I pretty much live my whole life with the word “family” never far from my lips. Family defines and dominates both my professional life and my personal life.
It’s easy, when thinking of family, to look in. To keep it close. Who lives in your home, those closest to you.
But one of the things that has been coming home to me, thinking about family during this month, has been about remembering to look out. To the family we have outside our home.
Obviously, I’m at the stage of life where my home includes me, my spouse and our children. That won’t always be the case, and I can only speak for where I am.
We have been spending time looking outside our little home circle as we prepare for a couple of pretty big events. Within the next 2 weeks we will be attending my sister’s wedding, and our parents’ 40th Wedding Anniversary.
Some secret business for those events have led to us looking through a lot of old photos.
Normally, these photos are put away. Safely stored, saving us from the trauma of a lace headband bow. A LaceBandBow?
But, when those photos came out recently, the kids came running. When we were looking through our wedding photos, I had a true bittersweet moment as Sabrina pointed at my Mum and said “Look, Grandma can walk. Imagine if Grandma could walk now”. And then, just in time to save me from the tears that would have come next, she was suddenly laughing with a full belly laugh at “Grandad’s hair. Imagine if he had hair like that now”.
Then there was the shared disbelief from Coby and Sabrina looking and seeing that “Aunty Bron and Aunty Suzie are kids”. And then I show them Wade (my cousin), and suddenly there is another stunned “so, he was just a kid”. I swear I could hear their brains whirring and churning on that!
There were stories told of old cars, of crazy sunglasses, of spilled paint and BBQs and birthday cakes.
As much as I am a lover of storytelling, I realised that I haven’t been sharing the stories of my childhood and my family with my own children.
I think sometimes I haven’t told the stories because not everything was perfect, and I wanted to save them from the imperfection. But perhaps that is precisely what I need to be sharing.
That learning more about our family, and in particular our extended family, can show our children so much. It can give them real examples of family and connection and love. It can also be the place to learn about real people who have managed difference and found support and their own resilience. And that could be a very good thing.
I’m going to try to find ways to tell more of my stories, to have my children see more old photos and to try to show them that Family comes in all shapes and sizes.
Life is getting pretty weird when I can see a photo like this of my Mum:
And know that I am OLDER THAN SHE IS THERE.
My mind is now in meltdown.
Anyway, these moments of our Family’s past and the stories of our extended family could help my children to understand some really important and difficult lessons. That time marches on, some lives are long, some are short, some are healthy & light, some are dark & unwell, and it is all part of the mix.
It is my hope that this could help them to feel that their feet are still on the ground and to reach out if their lives take a turn they didn’t expect.
The lessons of those who have gone before, could help us. They could help me.