Sunday, October 07, 2012


Last week I attended a conference where more than half the participants were First Nations. It was jointly sponsored by Aboriginal Health Services and Alberta Health Services. It got me thinking again about the role of family. There were more children at this conference than you would usually find at such a thing. People were sharing responsibility for them, carrying them around, planting them on willing laps. There were more generations of families than you normally see at conferences. That is because so many of the participants came from First Nations families. I was there without relatives, a normal conference condition for me, unless I’ve recruited a relative to drive me. Family support looks different in different cultures. Early in our marriage I recall thinking that it would be good to be far away from family. We could do our own thing, carve out a life for ourselves. I knew that if we were near family, they would influence how we lived. Those were the days before social networking, before you could be close to loved-ones, hearing their voices, seeing their picture while you spoke to them, calling as often as you liked. It turned out that long distance separation for us was not to be. Some parents were ten minutes away. Others were two hours away. And so, on this Thanksgiving, I have the great gift of being thankful for incredible family support, both given and received, the way that family support makes you grateful. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that one of our conference speakers said that everyone has a role in families. In aboriginal cultures, the role of elders is to be wise, to be cared for. The role of younger people is to care for them and learn. In our culture, things are a bit different. We think more passively of elders, don’t rely on them as teachers so much. But the rules of mutual caring still apply. . I will be sharing Thanksgiving dinner with my father and my mother-in-law. It is likely that both of them will give me at least one piece of advice. I’ll remember that advice, even if I don’t want to. I know this because it has often happened. I am going to be a grandmother soon, or is it a Granny, or a Gran? We’re not sure exactly what I shall be called. The object of my grandmotherhood, still being on the inside has no name at the moment so I call him Little Bun. Little Bun will be growing up a few thousand miles away from me. Still, I truly hope to be part of Little Bun’s life. I’ve been making lists lately of all the things my elders have taught me about raising children, of all the things my elders have done to help me raise my children. The list is long and impressive. And so, on this Thanksgiving weekend, I am especially thankful for family support. I am particularly willing to hold on through the ups and downs, to believe that it is a good thing to be with family.

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