Snapshots of love: family support

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

This post is dedicated to my parents

Our family on holiday in Quebec
Our family on holiday in Quebec

Breaking the news

The joy on my parents face when we broke the happy news to them that I was pregnant was priceless and indescribable. Having waited many long years for grandchildren, after having four of their own, my parents were utterly delighted. It also came at the best time for them, having both recently retired, my mother as a nursery teacher, so with more time on their hands to help support us. Added to us their total devotion and love of young children, and a strong relationship with me, we knew we were extremely fortunate and blessed entering this new phase of our lives.

A rosy childhood

I was brought up in a loving, secure household with my three brothers and many pets. I have many treasured memories of my childhood, all of which revolve around the unconditional love my parents gave us all. Annual family holidays with my cousins in North Wales, and in France, long walks in the local woods or up mountains in the Highlands of Scotland, visits to my relatives in Bolton, sunny days spent playing our large garden or indoors with masses of Lego, the list goes on. The blanket of warmth, comfort and security wrapped around me, enabling me to grow up valuing myself, my family and the world I lived in. My parents simply gave unconditionally, no sacrifice was too large.

Mum and I
First days with Mum, 1980

Wings to fly

My parents provided me the freedom to explore and learn about the world at an early age, supporting me in taking a gap year to Nepal at the tender age of eighteen. I marvel at their strength in letting their only daughter fly the nest at this age. This trust gave me wings enabling me to fly to new worlds, experience riches beyond words, and develop new ways of seeing. I hope one day I too can give Ewan this gift of freedom to explore and learn about who he is on new shores.

Styles of parenting

On the cusp of motherhood I planned to provide my son with a similar upbringing to my own. This strong foundation laid the building bricks of my own parenting style. Although in some small ways different from my parents, for instance through more sustained baby-wearing, full-time bed-sharing and long-term breastfeeding, essentially we are coming from the same value-base, attachment style parenting. Perhaps I am simply more conscious of this parenting style and have taken it to a level beyond which my parents chose to go. Though my Mum and I have long, animated discussions about the merits or otherwise of baby-wearing and sustained breastfeeding, deep down we are singing from the same song sheet, only mine is slightly more radical!

The deep well of memory and knowledge

In these discussions I know I can ask any question about my own childhood and receive a truthful answer. Alongside the many family videos, photos and memories of my childhood these conversations have developed into a treasure trove of material from which to operate as a parent. Digging into this well enables me to choose the right path down the ever-changing parenting journey, the most challenging but rewarding of my life so far. These conversations are valuable in helping to map my own childhood and follow this through with my own parenting. Without these reference points, knowing where I came from and how I was parented, I would feel unhinged and ungrounded. Whilst I gain deep insights from reading and writing about parenting, so much of my knowledge comes from how my own parents parented me.

My Dad and I on one of our many walks
My Dad and I on one of our many walks, 1981

Unwavering love and support

The love my parents show Ewan knows no bounds. Free from work commitments they can devote days to simply caring for and being with their grandson. They offer me a massive amount of practical and emotional support which equally shows no bounds. Sometimes I simply stop and listen or watch my parents and Ewan interacting together. It is the best way for me to paint a picture of the budding, very special relationship, they share.

First meeting of Ewan and his maternal grandmother

Ewan is being held by my husband as I lay unconscious after having an emergency caesarean. Sometime later I watch this first precious meeting on a video screen, tears in my eyes. My mother, who was present during the late, traumatic stages of a failed natural delivery, is reaching out to her first-born grandson, but refrains from touching him as she respects my need to do this first. Instead she talks soothingly and lovingly to Ewan, reassuring him how soon he shall meet his Mummy.

The circle of life

My Mum has just watched her own mother fade away into the next world. She returns to meet us with eyes full of loss, where words fail to match gestures. I simply hand her Ewan, whom she holds close, kissing his soft, still newborn skin. The grief partly evaporates by the utter joy of seeing her grandson. As she sings him the lullaby her own mother once sang to her, rocking him gently as he falls to sleep, I weep for my own and my mother’s loss, but also out of happiness for we have Ewan. Holding him at arm’s length, my mother spends a few moments simply gazing, marvelling at this new life before her.

The lawnmowers

It is high summer, my Dad’s sixty-fourth birthday. Ewan is imitating his Grandpa’s actions as he mows the lawn with his bricks baby walker. My neighbour captures this moment on camera, my dad proudly gazing down at his grandson in adoration, Ewan reflecting back respect, love and wonder. Grandpa epitomises adventure, practical and engaging tasks, such as assembling a table and clearing out the garage, in infant eyes. This afternoon tottering in the garden is more precious to my Dad than any present or meal out.

Grandpa and Ewan mowing the lawn
Grandpa and Ewan mowing the lawn

Capturing a moment

Ewan is fifteen months old. He has recently started to walk. I glimpse his blonde mop of hair tottering from a distance, his grandma’s hand securely in his. I sense a peace and communion between them I cannot replicate, it is felt in those moments when Ewan reaches out for his grandma in preference to me, when he kicks his legs, displaying anticipated excitement when his grandparents arrive. They walk slowly up to me, a broad smile on Ewan’s face as he chatters proudly to me. My mother’s eyes reflect this pride, as she says well done, clapping which Ewan automatically imitates.

It takes a village to raise a child

Woven throughout these snapshots is the love my grandparents give their grandson. It is a love which means I can rely on them, at almost any time, to take care of Ewan, whenever this is needed. Because my husband works away in the week, I am often at home alone. The African proverb above rings true, my parents offer a large part of that village each time they care for Ewan. Living privatised nuclear family lives in separate houses, isolation would destroy me. As modern parents we can no longer rely upon an extended network of support from our kinsmen. This support is essential to me.

It allows me time to pursue my passion for writing, yoga and running, which as time-consuming as they are would not be possible without their support, not to mention many additional, everyday jobs of running a household. I write this fully aware that many modern day young families do not receive the huge amount of support we do. Many live at too great a distance to receive regular physical support from their own parents, or for a host of other reasons this support is not available or possible.

I feel compassion for all these parents who work so hard, and at times struggle, alone without essential additional support. I can always turn to my parents who respond with love and care each and every time I ask. I write this post in dedication to them, aware of how blessed I am.

Ewan and his Grandma
Ewan and his Grandma

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy.
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.

12 thoughts on “Snapshots of love: family support”

  1. Oh, I love this . . . I would like to thing some day my own children would feel this same way. Especially love the story of your mom meeting your son for the first time. Visiting from the carnival and have followed you on Twitter. (Although I have to admit I’m not a big Twitter person.)

    1. Thanks for your support and for reading this post. I shall have a look at the carnival and your blog soon as I can. I’m also not a big Twitter user but trying to change that!

        1. I have just set up a facebook page this seems to be the way a lot of people follow blogs. In the process of learning how to use Twitter too!

  2. I absolutely envy you your parents’ closeness and support. The snapshot of your mother singing the lullaby after her mother died — oh! But how wonderful that she had you and the little one close to help her through. Thanks for sharing a beautiful picture of what extended family can look like.

  3. Your post and the pictures are truely wonderful. And I just really like how your parents responded to your telling them of your pregancy. Mine responded very similar (though she never said so, I know my mum was looking forward to grandkids for a long time). You and Ewan are the same age as my little one and me 🙂

  4. I love how you’ve described your parenting style as compatible with your mom’s, only slightly more radical. I think, had my mom and I been friends as young parents, that my mom would have swayed a bit more to the radical side as well. She just didn’t know anyone who did such things!

    1. I know what you mean, I think maybe my Mum would have swayed to a more alternative style if she’d been around the right kind of people, but in the 70s and 80s it just wasn’t so common, and of course there was no internet then to spread the word! Thanks for your comments.

  5. What a wonderful gift close, loving Grandparents are to a child. We recently combined households with my parents, and it has been such a joy watching their blossoming relationships with my children.

    1. Thanks for your reply; it really is a precious gift watching my parents with their grandson, and my husbands parents with him too. Combining households sounds interesting too. Hope it is going well. The more support and sharing of bringing up our children the better.

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