My children were born at a time when the most popular catch phrase was “It takes a village to raise a child.” I decided, almost immediately, that it was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard.
My favorite comeback being “but what if all the Villagers are idiots?”
Not surprisingly, I’m kind of a control freak, so I wasn’t feeling the village theory, per se. I didn’t want other people chiming in on my choices, traditions, or our parenting.
I enjoyed a certain over-inflated sense of confidence that Mr. Wonderful and I knew how to raise our own children. I really wasn’t looking for any input from the Villagers, or anyone else who wasn’t he — or me — thank you very much.
Then my children grew older, started wriggling out of my arms and mingling with the world at large and seemingly overnight, I realized I needed the wisdom of the Village very much.
I raise my children in the middle of nowhere (said with love), they attend a school so small that each grade features less than 100 kids and many of them are related to each other. Our school has Bring Your Tractor to School Day. We aren’t exactly navigating the mean streets out here.
Still, the tightly wound bubble that kept my children completely within my care and control burst, and out of it came two increasingly mobile humans and a whole host of things beyond potty training and preschool that I can worry myself about.
Are they social enough? Too much? Are they outgoing, empathetic and kind to puppies? That they are neither bullied nor the bullies, that they achieve their dreams and goals, that they are kind and good and role models for others: These are the worries that keep me up nights.
I have been blessed with an amazing circle of friends. Each is unique and talented and brings to our lives a breath of fresh air, wisdom, and sensibility I could not find on my own.
Through preschool, public school, Scouting and sports I have collected — been blessed really for there is no other word for it — with a merry band of people.
These Villagers have our backs. They are the extra set of eyes and ears that will not hesitate to call if the kids are seen acting the fools (and they will be). They are the friends who advise on academics, athletics, dating and everything else. They provide both praise and constructive criticism in a way that is heard when a parent’s voice has faded into the drone of oft-heard white noise.
These are the friends who say “great job” and the ones who say “you can do better.”
The fellow mothers my daughter looks up to who draw all the girls aside and say “honey you will NEVER …”
The fellow fathers who said (correctly) “that is not your best work, try harder” to my son.
These friends bring love, laughter, and a listening ear. The closest of them love me enough to indulge my worries about all things big and small. They also love me enough to tell me when I’m being too stupid for words (answer: often).
When I become consumed — obsessed really — with whether my sweet well-rounded children are ”popular” enough, or are excelling enough at things that Do Not Matter, they slap me back to reality. It’s a true friend who tells you when you are treading dangerously close to “Toddlers and Tiaras” parenting models.
At least two friends have claimed our son for a future son-in-law and what better compliment to a mother is there than that?
When your child shines, they are genuinely happy and applaud along with you. When your child is the last kid picked, they are disappointed along with you, too.
In the community at large, I have thrilled to find that these are not just “your” kids or “my” kids but “our” kids. The collective pride shines through.
Conversely, if one of “our” kids is threatened, the Villagers rise to the occasion with tar and pitchforks or spaghetti pots and bakes sales as the need arises.
The Villagers I once eschewed have turned out to be among my greatest joys. They pick up kids when needed — and pick me up, too. They have come with wine, song, commiseration and exhilaration.
The same people that I once fervently hoped would mind their own business are the people I hope most will help mind mine today. They are here to celebrate the wild and crazy ride we call life.
It takes a Village to raise a child? Certainly, but I have come to believe — no KNOW — that it takes a Village to raise a family too.