I am a massive fan of Queen Constance Hall. For those who have not heard of her I beg of you, click the clicky. Today she wrote about her Aunty’s words of wisdom when she’d been having a day of tough mumming. Her Aunty reminded her of the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child. Constance says she has been collecting her village ever since that moment.
This got me thinking about child rearing and how many people it really takes. Now, even if we only consider the eldest child, how many people influence who he is? How many people are involved in his life in an average week? His class teachers (he has 2), then teachers of PE, music and art. Dinner ladies, auxiliaries, principal teachers. Lolly pop lady, office staff, janitors. And that’s all in his school day. Then there’s out of school club staff, swimming teachers, football coaches. Friends parents, friends siblings, neighbours. Several grandparents, great grandparents, aunts and uncles. That’s a lot of people guiding, advising, teaching my boy. But far from feeling that this is the village of the proverb, I feel that while he is in contact with a lot of people, besides family and close friends our village is somewhat lacking.
Now, I am extremely lucky that I have a couple of exceptionally wonderful friends, the kind you can say anything to without fear. The kind who stick by you when you have your first fag, kiss, broken heart and now baby. One of whom I didn’t talk to at all for about 18 months but who I meet up with now most weeks. In the time we didn’t talk we changed drastically, yet we have ended up in the perfect place in our lives to be closer than ever. The other has known all my darkest secrets since we were 7 years old. And again, we have seen some massive changes in those 27 years, but strangely we are back in similar chapters against the odds.
I also am blessed with the kind of sister you actually want. With whom I have had both violent clashes and tender care. She is someone everyone should be lucky enough to know. And as if one sister wasn’t enough, I have a sort of sister who is soon to become the Booby Binger’s guide parent. She’s the kind of person who gets the job done. Whatever it is. And always gives a wee smile to anyone who needs it. She also loves to smell babies…and in turn makes my baby smell of her lovely perfume. It’s win, win.
These ladies are my village. It’s not massive yet. But the villagers are incredible. Daddio is obviously a chief villager, and our parents are village elders. I have also begun recruiting new villagers. Some of whom are friends from the past that with a little effort could become friends of the present. And I hope to be better at making that effort one day. And then there are new friends, one of whom I met properly last Friday but found that, not only are our boys terrible sleepers, we also got on really well. We have loads in common and chatted away for far longer than I normally would with someone I just met. So, this girl is very welcome to be part of my village.
Now, being part of the village not only means the opportunity to be a part of my kids lives. It also means that they will be part of yours. And your kids. And your dogs. It means I will cut your grass if you light the BBQ. If there’s a mouse in your kitchen and your mouse catcher is away, mine will be round in a jiffy. Nobody will be stuck for someone to hold a ladder, load a van or pick up the kids. We will do the school run. You just worry about your worries today. And the kids…what they can learn is that people don’t have to be paid to care. In villages people just play to their strengths.
Raising kids alone is impossible. I’m not talking about being a single parent. I’m talking about being a lonely parent. A parent without a village. Hell…it’s also damn near impossible to be a non parent without a village. So make a start today. Reach out to someone. A new friend. An old friend. A neighbour. Begin gathering people. Collecting villagers. Let’s face life together and help each other out. You hold the baby while I make us all some fajitas.
And together we can raise kids who are helpful, generous and wise. Just like the people in our village.