autumn days

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

embracing our elders

It truly does take a community to raise healthy children.  As a parent, I continually revamp my parenting plan to include more nature, relationships, and community service.  Lacota children are typically raised by their grandparents while their parents focus on providing for the family.  Reflecting on this functional model, I would love for my children to grow strong surrounded by loving elders who have more patience and compassion and humor and imagination and perspective than myself.  As a parent, I feel ill suited at times for this full-time responsibility of raising my children, of helping their bodies and minds and spirits to grow healthy and strong while also tackling the details of our lives: laundry, meals, dishes, appointments, and all the scheduling.

When we regularly interacted with elders, our lives are enriched in new ways.  Bringing young and old together can greatly benefit both groups.  Both can share their stories, experiences, passions, thoughts, humor, and their big open hearts.  I personally benefit from a generous crone who has taken me under her wing to help me grow as a mother.  From her I've learned (and endlessly repeated) mantras such as "this too shall pass," "that is how it is in this phase of life," and "everything is as it should be."  I recently began brainstorming solutions for my family to grow relationships with more elders.  I began to journal what I dream for my children.  What I found was simple.  That dream is for gentle elders to join us for quality bonding time together: dinners or crafts or walks or stories or other possibilities yet to explore.

Moving from creating a dream to identifying resources, I asked myself, "What untapped elders are in our circle?"  We see my parents every few months.  A great-grandmother lives next door (not personally ours).  I take workshops with grandparents.  An elder friend cares for another woman's children once a week.  Numerous untapped retirement homes are nearby.

How can we connect regularly with these elders and bring them into our family circle?  This is our plan.
  • We have scheduled monthly visits with an elder friend.  
  • We have invited elders we cherish to join us as our dinner guest.  
  • We will ask to visit with my parents and family friends monthly.  
  • We will ask our elder neighbor how we may spend more time with her (tea party, art time).  
  • We will talk with the local retirement homes and arrange to visit each month with residents (through art projects, personal visits, etc.).  
  • We may even deliver meals with Meals on Wheels (and decorate lunch bags for the program). 
  • I will meet with the activity coordinator of the large retirement home and attempt to develop a monthly craft/activity time for our friends to join us in bonding with and loving our elders.
  • We will commit to volunteering with North American Youth & Family Center.
  • We are listening together to our land's Native People's stories through Wisdom of the Elders.
These are all things we are certain to accomplish.  However, there are potential weaknesses in the plan, such as scheduling, energy levels, cooperation on the part of retirement homes, and finding elders who want to spend time with my children.

I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions on this topic, Dear Reader.  What has worked for you?  Thank you for allowing me to share my current adventures with you.  I am so invigorated and inspired by working through these ideas and sharing them with others.  Tomorrow morning I will write out a plan of activities for a meeting with our local retirement home.  Let this beautiful journey to a more inter-generational community begin!

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