I’ve never studied anthropology and I am not any kind of an expert in tribal cultures, but somewhere I read about a society in which the adult women gather around whenever a new baby is born. The grandmother and her sisters form a kind of team of mentors to assist the new mother as she adapts to the routines of caring for an infant. I suspect that what I read was part of a historical novel, so it might be an idealized version of tribal society and I’m sure that it was incomplete in its descriptions. Whenever groups of people gather there are quirks of personality and challenges of relationships that are a part of the equation. Even the most loving and supporting families have challenges and struggles. Adaptations need to be made. Accommodations are part of the process. Nonetheless I have this rather idealized vision of a group of supportive women surrounding a new mother and strengthening her capacity to care for her baby.

I am witnessing a modified version of that process in my own home these days. From the time she was a tiny baby, our daughter’s aunts have adored her. My sister and my wife’s sisters have surrounded our children with all kinds of love and support throughout their lives. They have close and independent relationships. Our daughter and son send text messages and communicate directly with their aunts. This was especially helpful recently when Susan was in the hospital and I was overwhelmed with the task of keeping people informed. Knowing that our children were in direct contact with their aunts relieved my of the role of carrying messages between them.

Almost immediately, as the word got out of Susan’s condition, family started to arrive. Our son was first, making it to the hospital just before midnight. My sister and Susan’s youngest sister weren’t far behind, getting to Rapid City in the wee hours of the morning and arriving at the hospital the next day. Our daughter, who lives in Japan, had to allow more time for travel. Although she wanted to come immediately and stay for a significant amount of time, it was most practical for her to wait a week before departing Japan. She and our three-month-old grandson arrived the next week. Meanwhile the sisters, as I affectionately call them, worked out a rotating pattern of visits, so that there would always be one of them in our home to help with care and other household chores. They have been a constant and very helpful presence in our home since before Susan was released from the hospital.

For the past week, I’ve taken great delight in witnessing the relationships between the adult women in our family. Susan spends quite a bit of time in a recliner in our living room and the others gather around. I’ll come into the house to find them all sitting and talking with the baby on a blanket in the center of the floor. Since this is our daughter’s first child, she has plenty of questions about how he is doing or what he needs or what is happening. The gathering of grandma and great aunts is providing a wonderful, natural support system for her. She came to our home to help, and she certainly is helping, doing laundry and caring for her mother, but we get the added bonus of this natural community of support for her as she moves into the role of mother with incredible grace.

Our daughter was especially well equipped for the role of mother. She had wanted to become a mother for many years before it happened, so she had dreamed and planned and prepared for the role. And she had more than a decade of experience working in childcare, with many years of caring for infants in private and military centers for child development. I once joked, when she was in her early twenties that any woman who could care for a room of 10 infants and keep them all in clean diapers and fed wouldn’t have any problem with a single child. I doubt that any other new mother came to the role with more experience in infant care than our daughter. She is remarkably calm and natural in her care of our grandson.

Still, she had questions. Is he getting enough to eat? Does he spit up more than other babies? Is he healthy? Her baby is doing very well and he is calm and at home in his world. Still any parent worries just a bit. I know I did when we had babies in our home. I still do now that they are in their thirties.

Our family isn’t much for television, so we sit around in the evening and talk. Often our primary entertainment is the baby. He is so much fun to hold and rock that there is a gentle competition for who gets to hold him. When he is awake, there will often be two or three of us down on the floor next to his blanket.

Another entertainment in our house is reading. When our children were small, we read aloud every evening and since Susan came home from the hospital we have returned to the practice of read-aloud, this time from a novel written for an adult audience. We read a chapter or two in the evening as we wind down.

I wish I could remember which book had the stories about the tribal culture and the gathering of women. I think it would be a perfect book for read aloud when we finish the current one.

It is our own version of a tribe. We’re rather loosely knitted, gathered together in response to a family crisis. Normally we live thousands of miles apart from one another. We don’t share the same village. But when there is a real need, we know we can count on one another. And when we are together, we are a tightly bonded group.

There are many blessings in my life. Family is one of the greatest.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!