Archive for the Category » About Families «

Saturday, October 17th, 2015 | Author: mjward
CHILDREN IN POVERTY
Too many North American children are living in poverty. Although everyone is thought to have the same opportunities, these seem to pass by children who grow up in poor homes. They are more likely to drop out of school, have children young and become adults living in poverty. Thus their children live in poverty in their turn.
Some social analysts tie this cycle to the number of lone parent families and deplore the drop in marriages. They advocate marriage as an important solution to poverty. Promoting marriage as a prevention of poverty is simplistic. There are far too many factors involved. Certainly in the past, marriage tended to mean that families lived above the poverty line. In part, this was tied to men’s greater earning power. In part, it was the result of the growing number of two-earner families. Recent trends suggest that married couples have higher levels of education, greater earning power, and more stable relationships.
Yet trends appear to be more complex. The power of marriage to keep families from poverty seems to be waning. Increasing in importance is the income level of the family. Single mothers have, in the past, been categorized as young with lower educational levels and poorer wage prospects. More single mothers now have a college education and thus better financial prospects. The role of long-term cohabitation is often ignored in marriage statistics. Many of these relationships, however, are stable and often involve dual earners.
Parents’ choices can increase the impact of low income. For example, in my role on the Foster Care Review Board, I encounter parents who opt to use their money to buy alcohol or drugs, rather than food or clothing for their children. Even if they do use their resources for family needs, some may be poor money managers, while others budget wisely.
The community itself is important. The availability of child care affects both the opportunity to earn income and the amount of that income that is available after paying for the child care. While this can involve formal care (with or without subsidy), it is often provided by extended family members. A supportive family network can help mitigate the effects of poverty through activities like child care, as mentioned, and also through shared resources like garden produce and cooperative food preparation.
Child poverty isn’t simple and can’t be cured with a one-size-fits-all solution. It is a complex issue and needs multi-faceted solutions.
Reference:
Baker, R. S. (2015). The changing association among marriage, work, and child poverty in the United States, 1974-2010. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77, 1166-1178.

CHILDREN IN POVERTY

Too many North American children are living in poverty. Although everyone is thought to have the same opportunities, these seem to pass by children who grow up in poor homes. They are more likely to drop out of school, have children young and become adults living in poverty. Thus their children live in poverty in their turn.

Some social analysts tie this cycle to the number of lone parent families and deplore the drop in marriages. They advocate marriage as an important solution to poverty. Promoting marriage as a prevention of poverty is simplistic. There are far too many factors involved. Certainly in the past, marriage tended to mean that families lived above the poverty line. In part, this was tied to men’s greater earning power. In part, it was the result of the growing number of two-earner families. Recent trends suggest that married couples have higher levels of education, greater earning power, and more stable relationships.

Yet trends appear to be more complex. The power of marriage to keep families from poverty seems to be waning. Increasing in importance is the income level of the family. Single mothers have, in the past, been categorized as young with lower educational levels and poorer wage prospects. More single mothers now have a college education and thus better financial prospects. The role of long-term cohabitation is often ignored in marriage statistics. Many of these relationships, however, are stable and often involve dual earners.

Parents’ choices can increase the impact of low income. For example, in my role on the Foster Care Review Board, I encounter parents who opt to use their money to buy alcohol or drugs, rather than food or clothing for their children. Even if they do use their resources for family needs, some may be poor money managers, while others budget wisely.

The community itself is important. The availability of child care affects both the opportunity to earn income and the amount of that income that is available after paying for the child care. While this can involve formal care (with or without subsidy), it is often provided by extended family members. A supportive family network can help mitigate the effects of poverty through activities like child care, as mentioned, and also through shared resources like garden produce and cooperative food preparation.

Child poverty isn’t simple and can’t be cured with a one-size-fits-all solution. It is a complex issue and needs multi-faceted solutions.

Reference:

Baker, R. S. (2015). The changing association among marriage, work, and child poverty in the United States, 1974-2010. Journal of Marriage and Family, 77, 1166-1178.

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 | Author: mjward
I’ve been serving on our county Foster Care Review Board for over a year. A critical question that arises is: Is it in the child’s best welfare to return to the care of his or her parents? Children are in foster care because of their parents’ failure to provide adequate physical care and suitable nurturing. The reasons vary from parents’ drug and alcohol use (even exposing babies prenatally), criminal activity or incarceration, neglect, inability to care for a difficult child, parents’ mental problems, to violence in the home.
Almost without exception, parents are provided tasks to complete before their child can be returned home. These tasks can include remaining free of drugs or alcohol, taking parenting classes, learning to avoid violence, and providing income and housing adequate for the family. The parents are given a time period to accomplish these tasks, six months for young children and twelve for older ones. The time can be extended if they are making serious efforts to meet the goals. If parents are not making progress, their parental rights can be ended and the child placed for adoption, often with a relative. The judge relies in part on the recommendation of the case manager, in part on the recommendation of the Review Board, as well as other parties.
It is usually obvious that the parents and children love each other and want to be together. This is true even when parents have done a poor job raising their children so far. Thus the questions become: (1) Is it safe for the child to return to his or her parents? (2) Will they provide good enough care for the child. Notice, that the question does not ask if the care will meet the highest standards laid out by child development specialists. It asks if the care is good enough. When we think about it, no one is a perfect parent. We all have our failings, yet most of us succeed as parents. We may want better for the children than “good enough” but it may not be just to separate parents and children if they don’t meet higher standards.
I think of one case. The boy was removed from his parents’ care when there was a suspicion that he had suffered some physical abuse. His parents were abusive toward each other and the home atmosphere was therefore unhealthy. During the year or more that followed, his parents took parenting courses, undertook anger management training, and worked out a plan to defuse any argument that threatened to become dangerous or any build-up of anger toward the child. They called on their religious beliefs to help them cope. For me, that was part of the problem. I have little or no sympathy for their religion and they were almost smug in talking about it. They planned to include their toddler son in religious activities early on. And yet — they loved their son and he obviously wanted to be with them. He would be well cared for physically and, with the help of relatives and their religious group, he was unlikely to be exposed to serious family violence. It really didn’t matter, then, that I didn’t approve of their religion or particularly like the parents. They met the criteria of offering adequate care and a safe home. Our Board recommended that he go home to his parents.

I’ve been serving on our county Foster Care Review Board for over a year. A critical question that arises is: Is it in the child’s best welfare to return to the care of his or her parents? Children are in foster care because of their parents’ failure to provide adequate physical care and suitable nurturing. The reasons vary from parents’ drug and alcohol use (even exposing babies prenatally), criminal activity or incarceration, neglect, inability to care for a difficult child, parents’ mental problems, to violence in the home.

Almost without exception, parents are provided tasks to complete before their child can be returned home. These tasks can include remaining free of drugs or alcohol, taking parenting classes, learning to avoid violence, and providing income and housing adequate for the family. The parents are given a time period to accomplish these tasks, six months for young children and twelve for older ones. The time can be extended if they are making serious efforts to meet the goals. If parents are not making progress, their parental rights can be ended and the child placed for adoption, often with a relative. The judge relies in part on the recommendation of the case manager, in part on the recommendation of the Review Board, as well as other parties.

It is usually obvious that the parents and children love each other and want to be together. This is true even when parents have done a poor job raising their children so far. Thus the questions become: (1) Is it safe for the child to return to his or her parents? (2) Will they provide good enough care for the child. Notice, that the question does not ask if the care will meet the highest standards laid out by child development specialists. It asks if the care is good enough. When we think about it, no one is a perfect parent. We all have our failings, yet most of us succeed as parents. We may want better for the children than “good enough” but it may not be just to separate parents and children if they don’t meet higher standards.

I think of one case. The boy was removed from his parents’ care when there was a suspicion that he had suffered some physical abuse. His parents were abusive toward each other and the home atmosphere was therefore unhealthy. During the year or more that followed, his parents took parenting courses, undertook anger management training, and worked out a plan to defuse any argument that threatened to become dangerous or any build-up of anger toward the child. They called on their religious beliefs to help them cope. For me, that was part of the problem. I have little or no sympathy for their religion and they were almost smug in talking about it. They planned to include their toddler son in religious activities early on. And yet — they loved their son and he obviously wanted to be with them. He would be well cared for physically and, with the help of relatives and their religious group, he was unlikely to be exposed to serious family violence. It really didn’t matter, then, that I didn’t approve of their religion or particularly like the parents. They met the criteria of offering adequate care and a safe home. Our Board recommended that he go home to his parents.

Tuesday, November 13th, 2012 | Author: mjward

Children, American citizens, are too often caught in the crosshairs of the child welfare system and immigration enforcement. Both systems believe in protecting children, but their policies often work against each other to put children in jeopardy. A report from November 2011 by the Applied Research Center, Shattered families: The perilous intersection of immigration enforcement and the child welfare system, details the damage caused by conflicting rules.

Let’s take an example. A woman we’ll call Mariana had been working in New Mexico for six years. She had two children born in the U.S. She had separated from their father, and he had returned to their original country. After immigration officials received a tip that Mariana was working at a local factory was in the United States illegally, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers arrested her at her workplace. They charged her with being in the country without proper documentation and took her to a detention center about 90 miles away. They refused to let her make a phone call to arrange for someone to look after her children, who were in an informal daycare home. Instead ICE officers called the local Child Protection Services (CPS) and her two children, aged 4 and 5, were taken to an emergency home. Mariana was not allowed to attend the court hearing that gave CPS custody of the children.

When it was clear that Mariana would not be released soon, the children were moved to a longer-term foster home. CPS drew up a plan so that the children could be returned to her. She was to take a parenting course and visit the children regularly. But ICE did not provide such a course at the detention center and would not let her out so that she could enrol in one. Because the center was so far from where the children were, they could not visit her regularly. Besides, the atmosphere there was not good for children. Mariana’s extradition case dragged on. Time ran out. The court judged that Mariana had not fulfilled the requirements for getting her children back and terminated her parental rights. The children were placed for adoption.

Mariana was not a negligent mother. She had been raising her children well. She lost them only because she was an undocumented immigrant. The story need not have unfolded that way. In fact, both ICE and CPS believe (on paper) in keeping families together. But their policies too often work to separate them.

For example, ICE detains parents who are unlikely to disappear because they don’t want to leave their children. Instead they could be released into the community with supervision. Often detention takes place many miles from the parents’ home so that visiting is extremely difficult if not impossible. In addition, centers do not permit parents to fulfil agency and court requirements so that they can regain their children.

For its part, CPS is often reluctant to place children with relatives who are undocumented because social workers argue that the relatives may also be arrested and detained and the children will have to move again. They ignore the fact that foster homes are not permanent and that children can move from one to another. The requirements they set are often impossible for detained parents to fulfil, and the timelines are too short to allow for the length of detention. All too often, agency personnel do not contact the appropriate consulate if parents have been deported. Some also think that an American child is better raised in the United States with a substitute family than in another country with birth parents.

What can be done? Federal, state, and local governments need to create policies to protect families from separation. They need to develop alternatives to detention that allow families to stay together. Judges need to be given the discretion to consider the best interests of the children when deciding their care and custody. Parents of children, especially those in foster care, need to be given relief, including release into the community. Local authorities need to allow exceptions to the termination of parental rights for detained and deported parents. Policies are needed allowing parents to say who should take custody of their children. Agencies need to develop guidelines for working with consulates to enable reunification of families. When such regulations and policies are in place, then children need not lose their parents.

Sources:

Applied Research Center (ARC). (2011, November). Shattered families: The perilous intersection of immigration enforcement and the child welfare system. Retrieved October 1, 2012 from http://www.arc.org.

Pertman, A. (2011, November 8). Immigration and ‘shattered families’. Retrieved October 1, 2012 from http://adampertman.com/category/quick-thoughts/.

Thursday, August 16th, 2012 | Author: mjward

It is November 2011 and we are visiting the fort in Chittorgarh, India. Our guide is an attractive young woman named Parvati after a benevolent Hindu goddess. A rose-colored sari drapes her slim form and a waxy white bloom graces her braided hair. She tells us she has a master’s degree in economics. Although she grew up in south India, she married a man from Rajasthan in the north-central area. “It’s where we came from,” she says. I don’t ask if the marriage was arranged. She has two children, a girl aged six and a boy three. Both attend school in English. A nephew stays with them to help out.

Her mother-in-law apportions the work in the extended family. Because Parvati speaks English fluently, both her mother-in-law and husband approve of her acting as a guide. Other women in the family also work, but in more traditional occupations. Parvati normally spends two days a week as a guide. She and her husband also have a travel agency and are developing a bed-and-breakfast with foreign financial backing.

No, her mother-in-law doesn’t live with Parvati and her husband. She lives with another daughter-in-law and does much of the cooking for that family. When asked, Parvati agrees that sometimes difficulties arise when generations live together.

A group of tourists stops her to take her picture. After she poses for them, she hands out the family’s business card, ever the entrepreneur.

Saturday, December 10th, 2011 | Author: mjward

The sight is not unusual in India. You see a modest-sized motorcycle – not one of your Hogs – weaving in and out of city traffic, passing a bicycle rickshaw here, getting out of the way of a bus there, then squeezing between two cars, swerving around a cow or an inattentive pedestrian. All the while the driver is honking his horn. Perched behind him is his wife, riding side saddle, her sari fluttering in the breeze. In her arms she holds a baby. An older child is perched in front of the driver and a third clings to her mother’s back. If anyone is wearing a helmet, it is the father. 

Then I think of North America’s seat-belt laws and child safety seats within the protective shell of an automobile. I think of children wearing bicycle helmets. India seems such a different world, so careless of its women. Especially careless of the young. Yet you see parents cuddling a baby and playing with a toddler. And you know that they love and value their children.

Sunday, July 17th, 2011 | Author: mjward

There is a knock on the door. The stranger standing there asks, “Louisa Miller?” When you say, “Yes,” she slaps a paper in your hand and leaves. You stare at the notice telling you that your child is suing you.

The first reaction is dismay, followed by anger. How could this be happening to you? What kind of child takes a parent to court to get damages for a wrong she believes you have done her? You may call a relative or close friend. Then you find a lawyer.

This situation probably occurs more often than you imagine. In the past, children were considered the property of their parents. Parents had almost absolute power over them. What happened inside the house was nobody else’s business. Children have, over time, gained rights that limit parents’ authority to exploit them financially or to abuse them. These rights have eventually included the right to sue their parents.

There are several types of lawsuits. These include disputes over property and disagreements about inheritance. A child may feel entitled to financial support from the parent. For example, a mother may be receiving child support from an ex-husband even though her daughter has moved out. The daughter may sue to have the support paid directly to her. Some cases involve damages for being a child-abuse or incest victim. Parents have also been sued for failure to protect their child from abuse by a family member. In the past, some young people have sued parents who kidnapped them from a cult they had joined and deprogrammed them. Others have sued because they were required to do so in order to get a settlement from an insurance company after an accident.

Children may sue parents when they reach the legal age for adulthood. If the child is not yet an adult, a guardian can sue on his or her behalf. In most jurisdictions, an individual has a limited period of time after reaching adulthood during which a lawsuit may be started. In some areas, sexual abuse receives special consideration. The time clock may start to run when the victim retrieves suppressed memories of the abuse. In some places, there is no statute of limitations on bringing a suit for sexual abuse.

Lawsuits are expensive. Parents may choose to settle out of court, sometimes through the services of a mediator. They see this as cheaper in the long run because it limits the fees they pay to their lawyer. It also cuts short the length of time the whole matter lasts. Besides, the outcome of a trial is uncertain.

A lawsuit damages, even destroys, family relationships. Usually there is a serious rift between parent and child before the suit. After it, there is scant possibility of reconciliation. The division affects other family members, too, because they take sides in the dispute. It is no wonder that one writer refers to such lawsuits as a form of family homicide.

After the lawsuit is over, you are left with lasting pain and anger toward at least one child. Part of your family is probably cut off. You may lose contact with grandchildren. Your family may be in tatters. But you have survived.

Sources:  Intra-family lawsuits and immunity. (2011, July 8). Available http://www.civiljusticeattorneys.com/newsletter.

Johnson, M. (2010, August 19). Adoptive parents prosecuted for failure to protect children. Available http://www.mjsol.co.uk/2010/uncategorized/adoptive-parents-prosecuted-failure-protect-children/

Kaslow, F. W. (1990). Children who sue parents: A new form of family homicide? Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 16, 151-163.

Kroll, J. J., & Driscoll, S. P. (2007, February). The incredible expanding/shrinking right of children to sue “parents.” Tort Law IBJ. Available http://www.kroll-lawfirm.com/files/rightofchildrentosueparents.pdf.

Friday, March 11th, 2011 | Author: mjward

Many of us would like our grandchildren to know our family history. It might be easy enough to tell them stories when they live nearby. But if they all live far away, how can we pass on our family stories to them? Family history and family stories are important. They help us all, but especially young people, build a sense of who we are. They can also draw generations closer together. Unfortunately, family stories can get lost when we live far apart.

Of course, family get-togethers can be a time for sharing past events and learning tales we never heard before. What happens sometimes, however, is that an older member takes over the stage and others roll their eyes and think, “There goes Grandma (or Aunt Nettie, or Uncle Joe) again.” Others don’t get a chance to speak. Other times, things get so busy, there is no time for quiet storytelling. Stories can get lost as people die or forget.

It is possible to tell stories in small doses when you are far apart rather than in big chunks during the rare times you’re together. Letters or e-mails are probably better than telephone for two reasons. The first is obvious–the cost of long conversations. Writing things down also means that what you say can be saved. If you’re writing to clear-the-house-out addicts, you can keep a copy yourself. In time the letters or e-mails will become a written family history that can be passed down. Older children can also be recruited to help you set up a family-history blog or website.

According to family life educator, Mark Elliott, family stories come in three varieties: everyday, landmark, and life-changing. For young children, sticking to stories of everyday life is probably best, because they do not have the experience to understand other types. Older children and adults are more likely to value more detail and learning about the significant events from yours and your ancestors’ lives. For anyone, it is important to avoid long and preachy lectures or comments like, “Back then, it was better.”

While it is possible to write story letters for any family members, it’s particular fun to send them to children. As soon as youngsters have a reasonable grasp of language, at about three years, they will enjoy getting mail. For very young children, letters should be brief and, if possible, tied to what they can see or hear. You can also link your own experiences to events taking place in the child’s life. For example, Selma Wasserman, author of the Long Distance Grandmother, suggests that starting school is an event that you can compare with your own first day of school. For older children, beginning a new grade level or starting high school can be the opportunity to tell of your experiences, or your grandparents’. A small gift may also be a springboard. Here, for instance, is a letter written to a six-year-old by his grandmother. Events in her present and past are linked to a new object he can see and touch.

“I’m sending a little bit of cotton I picked up off the ground. There are cotton fields growing near my friend’s house in Arizona. They are in the desert. A desert does not get very much rain. Cotton needs lots of water to grow. Water comes from the Colorado River in a big canal and then goes in little canals to the fields. Then the cotton can grow. When it is ready, a big machine pulls the cotton fluff off the plants. Some falls to the ground. Then the cotton is taken to a factory called a cotton gin that takes out the seeds and the dirt. Afterwards it goes to factories that make thread and weave cloth. Do you think that some of the cotton from the fields I saw helped make your clothes? When I was a girl, I lived in a country called India. They had cotton fields there too. But they didn’t have big machines to pick it. People walked along the rows and pulled the cotton off and put it in baskets or bags. It was hard work.”

 

Reference:

Wasserman, S. (1988). The long distance grandmother: How to stay close to distant grandchildren. Point Roberts, WA: Hartley & Marks.

Sunday, February 20th, 2011 | Author: mjward

However we define families, they are the keystone for any society. They provide love and care for members, raise children, and provide a focus for a person’s life. Around the world, official days recognize their importance for individuals and for the community.

In Canada, three provinces have declared that the third Monday in February is Family Day. Alberta led the way in 1990. Following a drug scandal involving his son, the premier of that province promoted Family Day. He admitted that he himself had neglected his family and that it was important for all Albertans to pay more attention to theirs. Saskatchewan and Ontario followed Alberta’s lead in 2007 and 2008. Regular public holidays are believed to make it easier for families to achieve a better balance between family and work responsibilities. The February holiday breaks up the long stretch between New Years and Easter. Families are encouraged to spend time together–get together with relatives, play winter sports, or just enjoy each other’s company.

The Canadian provinces aren’t the only ones to celebrate families. The Australian Capital Territory declared an annual Family and Community Day in 2007. It is tied to the September-October school holidays. In South Africa, Easter Monday was renamed Family Day. Arizona designated the first Sunday in August as American Family Day. Other states have followed its lead.

Since 1994, the United Nations has recognized May 15 as the International Day of Families. This is an occasion to celebrate the importance of families to people, societies and cultures around the world. Each year, a theme is selected that focuses attention on a particular area of concern. The one for 2011 is “Confronting Family Poverty.” Locally, there may be workshops, policy meetings for public officials, and the start of campaigns to strengthen families.

Even if our own area has no official day to celebrate family life, there are many things we can do as families. We can ski, skate, play pickup basketball, phone a distant relative, hike, play indoor games, picnic, make meals together. By using our imaginations, we can come up with many more ways to enjoy and celebrate family life.

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010 | Author: mjward

A father I knew–let’s call him Dan–was absent on business trips for a week at least once a month. Several times a year, he travelled out of the country for three weeks at a time. These longer trips were a mixture of business and pleasure. He rarely called home during his travels and he was hard to contact if there was an emergency. When he returned home, he found that his wife had made decisions without consulting him. He expected to come back to the family he had left only a short while before. While he was away, however, family members and their relationships had changed in small ways, sometimes even in major ways. He felt pushed out. His relationship with his wife and children became more distant.

There are many reasons one partner may be absent from family life. These include periodic travel for work like Dan’s, military service, individual vacations or visits to relatives, and illness. A more dramatic separation occurred in 2010 when Chilean miners were trapped underground for over two months. When a couple does not consult on a daily or near-daily basis, the partner at home must make decisions alone. This is especially true where these are about children. For example, the at-home parent may need to make choices about children’s activities like sleeping over at a friend’s or joining a sports team. Often such matters cannot wait for the other parent to return home, either because of the spontaneous nature of invitations or deadlines for such things as enrollment.

When Dan and his wife had children at home, it was more difficult to communicate with families. Long-distance phone calls could be costly and sometimes difficult to complete when he was abroad. In these days of cell phones, e-mail, and other types of wireless communication, it is easier now for most parents to consult on a daily basis. They must, however, make a conscious choice to act as co-parents and make decisions together. Sometimes the at-home parent won’t confide difficulties to the away-from-home parent so as not to worry him or her. But the attempt to spare one’s partner from worry makes it more difficult to actively co-parent.

Marriage and parenthood call for a partnership of both adults. When one person makes most of the decisions, the other may feel left out of the marriage and active parenting. This type of imbalance may result from situations where a parent still lives at home full-time. An example is the partner who works long hours and is rarely available for family involvement, especially with children. Sometimes the partner most involved with parenting acts as a gatekeeper who discourages the other’s interaction with the children. For example, a mother may hover over her husband as he bathes a baby or changes a diaper, coaching him how to do it just right and undermining his confidence as a parent. Sometimes the busy partner withdraws because he or she cannot handle the stress of family life in addition to workplace stress. For example, one professional and father of several teenagers announced that he was burnt out as a parent. He withdrew from close interaction with his children though he expected any rules he set to be followed.

A person may be absent from parenting for a number of reasons. Some of these are chosen; others are imposed. Not all barriers to a co-parenting partnership can be overcome. Yet when it is in the power of a couple, communication and consultation can lead to better parenting and closer family relationships.

Friday, September 17th, 2010 | Author: mjward

Does genealogy equal identity? The title of a popular genealogical television show suggests that it does.

I’ve had a lot of fun researching my genealogical background. I’ve debunked some of the family legends. For example, the Baldi family in England did NOT descend from the younger brother of the famous Giuseppe Garibaldi. Rather, they were ordinary labourers with their surname originally spelled “Baldy”. Until my great-grandparents, the family was illiterate, signing the parish marriage register with an X. I’ve learned a lot of facts about my ancestors’ births, deaths, and marriages. It’s been interesting to trace the history they lived, their social and political times, and even the effect of natural disasters. There are also mysteries remaining that puzzle me still.

Is my ancestry my identity? Part of it is. My physical make-up — appearance and basic health — come through my genes. So does my level of intelligence. My parents, like any parents, provided me with a unique set of experiences that helped shape who I have become. And they were shaped by their parents and other relatives.

But I have made many choices that have also shaped who I have become. I chose a particular university in a large Canadian city, and a specific academic area. I also chose how much time I spent in study and how much in enriching my social life. My ancestors did not choose my mate for me nor dictate my age at marriage. They did not determine the quality of our marital relationship. They also did not decide how many children we had, either biological or adopted. They did not dictate my career path or that I would be widowed before all my children were independent, or even what I have done with my later life. My choices were probably shaped by family traditions and modes of expression. However, they also depended on my particular circumstances. Who was available? What paths were open, following the specific choices I’ve made? And they depended on what I made of the circumstances. For me, therefore, while genealogy is a pleasant pastime, it does not equate to my identity.

In the words of Robert Frost: “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – /I took the one less traveled by, /and that has made all the difference.”