Hi Everyone…..I’ve had theories on this subject for a long time, about the value and importance of our ‘tribes’, our original families, in order to share not just pearls of wisdom on important subjects, but all the little pieces of knowledge that our elders pick up along the way in life that apply to sickness, child rearing, childbirth, in the case of women, and undoubtedly things that men need to know as well, and learn from their fathers, brothers, and older relatives. More primal ‘tribes’ long before urban living always had wise men in the tribe, Medicine Men, or simply Elders, who imparted valuable information and were greatly respected for their sage advice. Families provide the same kind of traditions and information, about everything from cooking a traditional favorite meal, to simple health advice, to the best way to get from one place to another. And often, the old fashioned grandmotherly ‘recipes’ and solutions work best. Our ancestors relied on their relatives to tell them how to take care of their children, how to adapt to being a young married, or to learn a craft or a skill. But today, many of those skills and traditions have disappeared, and in many cases, our ‘tribes’ no longer exist. Some of that information now is provided by ‘experts’, how-to books, friends, even strangers, but in my opinion it’s not the same, and we have lost a very, very valuable source of comfort and information with the disbanding of our ‘tribes’, for many reasons. And our families and tribes may be annoying at times, but what they have to share with us is extremely valuable, and sometimes amounts to nothing more than a good dose of common sense.
In modern times, with higher education, broader job opportunities, and sometimes tough economies, people move away. In the ‘old’ days, people remained in one geographical area forever for their entire life times. Today, in every culture and country, that’s extremely rare. Of my own children, 6 of my children (out of 8 of my surviving children) moved to other cities at some point, either for college or to find jobs they couldn’t find in the city where they grew up. Of those six, three have returned to their home town, but the other three now live across the country, and are on their own to live, to work, when they get sick, when they have a problem, when they dont know how something works. We spend lots of time on the phone, talking, and I’m grateful for it, but it’s not the same as being able to come home for dinner when you’re down, or have Mom show up to lend you a hand, or make a home cooked meal (if you have a mother who can cook). Skype is a big help to show a problem on screen, and helps me communicate with my office and kids. But when a friend had a baby recently, and I was providing tidbits of advice, I realized how much we have lost with the dispersal of our families, and by living far away from where we started, often in cities where we have no family at all. With my friend who had the baby, I was providing advice that an aunt, mother or grandmother would have provided if they lived in the same town. Silly little things that are useful to know get lost in the shuffle now. And with an ever more educated population, and people having babies older (sometimes even without a partner, or a family nearby), ‘experts’ have replaced wise old relatives who may sound hokey at times, but usually know what they’re talking about and have some really valuable advice to share about what to expect, and how to solve the problems that come up. I was stunned the first time I heard about a ‘lactation expert’, who is a person who comes to your house and tells you how to nurse your baby. I never had one (I dont think they existed twenty years ago, the baby and I just figured it out). What bothers me about that concept is the sense that you are doing it ‘wrong’ if you havent been ‘taught’ by an expert. Women have been nursing their babies since caveman days, without ‘expert’ advice. It goes counter to my belief that you and your baby know best. But I’ll bet that even in cavemen days, there were wise old women in the community, relatives or otherwise, who shared the same kind of ‘expert advice’. “Here, do it this way”, and then magically something that wasnt going right becomes instantly easier.
I think it is sad that we have lost our ‘tribes’, the elders who hovered over us, and may have annoyed us at times, but had so much real life experience and good advice to share. I’m happy to stand in for absent mothers, sisters, and aunts, and others have done the same for me. We are a mobile society now, nomads of sorts, and many of us wind up in cities far, far from where we started out, where we don’t have a family structure to support us and show us the ropes of life. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon, as we move from city to city, either for jobs or other reasons, and our kids continue to do the same. And phones and modern technology help to keep us close. But I think there is so much to be said for our wise old elders. Some of it may sound silly, old fashioned, or even annoying, but I really think their pearls of wisdom are worth their weight in gold!!!! And I’m all for doing all we can to preserve the structure, value, and traditions of our tribes. And in some cases, we even form new tribes, made up of people we pick up along the way. I think life in community has a great deal to offer everyone, the old, the young, the new at something (marriage, parenthood, a job, a sport, a skill). I think our tribes, whether hereditary or newly formed, are of enormous value to us all. And losing them, and everything they have to teach us, is a tremendous loss, and makes life a lot harder than when you have the peers and elders of your tribe to offer comfort, support, and advice. I think ‘tribes’ in whatever form are great!!!