It takes a village to raise a child. I am sure we are all familiar with this saying. Before having my own kids, that phrase would evoke images of the tiny community where I was born and raised. My best friend’s parents were like my second set of parents because they had literally known me since birth. I went trick-or-treating without my parents hovering because I knew the owners of every house I went to. If I got in trouble, everyone would know about it, so I didn’t dare! I caught rides with neighbors to and from school and sporting events. There are so many other examples of what it is like to grow up in Smalltown, USA, but you probably get the picture. It was a community of parents pitching in to serve many children, not just their own. While my parents certainly provided the main influence on my upbringing, the village helped raise me.
Fast forward to today. I now have two boys, and a new understanding of, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I am not raising my boys in a small tight-knit community like the one I grew up in. I don’t rely on other parents in the same practical ways in which my parents did. My village looks different, and is spread over many geographical miles. Some of my fellow villagers are dear friends. Others I might only know through our shared experience of motherhood. Some may never interact directly with my boys, but they still provide support in very meaningful ways. It is the ways in which the other parents in my village have supported ME that has made such a powerful impact in my life. Let’s face it–parenting is hard and when you are struggling with an issue, it is SO easy to feel like you are failing your kids. That is exactly when you should reach out to your village. Let me share a little story with you:
For months, I had been really struggling with my four-year-old. One afternoon, I reached the end of my rope and had no idea what to do next. In anger and frustration, I yelled at my son to go to his room. He looked up at me, crossed his arms and stood defiantly right where he was. I picked him up and carried him as he wailed and flailed against my shoulder. I put him on the floor and shut the door, holding tight to the door handle as he tried to escape. I felt totally defeated. Where was I going wrong? Why wouldn’t he listen to me? Why was I letting myself lose my cool? Why couldn’t I just be the mother he needed me to be? As he continued to cry on the other side of the door, I also began to weep. I thought to myself “There has got to be a better way, but I have no idea what that is. Right now I’m totally sucking at this whole motherhood thing.” I opened the door and sunk down to my knees. He crawled into my lap and we cried together. I wanted so much for things to be different. I apologized for yelling at him and promised that for both of our sakes, I would try to do better in the future. He snuggled in closer.
I had the chance a few days later to share this moment with a group of girlfriends. We all have kids that are different ages, and I truly treasure their wisdom. As I was relating this story and the tears began to form in my eyes, my villagers did exactly what I needed them to do. They offered words of empathy and encouragement. They shared their own “been there, done that” moments. My heart felt so much lighter afterward. Did I come away with the perfect solution to my current parenting challenge? No. But just knowing that other mothers whom I greatly respect had been in my shoes was so freeing.
I hope all parents can find the kind of love and support that my village continues to pour out on me. I might never rely on my village in the same practical ways my parents relied on their village, but my sons will be impacted, nonetheless. By being a blessing to their mama, my village continually blesses my sons.