Summer is my niece. I love her more than the SUN and the SKY.
Recently, at Summer’s son’s wedding, she introduced me to the parents of the bride by saying, “This is my aunt…don’t think of a distant aunt, we are tight.” Then she held up both hands and crossed her second fingers tightly over each of her index fingers in the way that indicates a close bond and said, “We are like this!”
I was pleased. I want her to feel like we are “tight.” Mostly, more than anything, I want her to know that I would show up for her, no matter the reason or circumstances.
I have an aunt, my Aunt Kay, who has shown up for me and my siblings for decades. She has been at weddings. She comes to family gatherings. She lives out of state, so it isn’t like she drives across town. She books flights, gets on them, and shows up!
A couple of years ago we had a family crisis, I called Aunt Kay and she came. I needed her. We needed her. I was unsure when I made that phone call if it was okay to need her. I was almost 60 years old and felt like, surely, I was beyond needing my aunt.
But I did need her. I needed someone wiser than me. Someone who could see the bigger perspective.
I needed someone to behave in a way that said, “It’s all going to be okay.”
I started thinking about my nieces and nephews, and I wondered after the experience of needing my aunt, what would happen if they needed me?
Would they know that I would want them to call?
Would they know that I would show up?
Since then I have tried to find ways to not be a “distant aunt” and to create personal connections with my nieces and nephews. I doubted myself at first. I thought maybe they wouldn’t want a closer relationship with me, but I soon discovered that they did.
Shy on confidence when I first started being aware that it was time I earn my stripes as a matriarch, I started practicing with the nieces.
As my confidence grew I worked towards connecting more with my nephews. It’s been a slow process.
I’m discovering it will be a life-long project to build connections with adults who have their own lives.
I’m not Summer’s mother. She has a mother that she is connected to and loves very much. My nieces and nephews have mothers.
Summer was one of the easiest to build a closer connection to. She is the oldest and has very good connecting skills of her own. Last Fall, Summer and I went on a 100 mile, very difficult, hike in the Alps around Mont Blanc. We planned it for two years together. Her parents came and one of her nephews decided to join us.
A few thoughts on Matriarchs
This whole, on-going, experiment in my personal life and what I’ve experienced in my professional world as a coach, has motivated me to help define and activate our matriarchs.
Culturally, we need Matriarchs actively involved. We not only need them, but THEY ARE also WANTED! We have a shortage of strong, loving, wise women serving as guides in our culture.
The problem is that there is both a lack of awareness of how to transition from mother to matriarch once a woman has adult children and an understanding of why it’s important.
MATRIARCHY IS EARNED! It’s not bestowed only with age.
MATRIARCHY IS NOT ABOUT DOING the heavy lifting work of a mother or about nurturing and meeting the physical needs of another human on a daily basis. It’s not about needing to be needed!
A MATRIARCH has an umbrella, and under that umbrella are people they love quietly and unconditionally, without completing for attention or needing anything in return.
MATRIARCHY DOES NOT REQUIRE A TITLE. You don’t need to be an aunt, mother, grandmother, etc. It’s about watching, using wisdom and letting the younger people who are, even if only loosely, under your umbrella know you believe in them.
A MATRIARCH CAN HAVE A COMMUNITY ROLE where a woman’s experience, wisdom, awareness, and compassion is needed to solve complex or sensitive issues involving human beings and their welfare.
BEING GOOD AT IT REQUIRES PRACTICE and WISDOM. It takes clear intent and patience to build relationships where another human FEELS SAFE enough to ask a matriarch for their TIME or SEEK their SUPPORT!
Here are 10 IMPORTANT POINTERS to start you on your way to being an effective MATRIARCH of ADULTS who are IMPORTANT TO YOU:
- Be a GOOD LISTENER. Ask a few questions, but not too many.
- DON’T GIVE ADVICE. It may seem like they are seeking your wisdom through advice, but this is rarely (like almost never) the case.
- DON’T DO THE WORK and DON’T SOLVE the PROBLEM for them. This is cheating them of their own development. Instead, let them know that they are capable and that they are the best person to make decisions for themselves.
- Let them know that they are important to you, without being overwhelming. (It hard for someone to know what to do with an overly mushy matriarch.)
- SHOW UP! Consistently be at important events. When there, BE HAPPY! Enjoy yourself. No drama! No gossip!
- Help them FEEL SAFE by RESPECTING THEIR CHOICES and DON’T REPEAT personal things they tell you to anyone. Let them know you support who they have chosen to be.
- Make sure your body language and words say, “It’s all going to be okay!”
- Remember IT’S A LONG GAME. Long as in DECADES! So be patient and stay subtly and wisely focused.
- Remember THEY MAY NEVER NEED YOU. Just being available to them might be more powerful than you know. Don’t underestimate your importance.
- Allow yourself to LOVE THEM them in your heart, and LOVE THEM with your whole being. LOVE THEM MORE THAN the SUN and the SKY!