Honesty necessary for a healthy home life

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at Herald-Dispatch.com.

Home happens when honesty is in residence.

Family is a group of people who have enough integrity of mind and spirit to say at times, “There are some things I cannot fix for you.”

When “new math” appeared on the academic scene, my parents admitted they could not help us. If we used “old math,” they promised their assistance. But they acknowledged they didn’t know the new-fangled stuff and frankly had no inclination (aptitude?) to learn it.

With my own children, I’ve learned I can’t be all things to them. Athletic pursuits render me a cheerleader at best. And their calculators send me on a quick retreat to the safety of my keyboard. I have welcomed tutors, coaches and instructors when my limits began to limit my children.

Honesty demanded that I say, “I don’t know. I can’t fix it for you. I will cry with you, listen to you, but there are some things that I, as your parent, with all my love for you, cannot fix.”

Relationship changes are one of the hardest scenarios to watch. When parent-arranged play dates melt into selective invitations, we watch our children grow as they experience the joy and pain of friendships, love and heartbreak.

Honesty also demands, as someone suggested, that we learn when to pat each other, and with what to pat each other, and on which end.

Confrontation “in love” is often required in family life. The use of such words as “no,” “maybe” and “wait” may be more important than a quick “yes” that produces over-indulged offspring with more foliage than root.

Practicing “tough love” creates boundaries to shore up errant choices, breeding a security that shows someone cares enough to say “no.”

Yet home also happens when each person feels shelter from life’s storms.

For a small child, a storm may be the loss of a pet. When our German shepherd died, we drove to the family homeplace to lay to rest our beloved dog. As my father placed the last shovel of dirt tenderly over the mound, we asked him to say something.

He prayed and thanked God for the gift of animals who teach us what unconditional love is.

Children are too young to meet loss alone. (For that matter, is anyone ever old enough to face loss alone?)

Teenagers seldom appear to need much family, except to rebel and complain. But don’t let them fool you. They need familiar landscape — faces, furniture, fixtures — when storms come and decisions must be faced.

And when college kids return, they bring with them their own new-fangled ideas that have seeped into those pliable minds. And yes, we may still have to remind them who’s in charge with a gentle, “My house, my rules,” clarification.

But if we’re lucky, they share with us the inside track of their journey. And we realize our limitations may be our children’s launching pads.

Home happens when we feel loved, accepted and secure amid life’s storms.

And honesty prevails.