News and Tribune

February 19, 2013

CUMMINS: Does your family need re-organizing?

Local columnist

— Everything is either simple or complex. Consider my family, or yours. During my infancy, mother made everything simple, but my life became complex when I began questioning the legitimacy of Santa Claus. Looking back, I think it was love, or maybe marriage, which disorganized my life. The problem with marriage is that, supposedly, two are to merge into one. Once you work that out, children enter the picture like something Picasso paints, and, then their children and their children add strokes to your surreal landscape.

Back in the old days, families were intact. Today, a few families function “dynamically” — but most lack efficient organization, functioning as Congress does. Back then, family organization centered around a father figure, sitting on an unstable throne, issuing decrees. If a child rebelled, he was outcast. It wasn’t easy for fathers when mothers teared up. However, God-ordained fathers persevered, searching for milk and honey in the wilderness just as Moses did. It was tough on old-time fathers wandering around for 40 years, waiting for the sea to part.

Modern-family structure changed all that. Fathers protested, but they had no other choice. Yes, they can run away, and many do. However, organizational specialists now help chaotic-prone families attain profitable bliss. I prefer a submissive and subdued family, myself, but understand the benefits of tight-fit togetherness. To accomplish anything in this modern world, you have to incorporate. How’s this sound, the Terry Cummins Family, Inc.

Here’s how I understand it as explained by Bruce Feiler in the Wall Street Journal-Bible. First, the father calls a meeting of his family and announces he’s abdicating his throne. It will hurt when I do it, but my crown has been a heavy burden, tilting my head to one side and then the other. Once assembling my family, I will inform them we are re-organizing into a dynamic, democratic unit where each member has a “say.” If a member does or says anything outrageous, then I, who lived through wars, famine and the onslaught of Facebook, will filibuster it.

I’m not making this up, families are adopting the corporate model. Corporations would crumble without effective and efficient organization. They’re initiating a new organizational structure known as “agile development.” It’s a system of group dynamics in which workers are organized into small teams. They hold progress sessions and frequent reviews. With open communication and responsibilities clarified, productivity increases, resulting in teamwork and happy worker-campers. 

If your family adopts the corporate model, the members form teams with specific responsibilities and titles. For example, the father could become the chief financial officer and bedtime manager. The mother is the chief home executive officer and transportation director. She transports the children to dentists and soccer practices, while the father brings in some bacon. See the ensuing harmony. The mother drives everywhere, wearing herself out, while the father happily assumes the monumental task of herding his kids, like cattle, to bed. I’ve done that. It’s not pretty.

Children and the family dog assume responsibilities, too. Johnny is the director of wireless electronic things and the trash removal specialist, while Mary leads the clean dish brigade. If she feels slighted, then she can express herself at the next Johnson family caucus. Doberman, the pincher, is the chief security officer. Family specialists say the agile development thing works. 

I have some serious reservations about disassembling the tried and true. May give it a try or maybe not. God didn’t tell Moses to re-organize his tribes, but when looking over into the promise land, he died on the spot anyway. I tried the co-CEO arrangement one time, but the kids always sided with the mother. What if the family board of directors ousted me? 

Corporations have their troubles, too. You think a corporate CEO making $23 million wants to hear what the workers on the line have to say? One problem with the current corporate model is that weekly team meetings haven’t eliminated rat racing to the dog-eat-dog fights.

Growing up, my family was highly organized. We met three times each day at the dinner table, talked and listened in a mannerly sort of way. Early on, I learned two simple rules; 1, work, and 2, if I got a whuppin’ at school, I’d get another one when I got home. We’re past that practice, but, unfortunately, have devised other devious ways to beat a child into “shape.”

If your family is disorganized, but a happy one, keep touching it the way you do.


— Contact Terry Cummins at