Everyone’s heard the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child.” Apparently it’s an African proverb, which would make a lot of sense, but it really only gained attention when Hillary Clinton said it. Regardless, you’ve heard it. Maybe you live by it and maybe you don’t, but here’s my tale…
When I was pregnant with my oldest and even when she was very young, I resented the idea of “the village”. I didn’t want a village. I didn’t need a village. I’m the mother and it’s my responsibility to make this work, to raise this tiny being into adulthood. How dare they suggest that a mother can’t do this without a group of people helping her?!?
My mom wanted to help with her… hold her, diaper her, feed her when possible. My take on that was that I was actually doing my mom a service. It had been years since she’s been able to spend time with a baby and a grandchild is supposed to be the greatest gift. OF COURSE she would want to spend time with her granddaughter. Who am I to deny her of that?!? She wasn’t doing these things because I needed her to, she was doing them because she wanted to. Even now, when she keeps all three of my kids, she swears up and down that she wouldn’t do it if she didn’t want to. I call bullshit, especially with the older two arguing like cats and the three year old hanging off of her like a leech.
But my mom is family, and family doesn’t count. Family isn’t part of the village, right?
Even when I had my second kid and my oldest was three, I didn’t need anyone’s help. Sometimes they offered and sometimes I let them, but I didn’t need it. Sure, my parents would usually keep the girls when Daniel and I went out for our anniversary or either of our birthdays, but if they weren’t around, we just would have managed and stayed home with a movie and take-out. It wasn’t a matter of survival, it was a matter of luxury. Of convenience. And again, they’re family. Still not a village.
So maybe I got through about five or six years without a village, if family doesn’t count. That’s success, damn it! It wasn’t until Delanie finished kindergarten that I started to see the benefits of having a village.
See, when kids have been in school for a little while, they start to make friends. And they want to start hanging out with those friends. Playdates at our house, playdates at their friends’ houses. And THEN it turns into more than playdates. Outings here, there, and everywhere. Outings that involve carpooling. And THEN it turns into sleepovers. Those are the work of some demonic entity, set on torturing parents (usually mothers) with endless giggling, shrieking, and arguing.
But when friends come into the picture, so do their parents. For some people, the thought of meeting and socializing with other parents is terrifying. For others, it’s a dream come true and a long-awaited side effect of parenting.. For me, I was indifferent. But I would do what was necessary to allow my kid to form bonds with other kids and to blossom socially.
Little did I know, when I opened the door to new friends and their parents, I was going to make some pretty fantastic friends of my own. And in doing so, I may have let them into my village to help me raise my children. Behold as I proceed to eat some crow.
Early on, it was just nice to have someone take my kids off my hands for a couple of hours in an effort to entertain their own. But as time went on, it became so much more. If my kid and their kid were going to the same event at school, I would offer to drive their kid with mine while they picked them both up. Half the hassle disappeared, just like that. We have one another on speed dial (who am I kidding, more like in a recent text message thread) if emergencies pop up. One friend in particular has a kid Delanie’s age and a kid close to Elysa’s age, so we do kid swaps… I take the bigs while she takes the littles, or vice versa. They treat my kids like their own and I do the same with theirs.
We rely on one another… A LOT. And for more than just help with our kids. We call one another to rant or gush, we go out for margaritas at our favorite Mexican restaurant or have wine nights at someone’s house. We are soul sisters, if you will. Our kids may have brought us together, but they are not what are keeping us together.
I know that come hell of high water, I have a group of women (and some men) who are there for my kids. And me. Just like I am there for them and their kids.
I have found my village. The one I never thought I wanted or needed. And it’s better than I could have ever imagined.
Since my mom is bound to read this, I want to make it clear that I appreciate each and every little thing she has done for me and my kids. And maybe she actually is a part of the village. The difference is, with her, I knew I’d be happy to accept her help. With others, I wasn’t so sure. But now I am. So there.