‘It Takes a Village’ – Inviting the Help of Others to Raise our Children
Her first phone call was perhaps the most difficult …“I only have a few minutes because I’m calling on top of a 20 foot anthill for good reception, but I absolutely love this country and the people. I’m okay and safe, so don’t worry. And you wouldn’t believe how wonderful my mother and father have been to me.” It took a few seconds for my brain to register these last few words…her mother and father. Isn’t that who we were…sitting back home in Maine with an empty bedroom and storage boxes still waiting to be taped and labeled for the upper shelf storage in the garage? The ones who raised her for 23 years?
My older daughter was calling from Zambia, Africa where she was beginning her 27-month journey as a Peace Corps Volunteer. Her dream had come true after years of preparation on her part; similarly, I thought I had prepared myself to let her go out in the world to make her mark. But, hearing her speak of strangers as being her parents took my breath away, momentarily at least. Then I found myself in awe and inspired beyond measure. My daughter now had two families, on different continents, helping her reach her dreams.
One of my first moments of humility as a parent concerned the same daughter. We were visiting family friends, and my daughter was in the kitchen with the other mother preparing a snack for everyone. As I walked into the kitchen to offer my help, I heard my friend say to my daughter with a kind but firm voice, “We don’t whine in this house.” Again, I was initially stunned by what I had overheard. I was the parent and the one who should discipline my child. But then I paused and saw the truth in what I had overheard. My daughter was indeed whining, and I had been excusing her behavior for a variety of reasons; I almost didn’t even notice it anymore. It took a new set of eyes to see my child’s potential. The village stepped in, and I was grateful.
We may not want to return to the days when, as my husband remembers, a neighborhood mother had carte blanche to discipline him as she would her own son. But we do want to invite other adults and mentors into our children’s lives to strengthen their character. They usually see our children in ways we cannot, and sometimes their perspective is more accurate than ours.
When we invite the village to help raise our children, we model humility and confidence. Perhaps our children more readily learn, as well, that they are ultimately accountable to life and not to us as their parents.