Family connection

Joanne Te Paiho, January 2015

Tena Koutou..Whanau/Family. How do we look after all the intricate relationships that dwell inside this multifaceted organization, for want of a better word? I feel it would be fair to say that on some level or another we may have all experienced some challenge or conflict associated with our family of origin...The definition of family, according to the dictionary, is a group of people who are related to each other. In the Maori world, of course, the definition of Whanau, stretches far and beyond the restraints of being just a group of people who are related to each other.

So in what way do we all look after our family? I am thinking more of adults, the grown up siblings or children, that live in their own homes with their partners and children. How do we keep connection and savior the initial family unit, when personal values begin to clash? Communication pops up here for me as being one of the most important tools if we are all going to forge together. Difference doesn't have to mean division, it simply means we view the world through a different lens, and that is okay.

Te Whare Tapa Wha (Mason Durie) talks about the four cornerstones of wellbeing, one of these being the connection to whanau/family. Even as adults, our wellbeing may be impacted upon if there is a breakdown. Those Whanau Hui, Whanau kai, picnics in the park, outings as a whole and family sports days, are all creative ways of remaining as one, but still holding on to the uniqueness of what you bring as an individual. Sharing in activities with your extended whanau will ensure that all important sense of belonging remains intact.

For the second year in a row now, my children and I, alongside my Mum, adult siblings and partners, nieces, nephews, grand nieces and nephews and whanau friends, all head off to, what is now fondly named, Our Whanau Camp. This doesn't happen without the all important Whanau Camp Meeting held at two of my nieces' home beforehand , to discuss the nitty grittys like our kai list and meals, within our (tight lil) budget, how we might manage and share chores etc, boundaries around others' ideas of parenting, and many more endless discussions, in preparing us for our wee journey ahead. Just within this one meeting, valuable learning and connecting is taking place...our younger generation is supported to have a voice, to have their ideas validated, this is by no means at all, an adult only covenant.

As the day draws near, there is no way of keeping a lid on the excitement we all feel as we prepare for this unforgettable time we all share with each other. The stocking up and buying of all our food supplies, the craziness of packing our kitchen sink into our vehicles, with little room to swing a cat.The bonding together as we karakia outside my mum's home, before departing, to ensure our safe travel on the roads...the Hikoi of our vehicles, following close behind one another.Tthe endless toilet and coffee stops and, finally, arriving at our destination, which quietly sits, beckoning us, to make this our home for the week. Many of our days consist of swimming at the nearby lake, kayaking, late night games of spot light, marshmallows on the fire, board games, book reading, eating and sleeping alongside each other, washing and drying dishes, preparing kai together and best of all the memories that are being created for our children in amongst all of this...Taha Wairua: tick, taha hinengaro: tick, taha tinana: tick and taha Whanau: big tick.

We all arrive home with the beautiful feeling of closeness and feeling supported. Relationships have been strengthened, and we feel in good stead to be able to manage whatever may lie ahead in our year to come. A foundation in family unity has been on our agenda are frequent whanau hui and kai, throughout the year, to maintain this bond and support each other.

I would like to encourage you all to think about ways that you may be able to strengthen your whanau connections whether that is with your family of origin or your own adult children, it doesn't have to be long periods of time spent, if you find that challenging, connecting in whatever way works for you is a great start.

Tangata ako ana I te whare, te turanga kit e marae, tau ana?

Joanne Te Paiho