Strengthening family ties

16 July 2010
I clearly remember that split second I became a mother.  Lying in a labour ward in Germany, in a hospital far, far away from my home, this tiny baby came into my life and changed me forever.  It is true to say that I was reborn on that day.  So now here we all are, with an ocean of water having flowed under a hundred bridges, celebrating Shane's thirtieth birthday.  I don't think I looked ahead much when I was younger but now as I look back I see a young woman who didn't have much of a clue, who stumbled along and learned from her mistakes and who hoped that everything would work out fine. It did.  I can say now with razor sharp conviction, that I couldn't be prouder of my sons.  I look at them and wonder, with the potential for so much to go wrong, how did they come to be so right.  Of course, that is a mothers love and pride talking but I'm sure all the parents here understand.

We will gather in Brisbane to celebrate with Shane and Sarndra on Sunday.  A simple lunch of homemade fresh food, with most people bringing something to contribute, lots of it gathered from backyard gardens, including Shane and Sarndra's, with all of us siting together around that symbol of hospitality and family, the kitchen table.  It's such an age old scene - a family gathered to celebrate an important milestone - sitting together, eating, drinking, talking, reconnecting and strengthening family ties.

Rituals such as this make families stronger.  They take time and thought but they are worth every ounce of effort you put into them.  Just as having a family sitting around a table for evening meals leads to a closeness that facilitates family love and communication, when children are older, the ties that bind are upheld and preserved by celebrating family rituals like birthdays, weddings, new babies and anniversaries.  Everyone can become as involved as they want to be.  They either come along and enjoy the get-together or they bring food or wine, or help set up and clean up.  All of it brings a family together for a common purpose.

Never let yourself be convinced that family celebrations don't matter.  It's easy to say we'll do something next year or we're too busy but when you do that you miss the chance to express love and caring and to show that of all the things you could be doing, this is THE most important.  That expression of love has real meaning - the face to face contact, the hugs and kisses, the helping, listening to family stories as the washing up is done and all the small things you can do in person, they are remembered and each year are built upon. 

Our celebrations are even more special now that we have two amazing women who have come into our family as our sons' partners.  We are learning their stories too, getting to know their families and are carefully piecing our families together.  This is important work, it is building a secure framework in which children will be born and will grow to continue these family traditions.  Strong family ties don't always happen naturally.  They need to be helped along and nurtured because without them we just become a group of people who happen to share the same name.  That's not good enough for me.  I want all the Mrs Hetzels and all the Mr Hetzels, and everyone we care for and love, to be seated around that big kitchen table celebrating all the good times together, because if we do that, we will be strong enough to withstand the bad times together.


  1. Rhonda, love. You are back on track! There is that get up and go spirit, renewed. Your family does you proud, and I aplaud your strong belief in family values. You`ve raised your kids well! They will continue where you eventually leave off. - Family get-togethers are soul food. You needed this to recover and feel good again, after recent events. Bless you and your extended family.

  2. Rhonda, I have been reading your blog for a few weeks and this is the first time commenting. I really enjoyed this post. As you mentioned, family celebrations are important and are the things that strengthen families.

  3. What a wonderful post Rhonda. Family really is everything. What a great reminder for us all.

  4. I have often felt that if you don't at least share family meals together, you don't have a family - or you will soon find that you don't.

  5. You are so right! When I got married 17 years ago, I used to get annoyed because my mother-in-law insisted that we all get together for birthday parties, Christmas, and Easter. I just felt like my husband and I were TOO BUSY for such frequent get-togethers and we simply didn't do that in my family.

    Now, 17 years later, I can honestly say that in many ways I'm closer with my husband's side of the family than with my own. The rituals and the get-togethers over the years helped to knit me tightly into his family. I love my mother-in-law now and my sister-in-law is one of my dearest friends.

    I learned over the years that the birthday cake does matter. I learned that taking the time to get-together is important - it's really important. My husband and I have lost all of our grandparents now and I'm thankful for all of the holidays and birthdays that Gram and Gramps were able to attend and all the times we made the trip to visit my Grandmother.

    Things change, people pass away, I've learned it's so important to take the time to be with one's family when you are able to do so. The work at home and outside the home will never cease but we can choose to take a break and be with family.

    Thanks for another great blog post.


  6. What a wonderful post! All of us older mothers (were are simply older, but still Mothers, no matter the age of the grown child/ren) stumbled and continued upright and proud. Your words are in line with my own, and why we have Sunday dinner each month, it is so important to continue to invest in the family and the ties that lovingly bind. Thank you for your words.

  7. I too had a child thirty years ago in Germany, my daughter will be 30 in September and we now live in Brisbane and have been since 1983 when we immigrated.
    Loved reading your post and hope you have a wonderful weekend


  8. I came from a family of 7 children. Soon after I was married, we started a tradition of sunday night pot luck dinner together. It has been going about 20 years now. Some of us live interstate, but those of us here get together with our children, even those children that have left home come. When the interstate rellies visit, often for special occasions, we are all together. My parents have 30 grandchildren and a few great-grandchildren. We used to take turns going from house to house in a roster but as I now have the largest house for accomodating the crowd, everyone comes here every week. Often there are the friends and guests of the cousins that come along too. The more the merrier. All the cousins know nothing else and on the very rare occasion it doesn't happen they complain like it is the end of the world lol. Singing happy birthday is a very rousing chorus :) we are all very close.
    When we all crowded into a small waiting room while my father undertook serious surgery recently, the staff commented that they should find our secret so they could bottle it to share with other families. We laughed together, sang songs together and were very positive. You can't instantly manufacture that kind of closeness in a few hours, it takes time and being together.
    Thankyou for your inspirational messages that reinforce my own values.

  9. I'm probably going to be the only voice of dissent, but in my opinion family rituals shouldn't be done just for the sake of doing family rituals. They have to keep evolving with the family and the circumstances. When people feel guilted into spending time with people they happen to be related to it does not strengthen the family bond.

    Don't get me wrong, I love getting together with my immediate family and with my in-laws for celebrations and to just keep in touch. What I hate are the proscriptive gatherings like Thanksgiving where the extended family gets together, eats boring food, and sits around pretending that everyone is happy. "Tradition" isn't sacred.

  10. Rhonda...

    Another lovely post. I have hope you so much fun with your hubby and all the kids gathered round to celebrate :) :) :) That will be a fun time!!!

    I lived in Germany for three years..and while I've never had a child...I do know a bit what it's like to be so far away from home :) :) You write so lovingly of your family. That's a treasure!!!

    Have a great time. love and hugs from Oregon, Heather :)

  11. I have a very close family. We have gatherings weekly, not all of the family everytime, but some of us. We are not too busy that we can't enjoy these spur of the moment gatherings. Can you imagine how we love holidays?

  12. Yes, you are so right! As you get older you realize that all of those things that you say you will do later, the family get-togethers, spending time with the kids, it all goes too, too fast!

    Celebrate each day you have together. Today is my youngest child's, my daughter's, birthday. She is 27, and it seems like she was just a baby not so long ago.

    Thank you for sharing your family gathering with us.

    Take care,

  13. I love the way you embrace you son's partners. It must make them feel so welcome and secure and that in itself will ensure many happy family occasions to come!

  14. Oh this made me cry, I whole heartedly agree with your blog by the way!

  15. Thanks for this post. Something I need to work on.

  16. A lovely post. You write beautifully about just how precious families are. Kim :)

  17. I just love your blog. Please never stop posting!

  18. I so agree with you ties are important to nurture. We need to celebrate often.
    What are those little delicious looking tidbits..tarts??

  19. What a positive post. I too have grown up sons who are both engaged to lovely young women. With no daughters of my own, it has been a real pleasure to meet them and to include them in our small family. My own mother-in-law was not an easy person, although we became friends towards the end of her life. I am determined to try and avoid the negative stereotypes of mother - in law/ daughter - in law relationships.

  20. Lovely, meaningful post about what is so vital in today's culture. I heartily amen all you said regarding maintaining traditions in family. Children need to grow up with this strong connection to extended family. Life deals us such hard blows and losses, we need the strength and FAITH- (yes even "crutch" as the skeptics say); it is still a gift from above I believe -to help us to not despair and lose hope. Happy Birthday wishes to your first born!

    Stick Horse Cowgirl V

  21. A wonderful blog, I just discovered it and I love it. So many blogs are done by women in their twenties-- which is great--, but most of my children are grown and it's nice to have a place (your blog) that I have much in common with. Thank you!

  22. You are so right. Family is so very important. As much as they can drive me crazy, they are also my absolute world. Those times brought together, usually over food, are my most treasured times- even as a small child this was important to me.
    Relish those family moments.



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