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In Regional Debate, More on Dysfunction

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In his well-expressed Back Page commentary ("Suburban Subjugation," March 5), John Moeser uses the analogy of a dysfunctional family to describe the Richmond region. Carrying this analogy a step further may lead to greater understanding of our city/suburb debate, which grates like a broken record.

Consider one model of the dysfunctional family: Papa is the breadwinner and pays for everything while the kids are growing up, including their college education. The kids become successful in their own right, gaining personal wealth and taking responsibility for their own families. Yet Papa continues to want to control everything. In every conversation, he has to win. The kids must show Papa respect and bend to his will. After all, don't they owe their success to him? Eventually, the kids stop showing up and the family splinters, argues and becomes dysfunctional.

In a functional family, Papa would anticipate and nurture the changing dynamic. He would help the family members adapt to their changing leadership roles, and he would take pride in his children's accomplishments. Through his example, the kids would learn to respect each other. As a result, everyone reveres Papa as the initial breadwinner and current visionary, even as their voices increasingly influence the family's decisions. The family's wealth grows in ways Papa could never have envisioned, fueled by fresh ideas and enabled by the family's changing leadership structure.

Families that get stuck in roles which no longer reflect reality become dysfunctional.

Robert L. Thalhimer
Senior Vice President, Advancement
The Community Foundation

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