The beauty of the grandparent and creating the village to raise our children

circa-roaming-market-xmas-2016-5I’m going to paraphrase cos this is a blog and not a book, and i’m in the mood for speed.

What’s his name?
He’s one of my heroes.
Not Joseph Campbell.
The psychologist who performed psychology on psychology and presented the ‘Myth of the Family’.
James Hillman.
He reminds us we need grandparents cos they take risks. Grandparents have character. They don’t have the stresses of earning money, making the correct parenting choices, being sleep deprived or generally fatigued (or do they in the noughties?).

Grandparents can be daring, they can be irresponsible, they are more relaxed than their children.

He tells a wee ditty about the grandma who walks across a busy street, making the traffic stop, as she ambles across confident the cars will wait as she carries her bags of groceries. Brave rule breaking Granny.
It makes me think of Supergran

Or Granny from Sylvester

Here are 7 reasons i love my children being with their grandparents:

1) I am super in-love with my tamariki. I am proud of them. I am mother hen. I cluck cluck cluck. I like sharing them, with the people who made me. It feels like i’m giving back somehow. Saying, look you ‘made’ me, taught or guided me, and now look at the fruits of your ‘labour’. Look how, who you helped me become, is helping others become. I marvel and want to bask in the ancestral line, the continuation, the life cycle.

2) I want to share the small delights my children’s experience, the wonder, the explosive joy, the inquisitiveness which is so fulfilling for me, with my parents. I believe such simple observations of ‘presence’ and ‘gratitude’ may nourish them too. It’s also like travelling solo versus having a friend there to share the wow-factor with. Experiencing it with someone can make it live on longer or stronger.

3) If i am to die before i believe i will die, or before my children are adults, i’d like them to have a deep connection with their grandparents, so they can go to them, for guidance and in fact for the unconditional love Alfie Kohn encourages, and the sort of love i ‘believe’ family want to or can give.

4) I trust my parents and my partner’s parents. They ‘raised’ us. I know them. I don’t necessarily trust all other caregivers i could pay. When our parents can be with our children when i need them to be, i can relax, and feel in my heart our children are safe, are loved, and are being cared for in a way we know or remember.

5) My main love language (one of the 5 love languages) is quality time. When people say yes to a mini or major party at ours or invite themselves round to be with me and my family, especially for a slow-food event, i feel like a love bomb goes off in my chest. When my parents want to be with me and their grandchildren, it is the ultimate combo, a remarkable affirmation of life choices.

6) When there are multiple adults working or playing alongside children the overall vibe(ration) is (more) harmonious. There’s a wingman. If something turns pear-shaped, the ‘other’ adult can be sub-ed in. It allows everyone (the caregiver and the cared for children) to feel ‘safe’. I recently marvelled at the busyness or lucrative business of daycare, and why so many ECE teachers are happy to be in their jobs, when some Mums and Dads are (in some cases) ‘electing’ to take their children to daycare. I realised in places of care, there are multiple adults, in a child-centred physical environment. The adults are supported by other adults, in an environment that supports this dynamic role and relationship. I love being a Mum. I don’t enjoy being a ‘house-wife’, a cleaner, a cook, a home-manager distracting or detracting from or making it unreachable a percentage of the time to be a teacher, psychologist, adventure guide, philosopher, caregiver and mediator (aka Mum). Mums or Dads ‘isolated’ at home (especially) with multiple children, can feel overwhelmed, and strained. It’s impossible at times to meet the varying needs of 3 individuals, simultaneously, which means sometimes, someone or two or three out of four are suffering. As an aside, I have learned to say yes to communities such as Playcentre, to connect unabashedly with Kindy and to invite other parents and their children into our home and create this ‘village’ that’s required to ‘raise a child’.

7) Seeing my parents with my kids (oh i’m seeing a lot of possession in that statement, hmmm? curious) brings my own childhood alive again (and perhaps my ego?). It unlocks my memories of play, of wonder, of the ability to be present, the ability to be frightened (and all the other human emotions we sometimes forget children experience because they don’t always verbalise it – or we don’t listen and tell them they’re being ‘silly’ but that’s for another day). It’s like entering a portal into a part of me perhaps forgotten. Being able to observe, say my father with my daughter, helps me see another dimension of my daughter, which may allow me to come closer to her and indeed him. The closeness and yet space can unlock or nourish greater compassion, connection and relatedness, in multiple directions.

There’s a buzz phrase in this generation of parenting – an African proverb.
It takes a village to raise a child.

There are articles such as these:

that are both liberating and limiting for parents such as myself. As sometimes i can feel myself slip into victim mode, one where i start to seek pity, or look to what isn’t rather than what is.

Many of us don’t have our parents in our loves (i mean lives) as much as perhaps they had theirs, or theirs had theirs, or theirs before them. In fact when did this shift start to happen in the western world, cos there are many communities where the village is very much still ‘functioning’. The industrial revolution? The urban shift? War? Women entering the workforce? Oil? Air travel? Globalisation? People living longer and therefore working longer, and retiring later?

I will admit to understanding the Western world has pursued the Journey of the Hero (Joseph Campbell), the individual, and has steered away from the collective, or communal vision that much of Asia nurtures.

I will also confess to having realised there must be a raft of rational reasons many people from ‘Western’ or ‘developed countries’ with social welfare systems, or a certain level of wealth, choice and comfort etc, who choose not to share a home with their parents, or in-laws. We have broken our own villages/homes? Which brings me back to the wondrous James Hillman who highlights once we lived in tribes, then after agriculture advanced and we fenced in our livestock we stayed still, stopped being nomadic, and perhaps lost the need for ‘many people’. Then the extended family of Granny and Grandpa living with Mum and Dad and the kids, whittled down to Mum and Dad and kids, or Mum and Mum and kids, or Dad and Dad and kids. And now in many homes it’s Mum and the kids. Or Dad and the kids. Have we become more and more inflexible or intolerant, and desiring more and more autonomy as we’ve collected more  money and ‘things’ and discarded more time and ‘people’.

Finally i will share, perhaps some of us scare our parents away with our new seemingly ‘radical’ ways of parenting. And or our expectations of our parents are daunting or repelling?  Perhaps we could be brave and have daring open kind conversations to create ‘agreements’, rather than expectations as is talked about in the AWESOME book called Crazy Good written by success coach Steve Chandler. Hmmm?

And as a complete aside i found it interesting to learn that in some cultures, such as families from China or Phillipines, the grandparents (who are patient and wise) raise the children, whilst the parents earn the money. And there’s an organisation committed to helping Grandparents raising Grandchildren here. BUT digression, digression.

A while back i was starting to sink, in light of the ‘missing village’ and i decided to ‘investigate’ this word VILLAGE.

Do people or DNA constitute the village?
Or is it the land?

Land is where possibility laid.
I could reach out and offer to do things for and with my neighbours.
I could begin the relationship of trade and exchange.
I could ‘be there’ for these people ‘closest’ to me.

For these people could give to me with the least effort in regards to time.
Cos time is what we aren’t rich in, no longer.
We have money to buy THINGS, but not the freedom of time to share them with our friends and whanau.

I make dessert deliveries, say yes to playdates, ask to carpool, do afterschool-look-after-days, babysit for date-nights, make a random meal, do swapsies (of the ‘clean’ variety).

Perhaps it’s easier for my neighbours to say yes because they are ‘here’, both in proximity, and situation. They are parenting. They haven’t forgotten. They can empathise.

A wise friend who works with many in the community has said it is more normal than not (at present?) for women around her to feel sad or a strong emotion, about the level of input their parents have in their new lives as mothers.

She has suggested:
* some grandparents don’t ‘have’ the time other generations have had, and now both the man and woman in a relationship work, meaning neither are available to ‘be with’ people.

* some are traumatised by their own experience of parenting, where they too didn’t get the support they needed, and like a cycle of abuse, don’t know how to break the cycle, or don’t wish to re-visit that unresolved pain. Almost “if it was good enough for me, it’s good enough for you.” Or “we all have to learn the hard way.” Or “you have to work it out for yourself.”

* some lack the skills or have forgotten the tricks that make things easier to be with children who are so eloquent at expressing their needs (others may see it as ‘demanding’).

“If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives (Lemony Snicket).”

Sometimes i get the sense grandparents are waiting for the perfect moment to be with their grandchildren. When they live closer? When they retire? When they have more time? When they have more money? When they have/are more…

Who said this to me?

Little and frequent can be helpful.

A short visit, an uninteresting visit, a walk to the local playground…It’s okay to be grumpy, or real – to be human. Grandparents, your kids and their kids don’t need you to be perfect, or nice (kind maybe) but we love you being YOU.

I went to a funeral recently, a celebration of a woman (a mother) and her life, she had lived 38 years when her physical body died. We don’t remember often that, we don’t know when a child, a mother, a father, a grandparent’s body is going to be ‘no longer’. We don’t know the day, that new memories, are going to cease to be able to be made, with someone.

Perhaps the greatest love we can give anyone is our presence, and the knowing that people are happy to BE with us.

Children are affected when Mothers and Fathers are burnt out or reach a place of disconnect with each other. This ‘break down’ which can lead to ‘break up’ is sometimes due to the pressures of parenting. The challenges of living with one income whilst the other is ‘at home’ with the kids. Being sleep deprived. Having limited quality time for oneself or for one another. Spending a lot of time in transactional living, in ‘survival’ mode (especially when children are still breastfeeding or a very young). When the work/relax balance is tipped. The action i am most ashamed of in my parenting, is when i get to a place where i need a break from role as parent/teacher, and my children pick up my desire for space from them. I’d feel less of a failure perhaps if they then went to others who would pick up the mantle of loving them, and showing they want to be with them.

One thing that’s helped my joy of parenting is realising a shortlist of activities i love to share with my children. Grandparents could do this too.

15 Favourite Activities i like to do with my kids (aged 6.5 , 4 & nearly 3)

1) Draw with coloured pencils and paper (and sometime the watercolour pencils)

2) Walk, scoot or bike around the block

3) Walk to the local playground

4) Pull out weeds and eat the fruits of the garden together

5) Read stories (my faves and theirs, we all get to choose)

6) Watch short animal videos online

7) Make pastry and roll it, cut it with shapes, bake it and eat it.

8) Kick a ball

9) Play hide and seek

10) Dance to music (maybe in dress ups)

11) Have a bath all together or go to the hot pools (water is usually very calming)

12) Sing songs and get the musical instruments out (ukelele, shakers, drums)

13) This was a surprise to me, but i LOVE building with blocks, especially the Grimm’s ones, available through Epiphany Toys.

14) Brush each others’ hair or give each other a hand, head, shoulder or foot massage

15) Go to Laughing Yoga together or find something you can laugh about together

16) Yes I know i said 15, but i’d really getting into this list. Getting the face paints out and letting the kids paint their and my body is a rather radical but extremely fun activity especially on a hot day, then you can wash off, under the sprinkler after.

I don’t personally enjoy playing cars or dolls, and pushing the swing can become a little tedious although it helps knowing it’s great for their brain development.

If you had to make a shortlist, of 5 activities you love to do with young people, what would they include?

I wrote all this with the hope some Grannies and Grandpas may stumble across it, and get a new view of why we love you and what you bring to our rich and sometimes emptying life as parents.

I love seeing the people who gave me and my partner life, giving life back to their and our family. Seeing our Mums’ and Dads’ smiles or laughter in unison with our childrens’ is like a rainbow with a pot of gold at her feet.


  1. I check out blog sites like this a lot. As a long
    time sufferer of neck pain from a car accident I
    have a lot of free time. LOL. However, I have actually never ever been compelled to publish a remark, until now.

    Terrific article. I took pleasure in reading it.

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    Thanks once again for all you are doing!

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