Ka whangaia, ka tupu, ka puawai
That which is nurtured grows, then blossoms.
Dame Tariana Turia used this whakatauki in her promotion of Whanau Ora back in its early days. As I saw it at the time, the idea of Whanau Ora was good sense for all kinds of people. Its philosophy is cross-cultural in terms of ensuring support for the whole family in all aspects of life. Not individual, not just specific issue focus, but integrated and well connected.
It’s what we do – what we need to do – in our families. Nurture, so potential can blossom. It’s what I benefited from growing up where I did in the family and community that I happened to be born into. In fact, in recognising that it was a very advantaged background we had, this was the number one factor. Whanau: a word encompassing the group in the family home and the local community and extended family.
Our own children grew up with this too. Even though it was the 1980/90s in a city and then provincial town, as opposed to my experience in a rural district in the 1950s/60s, the proverbial “it takes a village to raise a child” was involved. Grandparents were a key part of it. Grandma and Grandad upstairs from us in the first few years, Nana and Poppa two and a quarter hour’s drive away. Then a swap with Nana and Poppa ten minutes away and Grandma and Grandad the same length of drive.
Our sons have been greatly influenced by growing up with their grandparents. Their memories are strong and when together they often talk about those years. It shows too in how keen our son with children is to have us part of his children’s lives.
Yes, children, plural. Jeremy and Laura now have a little boy. Matthew James Chirnside was born in mid-April. Big sister Amelia is, understandably, finding it hard (the competition especially for mum’s time) and it made me realise how easy we had it in Dunedin. After Kim was born, Jeremy was regularly able to be distracted by his grandparents when his mum was busy with baby. Going for walks with the dog, pottering in the garden, having morning teas and afternoon teas, catching the bus and going to the end of the bus route and back again, etc. etc.
Would that we could do that for our family!
Scattered families are a fact of life for many and it is a real challenge to be a nurturing family together. We have to be a lot more deliberate in staying well connected. It needs to be talked about, planned together – what fits the schedules as parents and grandparents are often all very busy people – somehow managing to keep space in our lives for the children we may be blessed with in our extended family. Not just grandparents, by the way. I have a friend whose very full life has always had space for her siblings’ children and then their children. Aunties and uncles can make a real difference to family well-being (aka whanau ora).
We can all make a difference, including in our own neighbourhood.
What about Christian upbringing? That question is often asked. There are some basics that we who are involved in church can offer. There’s a strong Catholic basis to our moko’s maternal family, so visits to Nana mean going to church. It means too that baptism is important and I’ve been asked that Matthew, like Amelia, be baptised here in the north. (It will be in the springtime, after Taranaki calving has finished. Parish Council have happily agreed to the request.) Even without that, there is what I consider the best resource – stories. Your own stories of faith and lots of really good fun books that tell the stories of the Bible. Three Wise Camels is still a favourite with Amelia long past Christmas. And she so loved the Joy Cowley one I read at church here on Easter Day.
For me, it was the stories that got into my system and proved invaluable for finding purpose and direction in life. Church gave me the stories and the people. How we relate to one another, how we nurture one another to blossom – children learn from that.
Rangimarie Peace Shalom, Robyn
Some recommended Bible story books:
Books by Nick Butterworth and Mick Inkpen – stories that Jesus told
Joy Cowley Cowshed Christmas and The Easter Story
Lost Sheep stories (often seen in church): Go to www.lostsheep.com.au and click on “shop” to purchase hard copy, or click on “stories” to read on-line