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.