AN ODE TO A VILLAGE

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

I know you’ve heard this before. But do you believe it?

I think we can all get behind the idea of a supportive tribe for our kids and our whole family. We would love to have backup if we are sick or need a night out. But deep down, many of us just don’t buy it. 

  • We believe only we can do what’s best for our kids. 
  • We aren’t willing to compromise if our people do things a little different than us.
  • We don’t even have time to be this village for others.
  • We think this is a modern world and the idea of a village is totally dead.

It may be 2017, but my village is still alive and well. I couldn’t be more grateful for the helping hands, encouraging words and loving presence of my village. 

So thanks to the grandparents, the aunts and uncles and the friends. Thanks to the childcare providers, the teachers and the Cub Scout leaders. Thanks to all those who love my child and family like their own. 

My son’s life – and mine – is richer for it. 

Today, I’m sharing an ode to raising your child within a village (as well as a few tips if you don’t feel like you’ve found yours yet). 

A village can be cultivated. 

I’m aware that some of my village has been neatly packaged in the form of family members. It sort of seems that they’ve fallen in my lap. (Lucky me.)

My son has two sets of adoring (and retired) grandparents who live within 10 miles of our home. They ask to pick him up from school and delight when he requests to spend the night. They love time spent with him and make incredible memories and traditions together. 

And that’s not all. We are also blessed with love, encouragement and assistance from other family members nearby. I have plenty of people nearby on speed dial. 

I know this isn’t always the case. I’m aware this isn’t always so easy.

Maybe you live hundreds or thousands of miles from your family members. Maybe your family and friends just aren’t as engaged as you wish they were. Maybe you’ve been burned in the past and just can’t trust. 

There are still ways to find your village, my friends. But some of it has been cultivated. 

This means you may have to go outside your comfort zone – join a mom’s group, connect with others at school, church or in the community. Put yourself out there. (Check out some other tips from Kimberly for finding your tribe here.)

This will take time. But I know it’s worth it, because some of the most steadfast members of my village aren’t family members by birth. But they are my family by choice.

Your childcare providers, friends and coworkers can be some of the most incredible people in your village – if you let them be. And but the more you give of yourself, the stronger your village grows. So send that encouraging note. Offer to babysit for your friend to have a date night. And cry with friends in hard times. 

You can be the village to others, too. This really is the first step. (I love this post from Amy about ways to network as a mom.)

A village requires that you ask for help. 

If you aren’t willing to ask for help and to show your insecurities and weaknesses to your village, you won’t really see the power it can provide. Unfortunately, even the best village can’t read your mind.

But having a strong tribe means that you can reach out for help. And it’s your job to do it.

I’ve had to get over myself as a parent. It’s difficult to admit that you don’t have it all together. It can be painful to ask for help.

But this parenting thing isn’t always easy. And I don’t think we were designed to do this by ourselves. We were designed to connect with others and build each other up. 

So, once you have that village – you’ll still have to pick up the phone (or text) for help. I promise. It gets easier. (And don’t forget – you are there for your village, too. This is a two-way street.)

A village teaches us to let go (a little). 

I know you care about your kids so much it hurts sometimes. And I know that this can manifest into some crazy obsessions.

I wanted my son to have the exact same bedtime every night. I never wanted him to eat fast food. And I wanted him to basically live in a bubble until he went to college. (I mean, don’t we all?)

But the beauty of a village is that they keep you grounded. And they feed your kid french fries sometimes. 

While I do believe that routines and health are so important for kids, relationships are even more important. I hope my son learns that from me – and I know he’ll learn it from his village. Because his grandma drop everything when he walks into the door. And his papa builds an elaborate tent in the basement for indoor camping. 

There are times that things are a little different than what I would do at home. But honestly, I let it go. Because I save my energy for the battles that really matter. 

I don’t really care if my child stays up a bit later with his grandparents. I don’t really care if he eats popcorn for dinner or maxes out on screen time once in a while. And truly, I believe that being grateful for this village is more important than always getting my way.

A little flexibility may be in order. (And in my opinion, this actually makes me a better parent.)

A village is about love.

Our kids need a lot of things – but if you ask me, love tops the list. 

And being part of a village gives your child more love than they can imagine. What better gift can we give than the gift of a village?

What’s the biggest obstacle standing in the way of building or embracing your village? 

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One Response to AN ODE TO A VILLAGE

  1. Olivia February 20, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

    Oh man, so good Kim. I love how you shared about how you guys do it, and who all is in H’s life. I struggle with this in a lot of ways. It’s probably a tie between letting go of control and being willing to ask for help.

    I love babysitters and we have some incredible ones in our lives, but it’s more when asking family or friends for favors that I battle guilt!

    I sometimes wish our culture was more conducive to this model. We live in a very individualistic society! But you’re so right, we can cultivate our own “village” and make it happen anyway!!

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