It Takes A Village

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

We’ve all heard the old proverb, but how many of us think it actually rings true.

On one end, I understand what they were saying. So many of us who are having babies reach out to our friends, our family, and our communities for help when we feel like we are drowning in the new life we have thrown ourselves into.

It’s a baby, it’s small, how hard can it be?

Well hold on, because you are about to find out.

Reaching out to other’s when you need help is completely understandable to me and when I think of that old proverb, that is what I think.

However, in this day and age where being nosy seems more common than minding your business and the rush most people get for being a good samaritan has some people looking for trouble just so they can spring into action, it makes me wonder if some people don’t really understand what that old proverb was trying to say.

When I was a kid, supervision was a loose term. We walked home from the school bus stop on our own. Went home, dropped off our bags and were out the door and into the neighbourhood. Your friends were decided for you based on who lived in your neighbourhood, because these are the kids you would be with until dinner time. There were no parents, there were no rules, we were free.

Did this mean we were running naked through the streets getting into trouble? No.

We lived in a time where we thought our neighbours would tell our parents when we misbehaved or got up to no good, so we didn’t. It was a live and learn type of time, and we flourished.

As someone who works with kids, I spend a good deal of time at the parks. I observe all the different types of parenting and I am not so proud to say, I judge some of them. Of course I do, I am only human.

What I noticed is there are a good deal more parents who spent time on the jungle gym than ones who spend time on the bench. There are a lot more parents who are afraid of their kids going down the slide on their own, or climbing etc. These were things I was doing at the park completely unsupervised when I was a kid.

As for those parents who sit on the bench and let their kids be kids? The ones that don’t jump to their feet as soon as their kid starts wailing because they got scared, the one who will yell over “You’re okay” instead of going over to inspect them, they are the parents getting side glances from the others.

Sure, I was not at the park alone when I was five or six, but you would never catch my mom in the play area with me. I was there to socialize, to meet other kids, and to give my mom a little bit of a break. She had been with us all day, and when she took my sister and I to the park when I was five and my sister was seven, it was to let us do our own thing while she took a bit of a breather.

Did that mean she walked away, turned her back on us and let us completely fend for ourselves?

No. It just meant that she had her space and we had ours. She kept an eye on us but encouraged us to be a little independent. Back then, that was completely normal. You couldn’t find a single parent in the actual park. All the parents were bordering the park, one eye on their kids as they chatted with the other parents hoping for some grown up interaction.

This seems to be the trend. Kids who play more with their parents than with other kids.

I don’t remember really playing with my mom as a kid. I played with my older sister when she wasn’t torturing me, or with the other kids. My mom was there when I needed her, but she wasn’t there to entertain me. This type of parenting, at least in the neighbourhood I work in, seems to be fading away.

We have mother hens who are still practically sitting on their kids like they’re in the egg waiting to be hatched. They keep their kids constantly entertained, never getting a moment for themselves.

How do they live?

Then there are others who seem like they don’t supervise their kids at all, or worse, they don’t discipline their kids. Parents who ask their kids instead of tell them.

If people saw the way my mother raised us, I feel like they would have reported her. They would have seen the way she was so no-nonsense. Her demanding tone, and the way she left us to our own devices as neglect.

But is it?

It takes a village, but does that mean the village’s opinion on your parenting trumps your own? When I was a kid, my mother was the Queen. We were her subjects and no one dared interfere with that. Now, I feel like you doing something as simple and innocent as letting your child play unsupervised in the back yard could warrant a call to child services from a nosy neighbour.

Are these hovering moms only doing that because they are scared about what the village may have to say if they did anything differently?

As I get closer and closer from transitioning from pregnant to parent, I wonder if the parenting style of my mother, is a thing of the past.

I respected my mother. Her word was law and we abided by it. She allowed us room to grow, but wouldn’t hesitate to tighten the reigns if she could see us becoming too wild. The village that helped her was one of her own choosing.

If there is one thing I do know, it’s that there is no one way of parenting. Every kid is so different, and what works for one may not work for another. There were five of us being raised by my mom all by herself, she used the same techniques on all of us and there was still that one black sheep that seemed to swim against the tide at all times. What I am wondering, is when did it become okay for everyone else to have a say in your parenting?

Do I think we should stand idly by when something is happening that is putting a child in physical or emotional danger? Absolutely not. But do I think it is up to every Tom, Dick, and Harry to comment and report on everything they personally disagree with?

It really all boils down to opinions. What someone thinks is okay. For people on the outside looking in, especially people who don’t have children of their own, it’s so easy to judge.

This early in the game, I can’t say exactly how I am going to raise my baby. One thing I do know is that I am the type of person who is going to be okay with someone back-seat driving during the whole thing.

Does it take a village?

I am going to have to go with no.

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