Matriarch as a job description is quite daunting. It basically means that you are the oldest female in your family line and the legacy buck starts with you. Many of us are used to being in charge in our household. We often have a loving spouse and children to love and watch out for . There is a wonderful time of life when we fall under another’s matriarchal umbrella If we are fortunate enough to have a wonderful mother then we are fully aware of the shoes we need to fill when the umbrella closes and we are now in charge of their will be rain or sunshine.
My mother (Agnes Jean Knight) was a spectacular matriarch. Agnes ruled her family with no apologies. We were her brood and she carried us along with her on her journey through immigration, education, and personal growth. Agnes educated herself from humble beginnings (rural Jamaica) to post baccalaureate work in New York City. Agnes took a chance and left her birth country for the cold of England in 1959. England in the 50’s was cold in both temperature and racial tolerance. However, Agnes expected much from life and sought success relentlessly. She believed that no goal was out of reach as long as you were willing to work hard for it. I personally believe that it was this level of work that compromised her health and led to her prolonged illness at the end of her life. Finding balance is a trait that plagues all us matriarchs in training.
As a matriarch in training, I have learned many things. I am also open to the fact that I might also be missing some “big picture” aspects of life. Some of the things I know for sure are:
Intention counts and informs all of your decisions.
Apologizing is a valuable life tool.
Time spent with loved ones should be coveted most of all.
Education allows you to unlock doors previously closed to you.
Graduations can be more important than weddings.
You can only be bored if you’re boring.
Sleep as much as you can.
Tell and document your family’s story so that every member is validated and remembered.
What I’m not to sure about is how to optimize my earth time. Let’s face it there is only so much time and how do you figure out what should be the legacy you leave. Make no mistake, what you create in your family lives on in your descendants. I live a life of privilege due to the hard work of my ancestors. I was challenged recently about what privilege means. My friend was upset because I challenged his definition of privilege. He believes that he got no breaks and everything he has earned was due to his hard work. I challenged his belief because I believe that our ancestors contribute in minor and major ways to our present situations. I believe that those same ancestors make us who we are today. In the case of people descended from slavery between 30 and forty generations contributions were directed to the success of other families. Slavery left a gaping hole in the evolution of so many families. My family have been land owners for over a hundred years and I have traced my DNA back to the African woman that survived that heinous trip across the Atlantic in the belly of a ship. I believe that all my ancestors played some part in the circumstances of my life. Therefore, what I leave to my offspring has a gravitas to it. Legacy is not a casual endeavor.
As a matriarch I hope to embody the values that were passed down to me. Hard work, honesty, diligence, empathy, and stealth have allowed me and mine to survive in an inhospitable environment. We have not only survived. We have flourished. We also lost some of our own along the way. The most powerful trait that I will hold onto and strive to pass on is the ability to love. Meeting each family member as they are rather than what I envision them to be is my life’s work. I wholeheartedly step into my role as matriarch of my family. Besides, I always wanted to wear those big church hats!
Avocadoes are known as pears in Jamaica, West Indies. I believe it is the similar shape and the fact that standard pears (ie: Bosch, Anjou, Bartlett) don’t grow in Jamaica. We have three such trees growing on my family home in the hills of Mandeville. I have never been here for the bounty that these trees provide; since my retirement I have been able to experience the full growth cycle on this property. Now, to avocado harvesting and the one that got way.
I bought a fruit picker at the local Agro store. My father laughed at my “new fangled” picking device. May father finds me just as entertaining now as he did when I was a teenage. Since my role here is to steward ; I don’t mind providing comic relief.
The avocadoes appeared huge quantities. I asked my father if this was the case every year and he assured me he had never seen such a harvest. Many weeks passed with both of us standing in the back yard culling reluctant fruit into our basket. We tsked the fruit that lay ruined on the ground by powerful deluges that frequent our afternoons. We pondered the fruit that appeared to be eaten in the trees; we eventually tallied it up to birds. I learned how to flash freeze. puree with lime juice, and mash the perfect guacamole.
Eventually , the season came to an end leaving only the beautifully ripened fruit suspended 30 ft above ground. Neither, my picker paired with my ladder could access these fruits. I gazed forlornly at them for many days before I got the message:
Everything is not always for you.
Somethings you should enjoy from afar.
To pursue the bright and shiny can sometimes lead to a bad fall.
Enjoy the season and be grateful for the days spent in the sun with your father hunting for avocadoes.
Last Thursday my baby turned 21 and yesterday I threw her an “old lady party” with lots of sweet drinks, sugared desserts, and of course: quiche. The assembled “village”of her life sat in our sun drenched living room with smiles, laughs, and love in their eyes. After tearful toasts, more food, warm hugs, and heartfelt goodbye’s the house was silent. Everyone had left for their lives. I shuffled to the shower and let the warm water slide over my head. Under my man made waterfall I took a moment to reflect n my life so far. How fortunate I have been so far. Even my heartbreak has been in most ways fortuitous. There is not much else I can ask for in this life and a multitude of things I give thanks for daily. So, if this is the second adulthood of which I have read and studied, what happens next? I pondered what should I do next. Taking stock of what I have and what I want will be first. The first part is relatively easy, but the latter may take some time. I’ll let you know.
I leaped heart racing from my bed this morning as I forgot once again to take the house phone to bed with me. The ringing at 6 am filled me with apprehension and fear. Every between adult (one who has almost grown kids, siblings who are evolving, and ageing parents) knows the times that the phone rings only when there is an emergency. In this case the caller ID revealed that it was my mother’s cell phone.
Answering the phone with trepidation, it ushered in my mother’s frantic voice. “I dreamed that your father died and I did not know what to do”, whispered my mother. “If that happens, I will come for you”, I said assuredly. Weary and shaken, I hung up the phone after talking to my calm as the ocean dad. My mother suffers from varying stages of dementia and several things chilled me about our conversation this morning. Besides the initial fear of hearing the words that frighten me to my core was the fact that I realized, what do I do when the lion is afraid?
My mother has been the lioness of our family. There is no hesitancy in her defense , her pride, or her love of us. Recently, when my dad was mugged he laughed at the memory of my mom’s fight to defend him. That is who she is, and who she will always be for me. So, now it seems that I am the head lioness. Would that I be as valiant and lionhearted as my mother.
When I was a teenager there was a magazine campaign featuring legendary actresses sporting mink coats. The photos were tres chic but, I was more taken with the tag line: “What becomes a legend most?” I never thought that I would feel the same as those high fallootin’ celebrities. Fortunately, being a mom has become the greatest role of my lifetime.
So, on the anniversary of my daughter’s break out role as a new soul coming to the planet, I want to thank her for the twenty six years that she has allowed me to take credit for her beauty, innate goodness, and fascinating mind. Nikki makes me look good and that ultimately will be what becomes my legend. No mom can ask for more.
Every change in a childs life alters their future. Like a stone dropped in still water, the ripple of change is far reaching and has life altering consequences. Relocation can open new worlds, enhance learning, and allow one to re-invent oneself.
Engaging kids in their future gives them the ability to see all moves in a positive light. Everything that happens can lead them to the dream they want to make happen. In order for you to help your child envision their future, you have to get clear about your future and your vision for your family.Having a plan for your family allows you to make essential decisions and to chart your course through this life. A family mission statement will let your family know where you’re going, how you will get there, and what will be waiting there for you. Even toddlers understand when the ideas are broken down for them. Setting goals is a powerful exercise that is good for the family and teaches personal actualization skills. Goals can be as simple as:
We will save all of our change this year so we can donate them to a charity.
We will have or travel to a family reunion in 3 years.
Working together on goalsand taking part in the success of the family allow children to envision themselves as lifelong achievers.
Another way to envsion children in their future is for them to see how and where you make your living. Work is often an abstract concept for children and the actual experience of seeing you work helps them make sense of the world. This will lay the ground work with which they will use to plan their future.
Finally, allow your children (when possible) to visit your elders. The relationships that are transgenerational are especially rich.
The visions my parents had for me and my family were so big. I feel that we far exceeded them. The visions you have for your family will be realized and your children engaged no matter where in the world you take them.
It has been my experience that the more my children were involved with the day to day running of their lives, the easier it was for them to adapt to various re locations. You are probably doing these routines already:
Family meal time
Extended Family and friends interactions
Family vacations and outings
Organized sports activities
Youth based organizations
Weekly Religious Practice
I found that these activities formed the framework of my children’s lives and therefore each component was reproducible in another location. Any of these activities can become a touchstone for your child. Touchstones help link children to their lives. Their familiarity allows youngsters to feel some measure of control and assurance in an unsettling time.
I had been teaching children a long time when I noticed that every year I would get 5 to 6 students who seemed to shine in the classroom. They were just wonderful kids. They were kind, pleasant, happy, and not necessarily the smartest students in the class. They just seemed to be grounded and were able to delay gratification. They also were capable of great empathy and seemed to always have a positive attitude.
Every year I assign a family history project, and after a time I began to see a correlation between these kinds of students . These students knew extensively about their family history and relations. They knew were they came from and who their family members were. It also seemed that the size and/or negative information contained in their family history did not matter to the student. In fact it was with relish I was told about some of the family skeletons in the closet. I suppose the child’s response was based how the information about family was presented to the child. Some students even saw the negative information a proof that their family was strong enough to overcome adversity. I am sure that some information must be left to the discretion of the parent and guardians. I feel that the sharing of information tends to anchor the child in their life. This allows children to put themselves on the timeline of their family. I believe this answers internal questions and raises self esteem.
As your family moves from location to location , your children will always be home as they are anchored in your family’s history.
So, it happened again. One of my little darlings came to school yesterday with the sad news: they were moving away. This happens so often, it happened to me. If you are a teacher I am sure it has happened to most of you. Relocation occurs for terrific reasons and terrible ones.
In this new world economy, families are sent to all parts of the country (as well as the world). Relocation allows us to “Lean in” so that a parent or guardian can realize their full career and earning potential. A relocation can offer a glimpse of a new world and enhance the life experiences of the entire family. However, I also have students who are relocating due to an unfavorable life event, such as divorce, death, or custody issues. In these cases there is often little time to smooth the way for a positive transition for the individual into their new life.
Transitioning into your family’s new world can be made smoother by employing a few processes that I have used though several relocations.
What is a parent, guardian, or educator to do to ease the transition for the youngster who is going to be taken away from the familiar and the routine?
These are a few of the things that I have learned that helped my children and students transition from one living situation to another.
There comes a moment in every mothers life when she realizes that the boy she took care of as a child has become a man. Oh, there were hints, whiffs, and physical manifestations that the growing process had begun along the way. But, one day your son does something that speaks to your heart. That moment tells you that your boy is now a man. While there were hints as I said before, the pivotal moment occurred for me last year. Every year Nathaniel and I travel together with students to far away places. We interview and then prepare them throughout the year. The real test is how they conduct themselves in a foreign land away from parents and family. Our goal is to create a temporary family unit while they are away from their own. But, as you know, students get homesick and every child is open to some high jinks. After a couple of days into our expedition to Australia, I noticed that all the young men were straining to be with Nathaniel or to at least emulate him. Some of the girls developed crushes, but the most important thing was the comfort and safety he provided. Nathaniel helped heal some of the homesickness which is a natural part of international travel. The most eye opening part of our trip was the way that Nathaniel rallied the male members of our delegation to feel responsible for our delegation. All the boys helped with the management of our luggage and the safety of our female members. My son was showing boys how to become men. Nathaniel was a funny, athletic, polite, moody, game playing boy. Nathaniel is now a musical, kind, and thoughtful man. His maturation has been a wonderful thing to behold.