The following is a guest post written by Brooke Scott of Violicious.
We are a family.
We are a family of homeschoolers.
We are a family of homeschoolers who lives far away from its traditional family.
And so, we created a new one.
Two years ago during the winter holidays my eldest son said to me: “Isn’t it sad that everyone else has something to do and we are just waiting for our friends to come back?”
It was startling. Like a slug in the stomach. I thought I had been a good buffer, soaking up that particular sadness in the face of comments like, “Oh, we are just so busy with family, you know how it is!”
Actually, I don’t. I did, but immigrating to Canada has taken a few tolls on us as a family.
I have lived away from my family for nearly 20 years and have worked through my own sorrow of missed birthdays, holidays and impromptu barbecues.
Up until five year ago we had lived near my husband’s family where holiday gatherings were attended like clockwork. Our move put a dead stop to those gatherings for us.
During certain points in the year, our friends disappear. But whether it be for summer or winter, this family stays right where it is. Vacations don’t work for us now and traditional family visits to us are few.
I looked at the situation through our own family prism of needs. I peered through the facets and asked myself: What does each individual need?
The simplest, most glaring answer was that I needed to expand my view of family.
By way of:
1. Finding a tribe
We are facilitating friendships with families and friends who are always available and keep this up throughout the year.
This does not necessarily mean families without families nearby. It means families who are searching for community.
How do you find families and friends who are searching? Ones that get back to you, the people available for short jaunts and meet-ups whatever the time of year; the people who drop a line of friendship every few weeks; the enthusiastic plan-makers.
2. Coming up with big ideas
For Halloween this year, our first rural Halloween, we had a big shindig — with a play, potluck, costumes and individual family forts (constructed by my brood) for trick-or-treating.
That meant that each family brought treats and parents handed out these goodies to our own little trick-or-treaters, we all practiced a play within our families before the event and everyone got to show off their costumes.
Hosting parties creates more community, tradition and more parties!
3. Being flexible
At the beginning of my parenting career I was a painful hostess, sweating the small stuff.
I am now by no means the “perfect” hostess (not that I ever was) and do not sport an immaculate home, but I had to let go of my old notions in favor of relaxed hosting.
Long term party planning-out the window. Five families for an afternoon? Sure! A butchering party with three days notice? Why not?
Be open. Make a big pot of soup, don’t be afraid to ask others to bring snacks and to help clean up. You will be much more likely to say yes to a hosting event if your children have eaten and you have had a few other hands help you clean up by the end of the day.
We have joined an outdoor community that is thankfully full of like-minded folks and opportunities.
Being outdoors for a considerable length of time is an “edge” for me, but my children? Their bread and butter.
And so, I stretch.
Held in the hands of this community, we have celebrated a rite of passage for one of our sons, obtained mentors for our children, and this year attended two Thanksgiving celebrations — 0ne traditional, the other a Gratitude Fire with a potluck.
5. Creating special connections
Another avenue we explored was the concept of god-parents.
We currently have four children and had never given it a thought before. It was the former priest at the church we regularly attend that opened our eyes to the prospect.
What a blessing it has been. We have instantly added eight new people who focus on our children.
6. Adding new traditions that make it easy for others to celebrate with us
In the past five years we have added mid-summer, harvest and a Candlemas celebration with candle dipping.
I have been very careful to pare these events down to a manageable load, some of which the children can carry. There is nothing more invigorating than the afternoon chore of gathering wood to burn for an evening bonfire celebration.
These non-traditional opportunities are out there. I was just holding our family in, trying to be “normal” and create the similar memories for our children that my husband and I had.
The days are now filling up — sing-a-longs, potlucks, day trips.
I look at it from the perspective of sharing the wealth of our family with others. Maybe friends don’t ask because they feel like holidays are sacred.
They are and should be shared with everyone!
There is a rosy glow to the faces of our children when they see newly expected friends at the door.
A home is, after all, what you make it.
So is a family.
What has your path to an expanded family been?