Apparently, genuinely harmonious relationships between siblings or between children and parents are not a common feature in families, even in those families which are not dysfunctional by definition. Why is it so? The modern explanation is that we work too much, have a tight daily agenda and stressful life styles, always under all sorts of pressure. Quality time with children and spouse tend to become one more item in the agenda, a sort of chore or duty to be fulfilled, one more factor of stress. Modern rules are clear about what is expected from parenting: to provide for family sustenance, housing, medical assistance, education (in the sense of schooling), to save money for college, and “to make some memories”. Is that all? Does that make a good parent? Does it suffice to create a happy, mentally healthy family? I don’t really know. Is there a room for cooperation between children and parents and between the children themselves in that carousel of appointments and schedules to be met? Is there enough time for learning about recognition, mutual acceptance and appreciation of individual differences? Is there room and time for teaching and learning about limits and respect for each other? With everybody so busy (adults and children), is there time enough to really know oneself and really know each other?
Aren’t we just a bunch of people under one same roof, struggling to achieve external goals and meet our schedules, without a chance to pause long enough to simply enjoy ourselves as a family group (except perhaps during vacation time)? It seems that we are never really present but always worrying about how to achieve short and long-term goals.
How can we tell apart our really essential needs from those false needs or desires imposed upon us by cultural/social conditioning and commercial propaganda? If we understand “desire” as the impulsive drive of the conditioned mind, it is easier to pose the right questions and find out which desires are preventing us from recognizing and attending to our real needs as human beings and the real needs of our children.
One of the most misunderstood aspects of Buddhism is the question of desire. Yes, Buddha Gautama taught that desires are the cause of all suffering, and we can see why, when we start realizing that desires usually are artificial replacements for real needs. Therefore, we continue frustrated, anxious or afraid after such desires are fulfilled. But he also emphasized the importance of recognizing and meeting our real needs, whether material whether spiritual. He also said that a married person who takes proper care of his/her family and deals wisely with money and wealth is more valuable than a beggar-monk who is proud of his spiritual renunciation of worldly goods. I suppose that in this era of virtually super-sizing everything, we all have lost perspective of what really matters to promote happiness for ourselves and our families. Worse still, we are misleading the next generations about their true priorities.