When Family Trees get Complicated

This month’s guest blog takes a different look at motherhood and creativity. The wonderful Hannah of Mama Bear With Me proves just how creative mums can be in response to a very modern problem - how do you explain a complex family tree to your kids? 

*cue Waltons theme tune music*

"Night mum! Night Dad! Night Stepdad! Night Gran, Grandad, Grams, Great Grandad, Peg, Pop Pop, Nanny, Granny! Night step-brother and step-sisters who are also my cousins!". The Waltons we are not.

At the moment Ed is fascinated by the fact his mummy has a mummy who had a mummy. He is constantly asking questions at big family get-togethers like "How many daddies are there in this room?". It is wonderful to see his mind processing his history and beginning to grasp that he is more than just Edward of Ed and Alex and Mummy and Daddy. He is beginning to understand he is part of a greater machine. 


Our family is…complex, shall we say? But whose isn’t? Little Jimmy from 3 doors down has gay fathers. Well Jimmy, I see your gay fathers (in, may I take this opportunity to say, their simply FABULOUS Chanel scarves)…and I raise you…step-cousin-siblings. In your face, little Jimmy. Give me a tenner. No tenner? Ok, then give me your fathers' Chanel scarves and we will call it quits.

And like little Jimmy with his family, our boys are lucky enough to not just have the standard four of everything. Their lives are richer for having a gazillion grandparents. Those step marriages are new branches coming off what is already two families joined together by mine and my husband's marriage. And that was important for me to explain to the boys through this project - we are a curly squirly mass. *sigh*. It is a heart warming sentiment. But it is going to be a right pisser to find a branch that accommodating.

Alex is perhaps a bit not ready for family trees…his priorities are apple juice, bouncy balls and his willy. *looks at her husband sat on the sofa…drinking cider…watching rugby…well, you know*

So this project was perhaps more an Ed and Mummy based one. And it was simply delightful. I didn't want to overwhelm Ed by going back further than his great grandparents. The official line is I didn’t want to overwhelm him with too much history. The truth is I didn’t want to unearth any murderers that I had to sweet talk myself out of.

It being a family “tree” really helped Ed to visualise his history a bit more. Me saying “my Grandad was your Grandad's daddy” didn’t help his 3 year old brain. But the visual idea of a tree, with branches going up and beyond and getting bigger and wider as they did, helped him. And also 3 year old boys are a lot like dogs. I took him to the woods, took him off his lead/ reigns and showed him many sticks and he was happy. His little tongue flapping about in the wind. He was enthusiastic and inspired. 

It was wonderful pottering about the woods. It was important to me that Ed knew we would only use things we found on the forest floor – we were not to pick or pluck or break anything. There was lots of picking up sticks and branches and showing each other and earnest head nodding and lots of “ooh yes that is an EXCELLENT stick” (as it *whoopsies* missed the collecting bag and it fell back on to the forest floor).

But to be fair the boy came up trumps. He found perfect twigs and sticks and loved the time we spent looking for his "tree" as he kept calling it. He was thoroughly proud of what he was doing and could see the bigger picture. This was after all HIS family tree he told me. My mission, was accomplished.

With regards to photos I wanted photos that as much as possible were of the children with the other person in that family tree photo...does that make sense? Sounds very what would a wood chuck do if a wood chuck would cut wood *gulps wine*. It is their family, their ancestory, their gene pools. I waxed lyrical to family members about this and got many responses of "Oh how lovely!....Please make sure it is a decent photo...one taken before Christmas and my holiday weight".

Some family members sadly passed before the boys arrived in the world, so the photos of these people are of them solo. But talking about these lost family members to the boys was even more enriching in some ways than putting up photos of people they knew. It got Ed talking about them. And questioning. And questions are good.

I love the final result. It will go in a big box frame and hang over the fireplace. And everyone on it will be seen by the boys every day. How special is that?!

One day the three of us will do a more in depth family tree. One where I tell the boys their Great Grandad was a prison guard for the Kray twins. And how we are related to a well known and celebrated war hero – one who liked to be spanked. By another man. Who was my uncle. *wink*

Head on over to Hannah's blog to read more creative family adventures.






To see other trees made by mums, or make your own, have a look at Decorate Your Family Tree from the story of mum activities on the left.

If you liked this, check out our previous posts on motherhood and creativity by Mommy NuggetsNathalie BrownNaomi HardingRose Deniz and Harriet Hopkinson