I never had any heroes growing up, and mostly I learned from the mistakes made by those around me. I was not raised in a household with a full cast of characters, so I never got to see how a couple resolves conflict, nor did I ever get to have any fights with any siblings or cousins. It is almost like being raised in a bubble, and perhaps that explains why I was so drawn to family law, where I got to see first-hand the conflicts families encounter.

Many think that my work must be depressing, yet every day I see families making immense sacrifices and working together during a separation in order to minimize the downside for their children. On a daily basis, I see people make some of the toughest decisions– risking emotional and financial security, in the hopes that by leaving an unhappy or unhealthy situation, they can provide their children with a happier, calmer, safer future. The clients I work with understand that they are role models for their children, and they do not want them to grow up thinking that it is okay to live in a miserable situation or that money can buy happiness, because they have already witnessed for themselves that nothing could be farther from the truth.

Obviously, in an ideal world couples would do their best to resolve conflicts and stay together in one household, but I have learned that conflict resolution is a rare skill. I marvel at the fact that my aunt (who is celebrating her birthday today) has been married for 34 years and raised two beautiful, well-grounded daughters. She is an amazing person, full of wisdom and patience. I wish it had not taken me 38 years to find her, but I am very grateful that Auntie B. is in my life now.

Family role models are truly special because generally only a catastrophic incident will sever that connection, and fortunately for most, those are rare. I will never know what it would have been like to grow up with people that looked like me or thought like me to help me in my early years, I can only imagine that it would have been great. Speaking as the child who always craved a family role model that could help guide me through life’s challenges, I think it is critical to foster these family bonds, even when (actually especially when) the family is no longer in an intact household.

We all need some inspiration and assistance navigating life’s difficult journey. Having a role model that is part of your family somehow make the challenges less daunting– we draw strength from within our own clan. Family role models are the best– they are the rocks that ground us, and even though it took me 38 years to find them, the rocks I found this year are like diamonds to me.