I have a friend who is a gatherer. People like to comment on her penchant for throwing parties or gathering a group for an outing. They think it’s because she is a social butterfly.
I know better.
So she is creating one.
And tribes are what just might save the world, in my mind.
A tribe is a group of people you’re either born into or luck into as life goes on. If lady luck is good to you, that is. If she is not, and you’re a smart cookie, you begin to search for a group that will have your back, challenge you in your comfort, applaud your glories and lift you out of the pit of despair just before the dragon latches its jaws onto your sorry behind.
As any youngest child can attest to, being the junior member of a tribe has its privileges.
And its drawbacks.
You usually wear clothes that have been—ahem—well loved, shall we say.
You fight to get your fair share of any meal, conversation and decision made.
Your character is “built” after withstanding years of bossy older siblings who lord it over you. It takes a long time for you to be the best at anything in this tribe of yours.
On the flip side, you may be the first to go away to college (if you’re a “last fling” baby), earn privileges at a far younger age than the rest of your siblings did, and be spoiled a wee bit as your parents realize you’re the last little one to launch.
Regardless of the pros and cons, you hail from a tribe.
“Only” children don’t know this feeling.
And in today’s world, many of our kids are clueless about tribes. Which is a sorry situation we should really make right.
I grew up old school. My siblings stayed close as they got older. Most lived within a 10-mile radius of my parents’ home. We celebrated every birthday, usually with a homemade cake and a family meal. Many times, the croquet set would be out. On Father’s Day, we’d play softball at the park after our picnic. Multiple generations were there and elders were respected.
As in any tribe, we had our rituals, ceremonies and social mores. They were comforting.
I recently visited my hometown for a couple of family wedding showers. It was a welcome change from my daily routine here. I knew we’d be the largest table at the restaurant for breakfast—and that there would be lots of teasing and bickering. As well as laughter.
I knew that on a rainy Sunday afternoon, after my original plans fell through, I’d have at least a couple of takers for a movie. Yes, we haggled over what to see. And yes, I lost. Happily.
Not many children nowadays are the youngest of six. Not many have a loud chorus singing Happy Birthday at that first party or applauding their first steps.
We live in smaller units, families with one or two children, and we move around a lot—usually for work or just because we can.
My kids live in a major city, far from their tribe. It is so because I moved here after college. The jobs are here. The nightlife is here. The culture is here.
But our tribe is not.
And that’s a crying shame.
I’m trying to find a way to raise them with some of my tribal values. I know if I don’t, they’ll get raised by the pack. The pack being their peers and society at large. Thus far, these groups don’t impress me. Video games full of blood and killing. Jock culture full of rockheads. Parents who need the pharmacological knowledge just to be sure their kids aren’t on the latest drug du jour.
As a culture, we’re not big on tradition. On staying power. On delayed gratification.
All a part of my tribe’s value system. We’re not big on the throwaway culture.
When visiting last weekend, my niece’s car broke down on the way to one of the wedding showers. She knew she could call any of umpteen of us attending and get a lift. As well as someone who would wait with her while the auto service came to charge her battery. And a plethora of us who would sip wine with her at the party, of course.
When my nephew needs a place to do laundry, he has his pick of family homes to visit. Usually, there’s a dinner in there somewhere. Part of being a tribe is always having enough for an extra seat or two at the table.
When struggling with a problem that seems larger than life, these kids have more than enough unwanted advice, lectures and points of view.
They may drive you crazy. You may feel like an alien being at times, wondering how on earth you came from this group.
But they’re your group. Your tribe.
And no matter how much you chafe at it, they will be the most likely ones to save you from every scrape, celebrate every milestone and cuff you on the back of the head when you’re too full of yourself.
My boys deserve this—if only from each other. But thankfully, they have more than that.
Some of us are lucky enough to be born into one; others need to cobble one together from kindred spirits.
Either way, I want my boys going tribal.
As an elder (a hard-earned title), I’m guessing that in the end, they’ll respect my wishes.
My tribe has taught them that, at least.
I am not sure it’s realistic to think families will be the way mine was growing up. I hail from a failed Catholic tradition—the rhythm method—and families of six siblings were considered on the smaller side of normal. Most people neither want nor can afford that anymore.
But a tribe is necessary, whether by blood or by affinity.
That’s what I want my kids to know.
A culture full of islands tends to breed a lot of lonely souls. Being part of a tribe is tougher, more aggravating, more time consuming—and more rewarding.
Here’s to a campfire, a bonfire, birthday candles, a wedding, a picnic—whatever it is, this weekend.
Gather your tribe.
One corner of the world will be a wee bit happier because of it.