Family has always been an essential part of my life, and when I became a mother, I wanted my child to experience the same fullness of family relationships that I thrived on growing up. I wanted to make sure he knew that outside of his household, he has a family who cares for him and wants to see him excel. Family who will always be there for him—for fun times and for a shoulder to lean on. Family who will have his back through whatever—especially when his parents may not be around.

So to see my son finally developing his own relationships with family fills me with a warmth like none other. There was a point in time when he wouldn’t connect with other family members. I’d like to blame that on the fact that he was born in the midst of a pandemic and for much of his first year of life, we remained disconnected from a lot of people—family and friends alike. I was too anxious to have him around too many people, and the transition of adjusting him to getting used to others wasn’t easy. 

For so long, it had been just him, mom and dad. This was all he had known in these initial months earth-side—and I couldn’t blame his hesitation to openly welcome anything new. 

Related: Thank you to the grandparents who are always there for us

Even as we slowly started to attend more family gatherings and allow family into our home for visits, it still took some time. My son remained naturally reserved for quite a while as he grew. He’d cry anytime someone unfamiliar came around and he’d often cling to me or his dad. It took a lot to get him to crack a smile or warm up to anyone new—something that I completely understood, but something that also made me feel like he was at a disadvantage when it came to forming relationships with others. 

But I also had to understand that just like everything else with a growing child, his ability to bond with others would take time and need to be nurtured.

It wasn’t really until after his first birthday that we saw things begin to change. He started gravitating toward other family members, playing with his cousins and laughing hysterically at his grandparents. He started giving out hugs and blowing kisses. The faces that used to send him into a hysterical crying fit now made him smile from ear to ear.

And it’s just another thing that makes me proud to be a mother—witnessing him become his own person with his own relationships and the opportunity to create his own memories. 

Now, his engagement with other family members is a warming thing to witness—and a privilege. I am proud of how he has begun developing personal relationships with his grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins and other extended family who make an effort to be a part of his life. 

It is a comforting reassurance that my husband and I are creating the environment for him to develop those family relationships by making sure we make an effort. An effort to have him around family more often. An effort to maintain those relationships ourselves. An effort to give our child the proper tools to holistically thrive.

Related: Motherhood can be lonely, but I want my child to understand the importance of community

My child developing family relationships shows me that he is growing in his ability to remember people and make connections on his own. And it’s just another thing that makes me proud to be a mother—witnessing him become his own person with his own relationships and the opportunity to create his own memories. 

In forming those family relationships, I have to admit my joy in being fortunate enough to have family members that genuinely care about him and make an effort to have a relationship with him. These relationships, outside of me and his dad, are the ones that will help to shape him and his childhood. They will contribute to his values, beliefs and understandings of life.

And so I am aware of the positive benefits that come with my child finally developing those family relationships. Because what they say about raising a child is true—it takes the work of a village.