We're an international family. I'm from the USA, but we live in Guatemala, where my husband is from. Joining his family tribe 10 siblings strong with hundreds of cousins has been the craziest and best adventure of my life. And of course, as you can imagine, it has only gotten crazier and better with kids! They, along with my own family are our village, our tribe.
From the time I was pregnant with my son, who was born in 2013, I started getting all kinds of advice from my husband's family. For example, "Don't step over vine-like plants because the baby's umbilical cord will wrap around him and he'll die." Yikes! There was also more normal advice about eating well, and a whole lot of additional help offered to carry bags of groceries from the market and suggestions about what teas would alleviate a cough.
Then, when my son was born, there was more advice. Like, "Don't hold him upright until he's at least 3 months old because his soft spot will sink!" Strange, very strange. Or "If you hold him upright, his cheeks will drop and he'll be ugly." Ok that one's even weirder. I think I'm ok with droopy cheeks.
And then the mother of all strange advice, how to deal with (dun dun dun) evil eye. What is evil eye? When young children cry for seemingly no reason (they're not tired, hungry or sick), they are often deemed to have evil eye.
How can you avoid your child getting it? "Make sure he's wearing something red so he doesn't get the evil eye", my mother in law would say. Or if my son would cry, as most newborns do, my sisters in law would say "Oh, he must have got the evil eye. Someone gave it to him when you went to the store." Then, they'd say I had to put a lime over his head or use a red flower to "cross" him so that he'd stop crying.
In extreme cases, Guatemalans use a black duck or other animal to "cure" children of the evil eye. And then, to cure the animal, they have to bathe it, and the water acquires the evil eye, washing it away. Why couldn't they bathe the child in the first place? I don't know. I guess that's just not how evil eye works!
Right - so this village is starting to sound pretty weird. But, that's only a small part of the story. They are a happy, loving, earthy bunch who enjoy making delicious food and value family time. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, confirmations, baptisms, and other "fiestas" are celebrated in full just about every month of the year. With over 30 people in the family, just including my parents in law through grandchildren, we can make an instantaneous party.
When my son turned 1 and I went back to work, I ended up leaving him with my mother-in-law all day. He became quite attached to her, and is to this day. Now, when we go to my mother-in-law's house, he says hello and within minutes has disappeared to play with his 15 or more cousins that live there. Whenever my husband and I need someone to look after the kids, we don't even have to call. There's always someone available to help look after them.
However, the village doesn't stop there.
My daughter, at 1, is still a bit too young to enjoy it fully, but we frequently do long-distance village connections via skype with my parents and sister. My son LOVES to talk to his aunt, and grandma and grandpa. In fact, he does a lot of it solo, showing them his favorite toy or book and asking them to read to him as well. At the tender age of 3, he already says "Mama, I want to skype." As a young child, he's very visual and a simple phone call just doesn't cut it.
Visits happen at least once a year, either stateside or here in Guatemala. When it's here, our village gets all mixed together and there's always lots of laughter amid efforts on both sides to speak in the other's language. This is our unique village. Far-flung and close-by, extremely supportive and loving, but also a bit wacky - its a one of a kind creation. I can't imagine parenting any other way.