A New Kind of Village

You know the saying: “It takes a village to raise a child.” Do you agree? Do you have a village? I’ve asked myself this question as I raise my two young children.

When I picture this “village,” I think about when my grandmothers were raising my parents. I picture them living close to all of their siblings and parents and getting advice from pregnancy and beyond. I assume that family and neighbors often took care of each others kids on a regular basis. When I was growing up, I recall close family friends helping my parents by watching my sister and I every so often. I grew up in a great neighborhood which was full of children around my age. If my parents needed a helping hand, it was the neighbors that would watch my sister and I. There were several that my parents could count on, most notably were the neighbors just a couple houses down from mine. They were like family and I have fond memories of spending time with them. That neighborhood was our “village.”

So where’s my village? My immediate neighbors have much older kids and therefore keep to themselves. Since I’m fairly new to this area, I’m still working on finding friends that I consider to be “close.” My parents do live a short distance away and I’ve called upon them for help. But that doesn’t quite make a very big village, does it? Where’s my village? Where is this group of people that are going to help raise my children? My husband and I can’t do it alone! Have you met my kids? They didn’t come with any manuals or handbooks and I can’t make any exchanges. I need a village. Help!

Well, I do have a village. Not the type that I remember as a kid or imagine my grandparent’s having. I have a different kind of village. One made up of many components. When I was pregnant and needed answers on how to prepare for a new, small human and when I freaked out about every twitch my belly was making, I turned to an online message board of women having babies the same month as I was. I continued to flood that message board with questions once my baby was born. I also met a few women at a new Mom group held by the hospital that I delivered at. I didn’t realize it, but this was the start of my village. I continued to stay close with both my online friends and local friends as we compared notes and ideas on our growing babies. Let’s face it – at what point do you not have a question on how to raise your kid? These two sets of women relied on each others support and advice! When I had my son two years later, many of these same women were also having another child. Thank goodness, because I sure as heck wasn’t prepared for the extra confusion a second child would bring. Didn’t I already have the answers from the first time around? Ha! I most certainly did not! Apparently the other Moms felt the same way. Thank goodness I was not alone! This was also when I realized that a “Moms Night Out” was not only fun, but it was essential to my sanity.

Then I moved across the country. I left my village behind for a new one. I knew it would be nice to have my children closer to family, but my new local friends aren’t quite close enough to be considered “village” material. At least not yet. There are days I am completely overwhelmed and wish I could send them off to my neighbor for a two hour break, but I’m not ready to scare these neighbors off with my high energy kids. However, I am getting to know these families better and I may have that luxury at some point. I still keep in touch with my friends across the country and compare notes from time to time. I also regularly keep in touch with the online community I found during my first pregnancy, but is a lot smaller now. In fact, I even have met several members in person. One of the benefits of a group like this is that there are various viewpoints and parenting styles that I can consider when asking for advice. I can say without a doubt that these women have been helping me raise my children.

Another group to consider as part of your village are the many teachers that spend several hours with your child each week. My grandfather told me that when he was a young boy, the teacher was always right. If the teacher called his mother to let her know that he did something wrong during school, my grandfather would be in serious trouble as soon as he walked through the door. Teachers are an important part of your village! Parents and teachers should work together in raising our children. Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of parents are making excuses for their children. These parents are asking teachers: “Can Johnny have one more day to complete his homework?” or “Can Jenny retake that exam?” Teachers are working on raising our children to be responsible. We should embrace this and support them! My son started preschool this fall and it has been helpful to get his teacher’s input on his behavior. She has encouraged him to try different foods and try new activities. She has informed me when he has misbehaved and gave input and suggestions on how to help improve certain things. This is just the beginning. My daughter is in Kindergarten and her teacher has mentioned that some Kindergarten parents don’t agree with homework at this age, so she was only giving out optional homework. How sad is it that parents are defining how teachers should teach. I certainly don’t agree with tying up all of a child’s free time, but a little worksheet to complete at home is harmless and most likely beneficial! I am happy to work with my children’s teachers. After all, they are raising my kids too!

Although I long to have more of my family nearby and to have neighbors like those I grew up with, I know I have many people helping me raise my children: family, distant friends, new friends and educators. It is a different kind of village but I do indeed have a village and am thankful for it. Thank goodness!

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