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Them Iwi Bones Connected To Them, Real Bones…

Brendon Smith talks about how fathers ground their children and connect them to their culture.

One benefit of father involvement, as highlighted in a recent study, is through connections.

According to the Maxim 2007 literature review, during their early years, children learn empathy and community, usually from their mothers and mainly at home.

As education evolves into the vision of a job, it seems that where dad works, is often a child’s primary window to the outside world.

This may not be the only thing children want from their fathers, more contact may be a start, regular one on one time could be fine.

Feeling connected from birth, bonding early with lots of skin to skin, even rough play or big hugs can be important right through life. This belonging helps us get a sense of social standing, along with any stories of what life was like for Dad when he was a similar age.

Once apon a time, dads work contacts may have dominated proceedings, but ever since mums have had to work, or families had to move cities, any ties that bind may be worth maintaining!

I remember that once my mum went to work, we met more friends and they knew how to network. We attended socials at the work canteen and found a new point of access to the local golf course.

Extended whanau or sport, hopefully inter city, provides children with an understanding that there are lots of kids, all over the country, much the same as they are. Soccer trips and overnight billeting happened regularly at our place, plus weekends away in Whangarei, Tauranga and New Plymouth.

I understand how whangai adoption, a placement of a child with parents within the whanau or iwi, can help pass down tribal talents or customs. The word ‘iwi can mean tribe but it is also used for bones. The value of one’s iwi to Māori is paramount, with their ability to perform and express themselves in ways that are unique to them, such connections really are in their bones.

Whanau and iwi are vital components of whakapapa, a pedigree or family tree. Maori place high regard in the deep connection to their land and ancestry, back to the beginnings of time and formation. One’s whakapapa is said to descend from the Gods, through our ancestors and down to us.

Whakapapa is said to be the glue that links generations and provides continuum.

Whanau or local skills may provide natural connections for youngsters when planning their futures, as skills were passed down, businesses are inherited or local resources direct career choices.

In their literature review, Maxim also point out that fathers provide moral support and encouragement, which enables children to feel confident or acquire work related skills. Flouri and Buchanan said that fathers and their role in developing social initiative or more social connections, has a more significant effect than mother involvement on adolescent children’s levels of happiness.

Boys also absorb more by observing, possibly from a distance, and over a period of years, things like work habits or respect for a partner. Maybe that’s why children were previously told to listen not talk, it may take years of witnessing adult exchanges to build vital intergenerational lessons.

Mentoring may be crucial in a child’s upbringing, so if a parent gets to choose or an influence on their children’s mentors, they may get to introduce good characteristics and connections.

Rex McCann, in his positive contribution on the opening night of Waitakere Focus on Fathering Week, enthused about this huge shift over the last few decades. With so many women working, more fathers than ever are spending more time with their kids.

He also mentioned that one of our main jobs as a parent is to introduce other adults, especially other men, into our children’s lives.

Maternal connections may be more important to girls and paternal to boys, or vice versa, just as cousins or relatives in other cities provide more and wider perspectives. Certainly, as parents, improving on our lot and providing a better base to help our progeny succeed, is recognised as a major anthropological motive.

But in the modern age, with myriad role models, movies and the internet, do children still rely on their parents for directions around the wide new world?

With mobile phones, almost instant news and internet networking, are children exposed to so many contacts that they are becoming saturated? Is Facebook more important than family?

Are we reinforcing the idiom, that it is not fair or sensible to compare yourself to the people you know, for if this was true, the more people you knew, the less you probably think of yourself?

Quality may be better than quantity then, maybe, but distance is no longer a barrier.

While we were away on holiday recently, we were alerted to the terrible tragedy in Samoa and Tonga by a txt from a friend, holidaying at Aggie Gray’s. She said when they told tourists to run for the hills, she was the first, but thankfully the tsunami did not devastate their side of the island.

Our local warnings were for 1m swells at 10.39am on the Manukau, and we couldn’t keep our kids away from the beach, and when I went for a swim, my children asked me why I’ve been wearing a pink and white bracelet lately, I tell them, this is part of my alliance with the Pachamama Indians, between Ecuador and Peru.

To save their lifestyles and homeland, they had to connect with us.

They dreamed that we all understood how our consumerism drives the deforesting and polluting of other people’s homelands and that if we form local groups, work together, reduce waste and use less oil or plastic, much less of their local environment will be taken.

So my kids know that recycling electronics, keeping compost, saving plastic bags and drinking mainly tap water will not only save money, but help protect our connections in the Amazon as well!

Next: Focus on Fathering Week a Winner!

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