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The 'big tent' of families
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Pretty much everyone wants the best for their kids. We want our children to be better, to act better and to have more than we ourselves did. We want them to avoid the mistakes we have made, to succeed where we have failed, to learn and become all that they can be. - photo by Linda and Richard Eyre
Our life as writers and speakers puts us in touch with plenty of diversity.

We often speak at church meetings. But we also speak a lot to professional organizations, corporate groups and various educational and community associations throughout the world.

Our audiences run the gamut from conservative to liberal, and we mean that in terms of both political views and lifestyles.

And here is the great thing: As different as people are in their ideologies and worldviews, they are all basically the same when it comes to their families, particularly their hopes, dreams, worries and concerns for their children.

One man we were talking to put it this way: A good definition of a conservative is a liberal with a teenage daughter.

Pretty much everyone wants the best for their kids. We want our children to be better, to act better and to have more than we ourselves did. We want them to avoid the mistakes we have made, to succeed where we have failed, to learn and become all that they can be.

We want them to be happy. We want to do right by them. We want to give them everything we can, but we dont want to spoil them or give them entitlement attitudes.

There are remarkable similarities in these areas between widely diverse parents all over the world. In fact, these common parental feelings, aspirations and worries may be the most uniting factor there is in a world with such wide variations and differences in virtually everything else.

We live in a divided world, in a divided country, in divided communities and neighborhoods. We are polarized on the political and economic issues of today, on our beliefs and religions, and on the lifestyles we choose and on how we live our day-to-day lives.

Yet despite all our differences, what most of us care most about and in such similar ways is our children and our families. The demographic category of parents-who-love-and-prioritize-kids, as it turns out, is a very big category a very big tent, if you will and there is room in there for all kinds of different politics, economics, races and religions.

We recently spoke and received an award at the annual convention of the Fathers and Families Coalition of America held in Los Angeles. Virtually all of the 500 attendees were African-American or Hispanic. The majority were Democrats, and most were Baptist or Pentecostal. Yet we changed our presentation very little from what we would say in a church meeting because people care about their children and their families in the same ways and need the same kind of help and advice on their parenting and on their marriages.

Another big, international family gathering is coming up later this year. It's the World Congress on Families, drawing its attendance from across the country and around the world.

The danger with the World Congress is that it has gained the reputation of being exclusively conservative in the political sense of the word, and of holding views on everything from guns to immigration to birth control that are seen by much of the world as extreme and polarizing.

We would not dream of suggesting that anyone should change or modify or dilute their spiritual or political beliefs to appease others, or to pretend that they are something other than what they really are. But what we do wish is that individuals and groups could have a world congress on families that is exactly what the name implies: a gathering to focus on and advocate for the things about families that all basically agree on the importance of children, the powerful influence of parents, and the need for communities and public institutions to support both.

The ones working on the conference are bright and able people, and they understand that instead of making the congress a forum for political debate, labeling and name-calling, they can make it a time of advocating and fighting for the rights of all children, and of calling for and finding ideas for a more child-centered and family-centered culture that celebrates commitment and popularizes parenting.

Bottom line: We think that the cause for families (and the congress on families) needs to be an inclusive big tent rather than an exclusive small tent.