Family: The Ties that Bind and Cut Off Circulation

Family Comes Together*
by Glaedr the poet

Family comes together
for always and forever
In sickness and in health
In poverty or in wealth
Family comes together
For always and forever
Without any reason
Anytime or any season
Family comes together
For always and forever
In death or in life
In happiness or in strife
Family comes together
For always and forever
In anger or in kindness
Whether all seeing or in blindness
Family comes together
For always and forever
Whether for work or for play
They somehow find a way
For family to come together
Because families are forever.

Spending time with our families is always a little challenging for me. I gave a lot of thought to the dynamics in our family during this visit “back home” and I’ll probably have several posts on the subject over the next few days.

We generally have a wonderful, relaxing time with Gruff’s dad and stepmom – their home is where Gruff recovered after his cancer surgeries back in 2001. They made me feel welcome there from the first time I visited as a girlfriend, and only more so when I became the fiancé and then the wife. My “history” with them is pleasant and full of good memories. While on the surface we don’t have a lot in common (my stepmom-in-law isn’t the world’s most crafty woman, or the domestic-goddess-housekeeping type) she is warm and hospitable and happy. Oh, sure, she burned the biscuits for brunch on our first morning there, setting off the smoke alarms (twice) and prompting a call from the security company – but she loves all of us, and she feels like a friend. My father-in-law is funny and down-home; he hunts and fishes and goes camping. He buys increasingly fancy techie toys and hasn’t the slightest idea how to use them – like his enormous new computer with a 27” flat-screen monitor, pimped-out with all the latest software… and dial-up Internet access that frustratingly kept me offline even from my email accounts for four days. But he is tender and sweet to his wife, attentive and playful with his grandson, and appreciative and grateful for some of the “little things” I do that very few people even notice. I honestly love spending time with both of them.

The challenge when we’re with them, revolves around our parenting choices. In the beginning, they were supportive-but-skeptical about my decision to exclusively breastfeed for as long as possible. (It ended up being “exclusive” for only a short time – we supplemented with formula from 1-3 months – but we did continue to nurse until Smooch was 18 months old.) They made comments that displayed their effort to be positive, but their overall discomfort with the idea of a child “his age!” still breastfeeding.

They looked similarly askance at my determination to wear Smooch as much as I could – an effort I maintain to this day – and to cosleep with him for his first six months –which we still do, from time to time, when he’s a teething or sick or grumpy toddler.

There was doubt and concern when I started introducing American Sign Language at 6 months. My father-in-law was convinced that our little boy would never learn to speak if I taught him signs – and Smooch’s diagnosed minor language delay at 1 year seemed to prove him right for a while.

When they visited us in the summer of 2006 and spotted the pile of freshly laundered, fragrant and clean cloth diapers, they had to work hard not to laugh in my face. This antiquated notion of diapering a baby in reusable fabric diapers would surely never work out – I’d end up disgusted or the washing machine would become a toxic dump or the baby would have rashes.

For the moment, most of these are starting to resolve. Smooch was a happily growing, well-fed kid up through (and now, after) his weaning – and his weaning happened without parental manipulation or toddler tears. When my stepmom-in-law’s daughter became pregnant last year, she asked me more about cloth diapering and realized what an amazing financial savings it can be, and how much of an impact that had on our tight budget. I think they see our son’s gentle, caring nature – his secure attachment to both his parents, which translates into his new exploration of independence – his quiet, inquisitive intelligence – his ever-burgeoning vocabulary – his sweet, ebullient, good-tempered personality. And all of those things counter their worries that he’d be somehow warped, damaged, or harmed by the choices we made. On the contrary, they help demonstrate that a child who is parented lovingly (and, in my opinion, using these choices OR a whole range of other choices – as long as there is thoughtful, engaged parenting happening) will blossom and grow and succeed.

I’m sure there will be a new slate of challenging topics ahead of me in the parenting years, and for the most part I feel up to it. It helps immensely that we have such a good relationship with my in-laws on nearly every other facet of life – since we have a basic love, trust, and respect for each other it’s easier to agree to disagree about some of these things. It’s also easier for me to counsel myself to bide my time. The proof is in the Smooch pudding, I like to say (inside my head). They’ll see – in him – why I’ve done the things I’ve done.

Those two – Gruff’s dad and stepmom – make me believe in the words of that poem. We can stick together, through all the pros and cons that life will throw our way, because we really are a family.

*I found this poem online several months ago and saved it on my computer. The only citation I kept was the byline – if anyone knows of any more information, please let me know and I’ll add it here. Thanks.

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3 Responses to Family: The Ties that Bind and Cut Off Circulation

  1. Waiting Amy says:

    A very sweet post. It can be hard to bite your tongue when family doesn’t support your parenting choices, but it is definitely the better way to go.

    By the way, I think doing ASL is great and I’m pretty sure there are studies that show it does not impact or delay speech. It was probably a coincidence and the ASL probably really empowered him. Just my .02.

  2. Heather says:

    Good for you for sticking to your convictions regardless of the flack. I got some of the same flack from my family (and hubby’s) but I just let it go in one ear and out the other…like you did. It’s wonderful when you’re proved right too.

    I taught my daughter baby signs, and it did not delay her speech at all. I think it helped actually. My son was not really into doing the signs as much, but we did use them a little bit. No language delay for him either, and some days I wish he wouldn’t talk so much. I’m sure Smooch’s delay had nothing to do with the ASL.

    Sounds like you have a lot of support. That helps a lot in life, I know.

  3. fizzledink says:

    Oh, I totally agree with both of you – I don’t think his delay was related to the ASL at all. Through all the evals for speech, we found 2 double ear infections that I otherwise would NEVER have caught. (He had no symptoms – no fever, no ear-pulling, nothing!) It was probably a few months at least of fluid in his ears and then infections in his ears that made it hard for him to hear and understand us, much less start making his own speech.

    At this point, he’s learning new words faster than we can keep up 🙂 and asks for new signs every day, especially animal signs. Our pediatrician assured me that he’s way beyond the baseline for his age group now. What a relief!

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