family is story

Why I Started a Blog in a Blog-Saturated Internet World

unsplash-kitsune-3There are a plethora of reports that millions of people read blogs every day and millions of people create blogs every day. So, with all of this massive amount of content, why did I think I needed to join the masses?

In March of this year, I read an article by Bruce Feiler in which he explains the importance of a strong family narrative. The research he found (from Marshall Duke of Emory University) shows that families who know the stories of where they came from, who they were, and where they were going, tend to do better when faced with challenges.

Because I’m an intermittent journaler, at best, I knew that recording stories of my family and documenting my life and career in a notebook wouldn’t hold the same accountability as sharing stories with my community.

I’ve truly wanted to be a daily-diary-writer or even weekly journaler since I was a child. The premier example of a committed daily journaler was my maternal grandfather, Pop. He kept a daily diary (or at least a several-days-a-week diary) for over 50 years. Talk about a family narrative! His diaries contained family secrets, challenges, joys, triumphs and health history that have benefitted my brother and me as we’ve faced similar life events.

Hopefully, this blog will serve as entertainment, information, and insight for my family. It’s a place for me to remember and to share, and to maybe touch the life of someone reading. Maybe the story of my brother will help those grieving from a tragic loss. Or maybe the note I posted from my grandfather will spur a husband or wife to write a poem for his or her love. And maybe future generations of my family will read it and know where they came from, who they are, and where they’re going.

How does a family gauge if they’re telling a strong family narrative? In Feiler’s article, he references the Do You Know Scale. According to Duke in a follow-up article to Feiler:

“The DYK comprises 20 questions seeking knowledge about family history. The major criterion for inclusion in this set of questions was that they test knowledge of things that children could not possibly have learned first hand, either because they happened before the children were born or they involved family members that were less familiar to them than parents and grandparents. Given this limitation, the children who knew the information would therefore have had to receive it from others through stories, writings or other indirect sources. As was mentioned by Bruce Feiler, in our research, higher scores on the DYK scale were associated with higher levels of self-esteem, an internal locus of control (a belief in one’s own capacity to control what happens to him or her), better family functioning, lower levels of anxiety, fewer behavioral problems, and better chances for good outcomes if a child faces educational or emotional/behavioral difficulties.”

The Do You Know Scale from Marshall Duke:
Please answer the following questions by circling “Y” for “yes” or “N” for “no.” Even if you know the information we are asking about, you don’t need to write it down. We just wish to know if you know the information.

  1. Do you know how your parents met? Y N
  2. Do you know where your mother grew up? Y N
  3. Do you know where your father grew up? Y N
  4. Do you know where some of your grandparents grew up? Y N
  5. Do you know where some of your grandparents met? Y N
  6. Do you know where your parents were married? Y N
  7. Do you know what went on when you were being born? Y N
  8. Do you know the source of your name? Y N
  9. Do you know some things about what happened when your brothers or sisters were being born? Y N
  10. Do you know which person in your family you look most like? Y N
  11. Do you know which person in the family you act most like? Y N
  12. Do you know some of the illnesses and injuries that your parents experienced when they were younger? Y N
  13. Do you know some of the lessons that your parents learned from good or bad experiences? Y N
  14. Do you know some things that happened to your mom or dad when they were in school? Y N
  15. Do you know the national background of your family (such as English, German, Russian, etc)? Y N
  16. Do you know some of the jobs that your parents had when they were young? Y N
  17. Do you know some awards that your parents received when they were young? Y N
  18. Do you know the names of the schools that your mom went to? Y N
  19. Do you know the names of the schools that your dad went to? Y N
  20. Do you know about a relative whose face “froze” in a grumpy position because he or she did not smile enough? Y N

Score: Total number answered Y

Important Note: About that last question! Fifteen percent of our sample actually answered “Yes!” This is because the stories that families tell are not always “true.” More often than not they are told in order to teach a lesson or help with a physical or emotional hurt. As such, they may be modified as needed. The accuracy of the stories is not really critical. In fact, there are often disagreements among family members about what really happened! These disagreements then become part of the family narrative. Not to worry!

My score was 16 out of 20. What’s yours?

©2013 Jennifer Wilder. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint or publish this content elsewhere, please contact me through this blog.