Before my husband and I got married, we considered moving out of this city so that we could own a large home for a good price (that combination does not come easy around here). But once I got pregnant with the little guy, those plans quietly slipped away, because this city has something that no other can replicate, and that is our families.
The little guy has three grandparents, four aunts and uncles on my side, five on the other, and ten cousins combined. This is just our immediate family; we also get together with our relatives throughout the year (and to give you a picture of how large our extended families are, my husband and I have a combined 124 cousins, not including husbands and wives). And while all families have their crazy moments where you just want to shut the door and plug your ears against the madness, the big house isn’t a big enough incentive for us to leave and raise him without his village.
The first few weeks after he was born was when we needed and received the most help. Our siblings and parents visited us carrying weeks and weeks’ worth of food to eat. Even random requests like “I need honey” and “I’d like funny DVDs to watch” were granted: my sister arrived with a jar of honey (organic, because I get the feeling we’re seen as the “organic couple” in both our families) and DVDs of this funny show she liked (a.k.a. How I Met Your Mother. Now you know the genesis of my addiction).
And as he got older, we would drop him off either at my mom’s or my mother-in-law’s place so that his dad and I can have time for ourselves to watch a movie, grab lunch or run errands while our moms and siblings take care of him. My mom has come over to our place and watched him too. I also believe that kids benefit from having multiple positive adult influences in their lives. Of course the parents are always the primary teachers, but having different adults to look up to and relate to offers them a solid support group to rely on.
The kids have their roles too. I love watching our younger nieces and nephews “taking care” of him, playing with him and reading him books. Whenever I change him out of his diapers, his cousin will rummage through his diaper bag and pull out the essentials: diaper, changing pad, and wipes. Another cousin will draw pictures of LO and make him little crafts to take home. Even more cousins will read him his books.
I’m lucky in that I still have both of my parents with me. Granted, one of them is across the Pacific, but he is still here, a phone call or email away. My husband, on the other hand, lost his dad to leukemia when he was in college, before I even met him. While I understand the importance of family, he lives this poignant truth. He realizes that time spent with our families is more than what appears on the surface: people talking or laughing over a meal, or while watching TV, or messing around with the kids. It’s also an opportunity for the little guy to grow up with his family, to experience each person’s unique personality and idiosyncrasies, and to be loved the way that only family can love. “Every day counts,” his dad reminded me the other night.
And so we continue to live in our little apartment while slowly saving for a down payment, and we’ll drive the 30+ minutes it takes to get to either of our families’ houses, and we’ll let him be carried, tickled and smothered by his family—because that’s his village, and that’s where our home will be.