It takes a village to say ‘yes, your child’

children playing outside

I think I was a pretty good kid. Stop laughing. (Checks notes.) I really wasn’t very good at acting wild, probably because my mom only had me to focus on, and she was laser sharp. Honestly, I wasn’t going to get away with much.

The few times I tried in the most ridiculous, simple ways, one of the neighbors or parents of my friends would rat me out, honestly, it was just easier to behave.

Having my friend’s father ground me on the spot when we acted foolish and tried “running the streets” (aka we stayed out after dark) was enough. When he told my mother after the fact she nodded in the affirmative. “Thanks for telling me John, I couldn’t agree more.”

If I thought I was going to have any sense of “how dare he discipline my child!” I knew that he wasn’t going to fly. The truth is, I don’t think that notion ever occurred to me. I had a 1980s childhood. We expected aunts, uncles, family friends, teachers, coaches and, frankly, the whole darn community to chime in. Collective disappointment and scorn was and remains a powerful influence.

I consider it one of the blessings of our lives that we raised our children in a similar, “throwback” fashion. Both Boywonder and Girlwonder speak of realizing there was just no reason to try to run amok. In the wise (and correct) words of Girlwonder “the stories would have gotten back home before we did.”

I’m not naive enough to think that they never did anything we would’ve disapproved of. I’m sure they had some fun and made poor choices like we all did. At this point, I figure the statute of limitations has expired, they survived, and they didn’t come home in a squad car. If, in the fishbowl of this small, but loving community, we haven’t found out yet — we can assume that whatever they did — they’re really good at it. My kids are healthy, intelligent, funny and well-mannered. However, I see that less of a measure of my greatness and more of their having parents who did their best and a very vibrant and committed community surrounding them.


Still, we live in the day and age of social media and a movement best described as “not my child.” Unfortunately, there is a subsection of guardians who seem completely and deeply offended at the mere suggestion that their children might be less than perfect at all times.

They become defensive and enraged no matter how gently one tries to insinuate that their child may require correction. Honestly, that sounds exhausting. Our children learned early, and often, that we always had their backs and big things, and they could tell us anything.

That doesn’t mean we were gullible. They learned early that they weren’t going to portray themselves as blameless victims of an entire world “out to get them” in every facet of school, sports and work. They laugh now telling the story that the moment they started telling me that they were utterly blameless and a teacher, coach, or manager was “picking on them” my response was predictable and, to them, hilarious. “So you were just sitting there reading your Bible, and they came along to wrong you for no reason?”

As adults, they will tell me a funny story about something that happened and open with “I’m telling you mom, I was just sitting there reading my Bible …”

I had the same theory on tattling. Tell me what your brother or sister did “to” you? I’m immediately going to ask what you were doing right before that happened? Pity the children of journalists. They always get asked for sources and “the rest of the story.”

Recently, a social media post mentioned a specific make, model and color of vehicle engaging in some risky business and overloaded with teens. The post was made to give the parents a heads-up that they might want to address simple safety issues with their teens. The comments were about 50/50. Some felt the proper response was “mind your own business.” The rest, my people, agreed that we would appreciate the heads up if they were our kids. It takes a village.

I appreciate the people who looked out for my silly self when I was young. My shenanigans were tame. Yet I remain eternally grateful to all the people who kept an eye out and weren’t afraid to correct errant behavior.

We aren’t raising children. We are raising future adults. Getting them there in one piece and able to function in relationships, employment and life is crucial. Their colleagues, partners and employers won’t ask their parents for permission to provide constructive criticism.

I know that if anyone sees me acting up, you still might tell my mom.


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