It takes a village to raise a child, or so the saying goes. I’ve found this to be true, but in modern society the village is not something that everyone has automatically. Some do, but others of us have to construct our villages, carefully acquiring the connections we need. Here are some of the people I’ve found very useful while raising my kids. Often a single person plays more than one role or even shifts roles through the years.
Grandparent figure: This is someone who adores your kids and thinks they are wonderful no matter what. They are older so that the kids can learn not to be afraid of age and to respect those who have attained it.
Parents with kids at the same developmental stage: These are your go-to people for commiseration. They really understand what you’re dealing with and can share notes and ideas for how to survive.
Parents whose kids are older than yours by a decade: These are the people you go to for advice. They let you know that there is life after your current parenting stage and because of them you can picture how your life will change in the coming years. So can your kids.
Parents whose kids are younger than yours: You get to play mentor, which is a nice way to pay it forward, but it also lets you see that you really have gained some expertise. Your knowledge is useful. Playing with younger kids also can help yours learn useful empathy and nurturing skills.
Friends with no kids: They sometimes make you jealous, your kids may sometimes annoy them, but they help you remember that your whole existence does not revolve around parenting.
Young aunts, uncles, or babysitters: These people are adults, but they still have the energy of teenagers. They don’t have kids of their own and so are glad to swoop in and run around with yours for awhile.
Teachers: They educate your kids, but more, they have a wealth of experience dealing with large groups of kids who are exactly the same age. They can reassure you that your kids is normal or alert you if something is not.
Doctors: This one most people acquire early, but make sure your doctor is one you respect and one who is willing to listen to your instincts about what your child needs.
Friends who parent the way that you do: Your families blend effortlessly and trading babysitting is easy because you trust the way things will be handled.
Friends who parent differently than you do: Because it is good to learn that your way is not the only way and in fact other ways may be even better.
“Elders” who will teach morals and values: This could be religious leaders, school administrators, or a teacher; it is someone outside your immediate family who the kids can respect and whose respect they want to earn in return.
Watchers and guiders: These are school psychologists or resource teachers who help diagnose problems and apply solutions when the kids are away from home.
Librarians: They may not actually work at a library, but they suggest books, loan books, share information, and informally teach kids in a non-school setting. In fact some of the knowledge may not be book-ish at all, but instead by hands-on.
People who are different from you: They may be disabled, differently-abled, of a different ethnicity, or of a different religion. The point is to let your children see that different is not necessarily bad. It also forces them to examine how they want to live rather than just living one way because they’ve never seen anything different.
I’m sure I’ve missed some valuable village roles here. I don’t have someone in all of these roles all of the time because relationships wax and wane over years. People move away and new people enter my life. But I am forever grateful to the people who have reassured me and even more grateful to the people who have carefully pointed out when something was out of the ordinary and needed to be addressed. I am so very grateful for my village.