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Thursday, 6 September 2012

A Home Culture

Have you ever wondered about the culture you create in your home? I'm not talking about culture in terms of race, ethnicity, heritage or religion. And, I'm not talking about how loving or dysfunctional the family is (although this is, undoubtedly, the most important aspect of any family).

I'm talking about the kind of values and interests a home embodies. What does your home say about who you are and what you value? What kinds of objects are on display in your house? What do you have up on your walls? What kind of activities does your family do for fun? What do people talk about at the dinner table? As a child, I was always fascinated by how different many of my friends' homes were from my own, and now, as a parent myself, I often consider how the culture of a home shapes the children who grow up in it.

One of my mother's close friends was a Bharathnatyam dancer. She and her husband together ran a school for dance, and they performed around India. When I visited their home as a child, I was astounded by the way it was steeped in music and dance. Their sons grew up living and breathing music and dance. There were always people dancing in their house; informal performances and rehearsals happened on their verandahs. Music resounded in every room, and all their conversations centered around music, dance, stories, and art.

One of my closest childhood friends lived in a home permeated by technology. His dad ran a software company, and his mom was also extremely computer savvy. They always had the latest technology and the best computers, and as a family, they preferred movies to books. My friend himself was always playing around on his computer -- not on mindless games, but on really sophisticated stuff. He started programming really young, and unsurprisingly, he went on to become a very successful software engineer. In his home, dinner table discussions would often revolve around computers, new technologies, and cars.

Some of my other friends grew up in homes that seemed to value the material world above all else. These friends had fancy designer homes, and their dinner table conversations revolved around clothes, shoes, gadgets, parties, and appearances.

I can think of a host of other "home cultures," each created by a different kind of family : money and business families, musical families, science families, artsy families, sporty-outdoorsy families, literary families.

My own childhood home was full of literature, poetry, and art. Big, dusty bookcases crowded with books about temples and religion, art and architecture, museums and travel. Other bookcases overflowed with works of fiction -- great literature from India and the West. We were a reading family, and we were an artsy family.  Neither of my parents cared much about technology. They just weren't into machines. We had a small TV that was never switched on. Our house was also a quiet house. I don't remember much music or noise. Everyone in the family seemed to enjoy silence and solitude.

I often consider the kind of home that I'm creating for my children. What kind of culture are they living and breathing everyday. What does our home say about what we, as a family, cherish and love? What do I want it to say?


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