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our summer tribe

Welcome to the May 2012 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Parenting With or Without Extended Family
This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how relatives help or hinder their parenting. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

A bluegrass band playing at the pavilion

My dad and his cousins were raised together in Miami, Florida, and in the summer they would drive the fourteen or more hours to the north Georgia mountains to “escape the summer heat” for a week. As someone who now lives 1,000 miles north of the park they visited, the humor of their different interpretation of “heat escape” is not lost on me.

imageSaying grace before one of our giant pavilion potlucks
Once they became adults with their own kids, this group of cousins decided to recreate those summer vacations and began organizing a yearly reunion. As a result, I have spent one week every summer at Vogel State Park since I was nine years old. When I was young, I counted the days all year long until I could return to this mecca of wild childhood fun.

Vogel Lake

Apart from summer camp, this annual get-together was the only time in my life I can remember feeling fully carefree. My twenty-odd cousins and I would take off into the woods or down a stream, and although the parents always had a notion of where we were, our sense was that we had been let off leash and out into the world, free to swim in a lake, climb a tree, or start a wild rumpus.

Vogel Falls

I didn’t get a chance to see many of my cousins for the whole year between Vogels, so we would come back to see each other a foot taller (me!), with a new perm (me again!), or with a face full of zits (also me!). But the great thing about family is that even with so much time apart, you can pick up right where you left off. We made our time together count, y’all. I was part of a tribe, and together our lanky pack roamed the far-off corners and remote stretches of (what felt like) the whole planet.image
Even though I was an only child for my first thirteen years, in this week I would have my share of the sibling experience, i.e. be put in my place, wrestled with, and made fun of enough to last the rest of the year. Monkey Girl and Poodle Head are two of the nicknames I was given. And if the notion is true that it takes a village to raise a child, then I also had my fair share of the village experience, with multiple aunties to groom, feed, dole affection, and even on occasion scold me.image
Now that I’m a parent with my own kids, my desire to return to the reunion has taken a different, but no less passionate perspective. I want so much for my kids to feel they are part of this tribe, which allows them the freedom to make mistakes and still always know they have a place where they’ll be accepted, just as they are. Unconditional love: isn’t that what we all want for our kids?image

And even as an adult, I enjoy being validated and steered in my parenting decisions. I know natural parenting is the right course for me, but I also appreciate witnessing the many varied parenting styles that my family uses; I think of our week of commingling as an a la carte menu from which I can pick and choose ideas to institute at home. I love having family to help us raise our children into confident, happy adults, even if I only get to see them once or twice a year (and even if they won’t use Skype though I have given them webcams and shown them how to use them. He HEM).

Vogel Cousin Love, third generation

Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Dealing With Unsupportive Grandparents — In a guest post at Natural Parents Network, The Pistachio Project tells what to do when your child’s grandparents are less than thrilled about your parenting choices.
  • Parenting With Extended Family — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy shares the pros and cons of parenting with extended family…
  • Parental Support for an AP Mama — Meegs at A New Day talks about the invaluable support of her parents in her journey to be an AP mama.
  • Priceless GrandparentsThat Mama Gretchen reflects on her relationship with her priceless Grammy while sharing ways to help children preserve memories of their own special grandparents.
  • Routines Are Meant To Be Broken — Olga at Around The Birthing Ball urges us to see Extended Family as a crucial and necessary link between what children are used to at home and the world at large.
  • It Helps To Have A Village – Even A Small One — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama discusses how she has flourished as a mother due to the support of her parents.
  • The Orange Week — Erika at Cinco de Mommy lets go of some rules when her family finally visits extended family in San Diego.
  • One Size Doesn’t Fit All — Kellie at Our Mindful Life realizes that when it comes to family, some like it bigger and some like it smaller.
  • It Takes a Family — Alicia at What’s Next can’t imagine raising a child without the help of her family.
  • A new foray into family — As someone who never experienced close extended family, Lauren at Hobo Mama wrestles with how to raise her kids — and herself — to restart that type of community.
  • My Mama Rocks! — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment is one lucky Mama to have the support and presence of her own awesome Mama.
  • Embracing Our Extended Family — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now shares 7 ideas for nurturing relationships with extended family members.
  • Doing Things Differently — Valerie at Momma in Progress shares how parenting her children far away from extended family improved her confidence in her choices.
  • Snapshots of love — Caroline at stoneageparent describes the joys of sharing her young son’s life with her own parents.
  • Parenting with Relies – A mixed bagUrsula Ciller shares some of her viewpoints on the pros and cons of parenting with relatives and extended family.
  • Tante and Uncles — How a great adult sibling relationship begets a great relationship with aunt and uncles from Jennifer at True Confessions of a Real Mommy
  • Tips for Traveling With Twins — Megan at the Boho Mama shares some tips for traveling with infant twins (or two or more babies!).
  • Parenting passed through the generations — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about the incredible parenting resource that is her found family, and how she hopes to continue the trend.
  • My Family and My Kids — Jorje of Momma Jorje ponders whether she distrusts her family or if she is simply a control freak.
  • Parenting with a Hero — Rachel at Lautaret Bohemiet reminisces about the relationship she shared with her younger brother, and how he now shares that closeness in a relationship with her son.
  • Text/ended Family — Kenna of A Million Tiny Things wishes her family was around for the Easter egg hunt… until she remembers what it’s actually like having her family around.
  • Two Kinds of Families — Adrienne at Mommying My Way writes about how her extended family is just as valuable to her mommying as her church family.
  • My ‘high-needs’ child and ‘strangers’ — With a ‘high-needs’ daughter, aNonyMous at Radical Ramblings has had to manage without the help of family or friends, adapting to her daughter’s extreme shyness and allowing her to socialise on her own terms.
  • Our Summer Tribe — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger shares a love of her family’s summer reunion, her secret to getting the wisdom of the “village” even as she lives 1,000 miles away.
  • My Life Boat {Well, One of Them} — What good is a life boat if you don’t get it? Grandparents are a life boat MomeeeZen loves!
  • Dear Children — In an open letter to her children, Laura at Pug in the Kitchen promises to support them as needed in her early days of parenting.
  • Yearning for Tribal Times — Ever had one of those days where everything seems to keep going wrong? Amy at Anktangle recounts one such day and how it inspired her to think about what life must’ve been like when we lived together in large family units.
  • I don’t have a village — Jessica Claire at Crunchy-Chewy Mama wishes she had family nearby but appreciates their support and respect.
  • Trouble With MILs– Ourselves? — Jaye Anne at Wide Awake Half Asleep explains how her arguments with her mother-in-law may have something to do with herself.
  • A Family Apart — Melissa at Vibrant Wanderings writes about the challenges, and the benefits, of building a family apart from relatives.
  • First Do No Harm — Zoie at TouchstoneZ asks: How do you write about making different parenting choices than your own family experience without criticizing your parents?
  • Military Family SeparationAmy Willa shares her feelings about being separated from extended family during her military family journey.
  • Forging A Village In The Absence Of One — Luschka from Diary of a First Child writes about the importance of creating a support network, a village, when family isn’t an option.
  • Respecting My Sister’s Parenting Decisions — Dionna at Code Name: Mama‘s sister is guest posting on the many roles she has as an aunt. The most important? She is the named guardian, and she takes that role seriously.
  • Multi-Generational Living: An Exercise in Love, Patience, and Co-Parenting — Boomerang Mama at The Other Baby Book shares her experience of moving back in with Mom and Dad for 7 months, and the unexpected connection that followed.
  • A Heartfelt Letter to Family: Yes, We’re Weird, but Please Respect Us Anyway — Sheila of A Living Family sincerely expresses ways she would appreciate her extended family’s support for her and her children, despite their “weird” parenting choices.
  • The nuclear family is insane! — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle is grateful for family support, wishes her Mum lived closer, and feels an intentional community would be the ideal way to raise her children.