Thanks to the blind luck of being born into what is arguably one of the loveliest families currently roaming the planet (pardon le bias), last week, I was afforded the opportunity to board a Jamaica-bound plane and join 50 members of my extended (maternal) family for a multi-day reunion of epic proportions.
The idea came about because one of the Millennials planted a seed in the minds of the Baby Boomers, who in turn, decided to throw a big birthday bash for 2 representatives from The Silent Generation* (my grandma and her brother) who turned 85 and 87 last month, respectively.
In a fashion that was nothing short of miraculous, my mom, along with her cousins and siblings managed to get together all of the offspring stemming from the two octogenarians (pretty much none of us live in the same states or countries, BTW). It was incredible.
We all stayed on the same property, with adjacent houses and a big shared outdoor space. It was the epitome of community; it was the physical embodiment of what people mean when they say “it takes a village” and it taught me more about parenting than I ever dreamed it could have.
Here is the wisdom I took from the island:
1. Communal living is far more rewarding and far more joyful than the individualist lives most of us live today. Evidently, sharing really is caring.
2. I love my nanny. I never want to go on vacation without her again.
3. Inter-generational interaction is far more valuable than any preschool program out there. It would take A LOT to convince me otherwise.
4. Leave the fucking car seats at home when travelling to the Caribbean. Literally no cars on the island are equipped for them.
5. Food always tastes better when you’re not the one cooking it. It also usually tastes better when it’s Jamaican and/or fried.
6. Strangers notice a kid with manners. That’s a seriously gratifying thing after months and months of teaching and enforcing and reinforcing. These moments of gratification are seldom. Enjoy them while you’re in them!
7. Other people can love your kids nearly as much as you do and can take care of them nearly as well (& on some occasions… EVEN BETTER). Let them.
8. When travelling to the tropics with babies under 18 months, don’t bother bringing anything but a stack of onesies. Everything else is a waste of time and space.
9. No matter how many peaks and valleys your kids will encounter in their lives, if you commit to loving them through it all, then everything will turn out just fine in the end.
10. Hang out with the elderly as often as possible. They’ve seriously got the best stories.
My Family, I’m so grateful to have somehow wound up with you equally sweet / certifiably nutty people as my relatives. You don’t get to pick what crew you’re born into, so when it comes to luck, I think I’m doing pretty well.
Jamaica, I had forgotten your magic. Soon come again.
And to all of you, may I humbly suggest that you embrace a laid back approach to life every once in a while. Roll with the punches. Break bread with your people. Sleep when you’re tired (if you ever have an opportunity to afford such a luxury). Dance when the music is good, and tell the people you love that you love them – every time you feel inspired to do so.
*is that SERIOUSLY what that generation is called? Geez.
The photos featured in this post were all taken by 2 incredible women who I count myself very lucky to be able to call my cousins.
LINDA VIRTUE – N.Y.C.
KEISHA MCDONNOUGH – F.L.A.
Thank you both for using your talents to capture our family so beautifully.