17 May International Day of Families
Roots: Then and Now
The International Day of Families got me thinking back to when I was an ambitious young graduate student in 1977, a book, followed by a television miniseries, became international events. The story, Roots, by author, Alex Haley, follows a family from its origins in West Africa through generations of slavery and the end of the Civil War. That Roots also had legs is beyond dispute. It was rebroadcast most recently in 2021.
Like most who watched this intriguing drama play out, I was moved by the heart of the story, a heart that beat out across the centuries from generation to generation, across continents and oceans, transcending race, religion, nationality, language, and all other things that easily divide humans into false “us and them” dichotomies. Roots captured our attention and admiration because it did just the opposite. It united us by highlighting the single, undeniable fact that we all came to be here by the strength and perseverance of those who came before us. And if we go back far enough along our roots, we discover that we all came from the same tree, the tree of life. Quite likely, the same human heart.
When my wife and I married in 1983 I inherited a very loving, highly personable, and somewhat audacious, mother-in-law who was very much a proponent of knowing and keeping in touch with extended family. She was also a Roots fan. She was also a huge supporter of her new son-in-law and his fledgling company called, Active Parenting. One day she found herself sitting in the waiting room of a hospital in Knoxville, TN, when she struck up a conversation with a charming gentleman who she eventually recognized as Alex Haley. She must have turned on her southern charm, because the next time I saw her she proudly presented me with a framed note from the now world-famous author that read as follows:
So, if the book and miniseries were not enough to ingrain the importance of helping our children know and understand the importance of their own roots, this personal note from “the whole roots family” has certainly done the job. I even incorporated the concept into our video-enhanced parenting education curriculums in one of the Family Enrichment sections (click here to see).
We don’t have to be genealogists to tell and retell the stories that we know about our family history, and the history of our people. Whatever you know or can discover will help give your child a sense that they are part of something greater than just themselves. They are a part of the human race, a race that has overcome huge adversities in the past, and will no doubt be challenged with more in the future. Our ancestors survived and thrived because they recognized the importance of working cooperatively with others to overcome and learn from these challenges. The roots of their efforts can nourish your children and help them continue the legacy.
In the spirit of this, The International Day of Families, here’s to your family…and to all our families…and to the roots from which we grow.
Active Parenting Publishers founder and president Michael H. Popkin, Ph.D. has been providing research-based education programs with an emphasis on nonviolent discipline, mutual respect, and open communication for over 35 years. He is widely known for his expertise in the field of parent education and has appeared on over 100 TV programs, including CNN and The Oprah Winfrey Show.