One of my clients last week asked me if I would watch a video on you-tube so that we could discuss it next week during our session. It was called “Hold On to Your Kids” by Dr. Gabor Mate. I am really into reading about parenting, child development, family and other books of the sort, so I was happy to oblige.
I had heard of the book before from a friend and thought it had to do with theories of attachment parenting. I can’t say I follow a particular belief about parenting. I do have some favorite authors or experts on the topic (Linda and Richard Eyre being two of my faves) and like reading and taking the bits and pieces that I agree with – and that work with our family. Many things that are written are not written with the complications of a blended family in mind.
I watched the video with my hubby and it was really good. I went out and bought the book the next day. Of course, there are many things I was unsure about, or will need to think more about, but there were a few things that really struck me. The subtitle of the book sums it up nicely: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. He discussed the importance of adults in a child’s life and how important it is for children to bond with adults other than their parents.
I guess this resonated with me as my kids didn’t initially have a lot of adults in their life. Their Dad was an only child, and I have two siblings – both of whom live miles away. Both sets of grandparents were also miles away – so were there for visits, but not part of our everyday life. When my boys were born, I had no family living close by, so they had limited exposure to other significant adults. When I got divorced, I think there was even more isolation for them, and they became very clingy with me. However, sometimes we may not have the perfect setup – but we work with what we have – and can be surprised at how well it turns out.
I was extremely blessed to have one amazing woman who lived nearby and cared for my boys. I went back to work when Zach was 1 year old – only for 6 months, since I was pregnant again at the time. I found Zach a “home daycare” nearby run by a loving, caring woman who the kids affectionately called Ti-Tia. When Josh was born, I had fully expected to pull Zach out of the daycare and have him home with me fulltime. But Josh turned out to be a particularly challenging baby, and with Zach only 19 months old and busy as can be, I ended up relying on Ti-Tia alot. Sometimes I would just go over so she could hold a crying Josh and I could get some one on one time with Zach. Sometimes, I just needed another adult to talk to and get advice from. Sometimes, it was simply because Zach wanted to go see Ti-Tia. When I went back to work again when Josh was 1 year, both boys went to Ti-Tia’s during the day. It was a relief knowing that they were adored and cared for while I was working. It was also nice to go pick them up some days only to have her hand me a container of her famous macaroni for us to have that night for dinner. These little things made a world of difference to me and confirmed that Ti-Tia was my family.
As I watched the video “Hold on to Your Kids”, I immediately was grateful for the significant role Ti-Tia played in taking care of my little guys. She was a signficant adult in their lives, and thus has had a large impact on who they are now. If we can, we must choose carefully who our children are exposed to in their younger years, as these people have a strong influence on their development.
Yesterday was a PA day for our school, so I pulled Zach and Josh out of bed, and we drove to Ti-Tia’s. She greeted us with wide open arms and of course, served her famous breakfast. It was just like old times (except the boys were so much bigger both in size and attitude!) Zach was nostaligic looking at the little cars and race tracks and Ti-Tia reminded him how at the end of the day he used to line up all the cars and make a traffic jam and say “Mommy’s stuck in traffic”.
We then headed over to “Ti-Tia’s” park where they used to spend hours playing with her. They wanted to go on the swings, teeter totter, slides and throw the football. They laughed at how everything used to seem so BIG to them, and now it was so small.
I haven’t read the book yet, but plan to. However, I am in agreement that the bonds our children make with other adults in their lives are very important. Ti-Tia was very important to my kids when they were little, and is part of who they are now. We will never forget her and will be forever grateful. She holds a very special place in our hearts.
Now, as my kids get older, I do see them reach out to their peers. But, it is still so important for them to be bonding with other adults (aside from their parents) who will always be there for them. There are many negatives to divorce, but one of the biggest positives is the fact that they now have more adults in their lives to love them. I worried that my kids would lose out on “real family life” (whatever that menas) as they would be from a “broken home”. But in actuality, they have gained something very valuable: a expanded family, one that includes an amazing Step Father and another set of grandparents.
Hopefully together, we can hold onto our kids, so that they may feel the freedom to explore and exert their independence, but at the same time come back to a safe haven where they are wanted and loved.