Lots of cousins, family parties, and crazy loud holidays are what come to mind when I think of my childhood. So it makes me a little sad to think that my kiddos won’t be growing up with the same things, since all of our family – my husband’s and mine – live far away.
I’ve lived away from my family for all of my adult life, but it wasn’t until I had kids that I truly recognized what I was missing.
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and now I get it.
Thanks to technology my kids have regular interaction and get virtual hugs from their grandparents, aunts and uncles. But I still want to make sure they know they have people other than mom and dad here in Wichita that they can count on. So I’m constantly working to create a a second extended family for all of us.
After having my son I started hosting Sunday family dinners. It’s something I always enjoyed growing up and I wanted to pass on the tradition. Once a month some of our closest friends who have become adopted aunts and uncles come to our home. The gist is I feed you, and you play with my kids.
I really focus on these meals being about them building relationships while my husband and I step back. They’ll go run around outside or will play with the latest toy while we get dinner on the table.
It has worked so far! These are the friends who jumped in to care for my son when I went into labor with my second baby, and my son felt completely comfortable being with them. These are the same friends who we spend most holidays with and who happily attend my son’s Christmas programs.
Neighbors have made a huge difference for us, as well. I’m lucky that our neighbors have embraced our kids as their own. Since stopping by grandma’s isn’t an option when we need a change of scenery, we just step outside and have several neighbors that will hang out and give mom and dad a little break.
When I think about it, this second “extended family” is just as much for me as it is my children. Raising kids can be tough, and it’s even harder when you don’t have anyone other than your spouse to help. Sometimes after a long day it can be exhausting to put in the work to maintain and grow relationships and friendships. But I do it anyway, knowing it’s what’s best for all of us.
Although my kids are young now, I hope I’m setting a foundation for them to eventually understand that they have a ton of family who cares, whether the people are a plane ride away or a stroll next door. And while they won’t have the same kinds of memories I did, they too will know they are loved.