Kevin and I don't have any family in Edmonton, and let me tell you it's been hard raising two kids without family nearby. Our parents and siblings all live thousands of miles away, and while my parents are wonderful about visiting and helping out however they can, it's not the same as having them over for dinner on Sunday or (even better) having them occasionally babysit on a Saturday night.
They say "it takes a village" to raise a child, but increasingly we're all living outside of the villages we grew up in and few of us ever find a similarly close-knit community. The cultural critics will say that family has been replaced by the "tribe," by the self-segregating communities of like-minded people, but you can't ask members of your tribe will not take care of your kids when they are too sick for daycare and you have a critical meeting at work.
I have a lot of friends who are raising their children surrounded by extended family, and I often wonder if they realize how lucky they are. They have parents who can take their kids to music lessons or pick them up from school if Mom or Dad has to work late. They have sisters who keep the kids on summer breaks or on the odd afternoon when Mama needs to get things done. And there are lots of little cousins all growing up together. It makes me sad that Colin and Archer won't have that experience growing up, because I did and it was wonderful. But, fortunately, we've found a branch of the family that's not too far away--even if they are a bit more distantly related.
Colin decides he needs every car.
Matthew graciously allows Colin a turn at the wheel.
Kevin's "Auntie" Peggy and "Uncle" Jon recently moved to Calgary to be near their daughter and son-in-law and their two young children, and even though Peggy and Jon aren't really his aunt and uncle (I believe they are actually his second cousins or something), but they treat us like their own. They have us down to visit two or three times a year, and, of course, we're never allowed to lift a finger. (That's Jamaicans for you: never met a stranger and hospitable to a fault. I think it comes from growing up in a small island community.)
Last week they hosted us again, as we need to apply for Archer's U.S. passport and be out of the house for a few days while workers repaired our foundation. It was our only "summer vacation" this year, and even though it was just a trip to Calgary, they made it feel like a trip to an all-inclusive resort. I love going to Peggy and Jon's house because it's the only place I can travel to with two kids where I don't have to go through a security check or pack more than a carry-on. Because they have two grandkids in town, they are all set up with cribs and changing tables, toys and strollers. And best of all there are little "cousins" for Colin to play with.
Peggy and Jon's grandson Matthew was born just weeks after Colin, and they couldn't have been better matched as playmates: Colin demanded use of all the cars, and Matthew graciously obliged. For his part, Matthew was only interested in driving his big sister's battery-operated Barbie car, and Colin was more than happy to be chauffeured around--so long as they stopped periodically to dance to the car's built-in sound system. If you know two year olds, then you know how rare it is for them to share, much less make it through an afternoon without a meltdown.
Surprisingly, our visit was meltdown-free ... until the very end, when I was the one crying, "I don't wanna go home!"
Peggy provides road-side assistance ...
... including emergency juice boxes.
Are you raising your family in a village or a tribe? How do you make it work?