When I tell people we live with my parents, you can almost see their train of thought forming – from confusion to rationalisation to one of two conclusions. One, it must be our only choice – “Is it because you haven’t been able to find a rental?” Or second, it must be a financial choice – “Is it so you can save for a house?” And truth be told, at the start, our reasons to live here were a combination of these two things. But our motivation to stay has been something different altogether.
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We are intentionally raising our son Hawaiki (aged 2) surrounded by the influence of our wider whānau. Here are just three of the main reasons why.
Our behaviours are formed by how we experience the world, and how we see ourselves and others in it. These are the boundaries our behaviours develop within. Living at home with whānau, Hawaiki gets to experience many different world views – allowing him to extend out the boundaries of his world, far and wide.
For example, Hawaiki really does not like being the centre of attention. At his second birthday party, he had a meltdown thanks to the 15-strong chorus of Happy Birthday. I remember asking myself, quite alarmed, “Why does he do that?” – only to realise it’s probably because I do the exact same thing. I have a tendency to deflect all well-meaning compliments and feign humility when someone praises me.
Luckily for him, he has his dad Sean and Aunty Waiora – both of whom are what we affectionately call ‘extroverted socialites’. It really wouldn’t be much of an exaggeration to call his father the friendliest man on earth and his aunty the life of the party. We hope that by being around so many people, Hawaiki gets to see the world through all of our eyes and also in his own unique way.
One thing that is important to us is the passing down of taonga (treasures). Passing taonga and knowledge down through the generations is a vital part of preserving culture. By being at home with our whānau, Hawaiki gets to inherit all of this from us, his parents, as well as his grandparents and wider whānau.
I see this displayed in lots of areas, especially our language and our faith. As a kid, I disliked going to church as much as I disliked going to marae. In my mind, both were summed up in one word – boredom. But as I’ve grown up, both Māoritanga and my Christian faith have become invaluable to me.
Te Reo Māori is always spoken in our home (thanks to my mum). It is always being heard, being absorbed and is a part of Hawaiki’s everyday life. From playtime songs to bedtime stories, pre-meal karakia to daily greetings, and so on.
Our faith is also championed by our whānau. You can expect a plethora of dance moves from Hawaiki if he hears Not Today by Hillsong – arm swings, body twists, high knees. And if he sees his book Walking in Heaven with Me, you can expect him to drop it in your lap and curl up expectantly beside you.
It is our hope that these things would become foundational pillars of Hawaiki’s life, and that one day, they’re passed on by him too.
Our family homestead may not fetch much on the housing market today, but its value is not in its size, structure or aesthetic, but is in its position. We live under our maunga – Otawa, beside our awa – Te Raparapahoe, between our marae – Hei and Haraki. In this way, this home provides Hawaiki with a powerful connection to whenua (land).
One of Hawaiki’s favourite things to do is pushing his cart up and down the street. (Thanks to his obsession with all modes of road transport). He reminds of a Jamaican bobsledder when he does it – pushing off with power, turning his legs over with speed, hands firmly on the cart, and eyes firmly on the path ahead. I played here too. I remember playing handball over the lines in the middle of the road, gutterboard against a plank of wood in the roadside drain. I played here, as did my father, and his father, and his mother.
The steadfastness of land can provide comfort in an ever-changing world. Staying connected to it allows us to recalibrate ourselves against it. We hope that as Hawaiki grows up, this community and its land will feel like a sanctuary he can always come back to before heading back out into the world, refreshed and empowered.
I feel like I wouldn’t be telling the whole story if I left out the challenges that come with living with whānau. Sure, there’s conflict at times, give and take around authority and autonomy. Nevertheless, identity, inheritance and connectedness are just the first of many gifts our ‘village’ will offer Hawaiki and we are excited to see how they will develop in the future.
Attend a Toolbox parenting course
Toolbox courses inspire and equip whānau. They are bursting with great advice, humour and encouragement, offering practical strategies and insights into developmental stages. Parents leave reassured that challenges are common to all families and that they’re not alone on their parenting journey. The courses are run over a number of weeks in a relaxed and conversational small group setting with a trained facilitator. The five courses – Building Awesome Whānau, Baby and Toddler Years, Primary Years, Intermediate Years, and Teenage Years. Find out more and register here.