or Alex might be using banned substances, I guess I can buy the argument that we expect more of them.  So let’s take it so the level I’m talking about.  How often do you go to lunch with a colleague and just have them take you through what they made for dinner the last week, or meet up with a friend at a school function and talk about how many loads of laundry were done or if all the kids brushed their teeth or if he mowed his lawn yesterday?  If you are like most, the answer is never, unless of course those events played into some funny story about how while mowing his lawn yesterday he happened to run over the water valve and snap his blade and now he needs to get an expensive repair done.

Yet without this “blocking and tackling” in our lives, the big things can’t happen.  It is in the quiet slog of the ordinary that preparations for the extraordinary take place.  Our pastor talked about this week how as a Christian when we go to work we should WORK.  Not chat around the water cooler for an hour, not gossip about co-workers or do other things.  We should be a model of responsible work.  Once we prepare the table, set the example by quiet consistency not glory hounding, we can experience the feast or the victory of a job well done.  Without those ordinary processes the groundwork is not there for anything special to happen.

Too many parents, especially single parents, feel that just doing the daily tasks does not make them a success.  They don’t hold the exciting job that their child wants them to come in and talk to their class about, or have all kinds of extra money laying around to buy something that their friends will be talking about for years.  As you look back on your life what do you recall about the people in it that meant the most to you?  Were you friends with an Olympian, or did you play pick up football games with your friends, college roomies or work colleagues?  Did you get personal stories written for you by a Pulitzer Prize winner, or were the best things you ever read written by your children, your spouse or a long lost friend who reached out to reconnect on Facebook or some other medium after years of absence?  Did you race in the BMX Supercross Series on expensive equipment or were your off-road experiences on the back of a beat up ATV or a small mini-bike built by your uncle with spare parts from other engines?  Most people live very fulfilled lives and never touch greatness as all, so why are so many of us obsessed by using it to measure our lives?

It is winter right now and in many parts of  the country that means months of grey, bleak days that can cause us to focus more on the fact that each day we just do the dishes, go to work, wash the clothes, feed our families and go to bed.  These things are only dull because we feel they are.  Without them our families would not function and with that our lives would diminish and fade.   So take heart if all you feel you are doing is ordinary.  The greatest things we can provide for our families is the stable ordinary everyday life rather than chaos and drama that causes fear and uncertainty.