Nadine – An extraordinary mother and grandmother
It is almost impossible to get Nadine Ledingham to talk about herself. Even for a Mother’s Day story!
With five grandchildren aged two, four, nine, 10 and 17, plus her 93-year-old father living with her, Nadine isn’t used to focusing on herself.
The incredibly generous and loving grandmother turns 70 this year, and has been a widow for five years.
Her husband Keith, who she met at just 17 and married a year later, used to provide a positive male role model in their Botany home, and his steady hand and gentle nature is missed.
“My husband asked before he died of cancer, that I look after the boys. They are not naughty, he said, they just act differently to girls – look after them.”
“While going through chemo, he used to take the boys to the park and let them play all day. They never came home until the boys had had enough of the park. Keith played lots of games including throwing balls around and having fun with the boys every day.”
“My husband left this earth knowing that his wife and family knew that he loved us. My husband loved me enough to last my lifetime. I want these grandkids to know what that is like and never doubt that they are loved.”
Keith’s passing was the impetus for Nadine approaching Big Buddy to help steer her grandsons, Jackson (10) and Joseph (nine). The rest of the siblings are girls, and Nadine doesn’t have any other positive male figures in her wider family. Her daughter Rebecca, (not the children’s mother), is super-Aunty and helps out daily. She moved home to help when Keith was ill.
Nadine has been doing an amazing job honouring her promise to Keith – she cooks, cleans, offers unconditional love and guidance and runs her grandchildren to sports after school including rugby, hockey and swimming, but she felt there was still a gap in the boys’ lives.
“It seemed like Big Buddy could provide everything the boys needed. The process of introducing the Big Buddies was in such depth, I felt very safe,” she says.
Jackson has been with his big buddy for three months and his brother Joseph (9) is being organised with another soon, as his big buddy moved out of Auckland.
Jackson has formed a strong and positive bond with his big buddy Simon, and Nadine is grateful he is doing things she feels she can’t provide.
“He came back one day – he flew in so excited and said ‘look at that, I have man’s hands’, because they were covered in oil…It was a big thing for him.”
“We don’t have uncles or cousins. He learned how to fix Joseph’s bike. His big buddy had shown him step by step, and he did it himself. Joseph thought he was an amazing brother that he could do this for him and since then has gained more self-belief.
“He had trouble reading but now he’s the most avid reader, he takes a book everywhere he goes. He needed someone to teach him in gentle ways and know that a male wasn’t going to hurt him.”
For Nadine the relief is huge. She knows that she will get a text or a call each week and something will be organised for the boys on Saturday.
She says the boys know their big buddy is there, and just for them. In a house full of kids they do a lot of sharing and sometimes need something for themselves.
Nadine feels satisfied they are receiving a fuller education. “They have learned their previous life wasn’t set in stone. They can choose to be like their big buddies and be confident to make the right choices. They are themselves, they are enough, they are confident.”
That reassurance makes Nadine feel more in control and competent as a caregiver – “they are getting full range not just grandma or female side. There are many things women don’t think to teach.”
Nadine pays tribute to her own mother: “My mother taught me that children are more precious than gold and need unconditional love and kindness. My mother grew up in an orphanage with nuns, she grew up like a waif unloved, always hungry and afraid. She would never speak about her childhood but insisted no child should grow up unloved, hungry or scared – I stick by that belief.”
Nadine under-rates her contribution. Her love, wisdom and generosity, combined with willingness to reach out for help, is setting her grandchildren up for success.
And typically she wants to make sure we acknowledge her daughter Rebecca. “I don’t do this alone. I have Rebecca whenever she can, and of course I have the kids and my spiritual beliefs.”
Well done Nadine!
Keeping it simple
Mother’s Day for Sara and her twins Dylan and Andre will be simple – just hanging out.
“I am hopeful for a relaxing day, snuggled up watching a movie or going for a walk if it’s nice weather,” she says.
“I’ve given up on breakfast in bed – past years have included cold leftover fried rice and cereal without milk (before 6 am!),” she jokes.
Sara says the best past of having 14-year-old twin boys is their humour. “Every day they make me laugh even when I’m trying to tell them off. Boys humour is the best and the worst! They also make me so proud, particularly with their commitment to rugby and their training.”
The family recently went camping. “That was the best,” says Sara. “Spending time with them without technology and other distractions. Their helpful and adventurous sides came out too.”
Both boys have big buddies. Dylan has been paired with his Big Buddy Chris for over six years and his brother Andre has been with John for over seven.
The relationships have helped the boys, but also Sara.
“We often have a good chat, and I share good news as well as telling if I’m having trouble with anything.”
“They help with boys’ stuff – when would we start shaving and things like that…we talked separately, and with the boys. For a while there their personal space got a bit crazy which is normal for twins. But they were constantly on top of each other, in each other’s face which would annoy them both. John bought a twin and male perspective to that,” Sara says.
Meetings have been timed over the years to help Sara spend quality time with both her boys.
This Mother’s Day will be Mum time though – simple time spent together. Or maybe breakfast will even improve!?
Happy Mother’s Day to every mum, grandmother, caregiver and mother figure in our Big Buddy community. We appreciate you!