I"ll never forget how excited we were on finding out I was pregnant. The euphoria of that moment was trumped only by the next big news…the kind that makes your knees buckle and the colour drain from your face. You guessed it…twins. And boys at that.
Our third son is getting ready to complete his first year of kindergarten and during this amazing time…and by amazing I mean…heart-rending, frustrating, all consuming and totally wonderful…there are people who have come up to me shaking their heads and say “I don’t know how you do it.”
My joking response often is “I don’t know either!” but the truth is, there’s no mistaking how we’ve made it – the grace of God, a united front, self-sacrifice and a small dynamic community of support.
It still “takes a village to raise a child”.
In times like these I am thankful for this company of caregivers that lend security to our little unit. Globalisation has created broad avenues for advancement, but despite technological strides in communications, families sacrifice the physical closeness and geographical proximity that can act as a buffer for inexperienced parents.
Increasingly so, the plan view of society reveals families bent toward detachment; and individuals who are more self-aware but much less clued in to the needs of others. We hesitate to do the good we should, looking to see if someone else will…but not waiting around to see if they do.
A friend recounted how she would board buses with her son, laden with the trappings that accompany a toddler, and no one would offer her a seat. It’s a lot easier to turn away for some reason. Besides all that, it’s harder to trust the guy next door, sometimes literally.
Poor and selfish choices create a free-for-all of social ills. A ready availability and volume of information convinces us that predators are more prevalent. Experience sometimes backs that up.
The village is under siege.
For some of you, this is your current reality. You’re in the position, whether by choice or chance, that you’re doing it all by yourself. (And you’re a rock star by the way.) Perhaps you’re a single parent. Or you and your spouse moved away from the “family circle” to take advantage of opportunities in another country.
Maybe you never really had a family circle to start with, or the one you have poses some threat to you or your child. Your parents might be aging or your friends, well-intentioned but with lives of their own, are too busy to be of any real help.
You may find yourself mourning what you are missing, secretly envious of those who benefit from a tight-knit bevy of benefactors. Or perhaps you are that parent who thrives and prides him or herself on being superhuman. You don’t really need anyone anyway…because of course, to depend on someone else is a sign of weakness… I dare say it’s a sign of strength.
It takes humility to recognise where your ability ends, and your need begins.
It takes character to be honest about where you’re at and what you lack.
It takes confidence to esteem who you are and what you contribute to keeping your household afloat.
And in the words of a fellow blogger, “it takes a lot of guts and patience to go out there and find a village if you don’t have a ready-made one.” It then takes equal courage to allow someone else in when they’re trying to be a village to you.
God, who knows our every need, will often nudge us gently along in this process. A friend and I were reacquainted after many years as our children started attending the same school. A little obedience and a few rounds of car-pooling have turned into a new friendship and the beautiful privilege of a village neither of us was expecting.
The fact is that what you have to contribute to the village is as valuable as what you stand to receive.
You can’t be everywhere all at once. You can’t see, hear, think, manage every detail. The boys highly respect the men in their lives. Will I hesitate to call them in like special ops when their behaviour exceeds my discipline measures? No I will not.
I used to feel guilty — like up to a day ago — and if I’m honest the better word is ‘weak’. I felt like I should not have to ask for help, and more importantly I felt like people would judge me for not being able to sort them out on my own.
But you know what? Whether or not that is true, I’d rather draw on the resources at my disposal than increase my stock of gray hairs from three to thirty. Sometimes help comes in unexpectedly and every little bit helps.
A grandmother shared with me how her daughter, living overseas had to depend one night on a stranger to help her get two sick kids, her handbag and a load of groceries up a dark street.
She was scared but she was too spent to refuse the help. And it was ok. Sure it could have gone south. But it didn’t. The sad truth is that in general we have seen a stark departure from the community centered way of living of the not-too-distant past, where “every man jack” was his brother’s keeper, and no child could act the fool without swiftly learning the error of his ways.
Parents and grandparents regale us with tales of scoldings that would start at the place of first offence and ricochet through the neighbourhood all the way home. You get lashes at school, and like an echo in a deep canyon fresh hot ones would be coming back at you once you reach your front step.
But it wasn’t just about not sparing the rod, these were the social networks of the past. Decent folks felt like they had a vested interest in training up a child in the way he should go. Sharing was caring, giving was living. These were different times. But maybe we can get a bit of that back.
We need to start looking out for each other again.
When I think about the many actors, some wittingly, some inadvertently, who take the stage in raising our sons I am humbled by God’s provision. Our parents and siblings and extended family are our first line of defence when things get crazy, followed by a cavalry of godparents and church friends who extend their arms, voices and hearts as champions of our children’s success.
Yes we are very blessed. A few sentences cannot do their contribution justice. I want to encourage anyone who feels like they’re doing it on their own however to look around and appreciate what you do have going for you.
The neighbour who brings us bananas from his backyard, the guy walking by who retrieves their ball from the street, the lady in the mini mart who keeps them amused while I get some groceries, the man who smiles and says “boys will be boys” when they’re behaving more like wild animals.
The Sunday School teacher that pulls them under her wing – may not be a constant support or contribute financially, but in much more tangible ways they are helping us bring them up well. Early in the twins’ lives I benefitted greatly from a Facebook group called Young Mums. We asked questions, got things off our chests, built each other up and survived.
Bright Life Family Centre’s Parent Tales Community Programme now offers wonderful resources for parents and those who hope to be, both online and through their exciting services.
Church groups, school and government initiatives – get connected to people who want to see you and your children win at life. Or, God might just have given you enough superpower to be the village for someone else, and in so doing find strength for yourself.
When Elisha was under threat by the King of Aram in 2 Kings 6, his servant began to get very agitated, not understanding that even if no one else was for them God had their back. Elisha asked the Lord to show him the ‘village’ of angels, and by village I mean, army, surrounding them on every side to protect them.
Life will have its pressures but even when you feel most alone, despite the high or low of your situation, you can be confident that you are never really on your own. The infrastructure may be different, the landscape may have changed, the houses may be in a different arrangement but the village isn’t going anywhere. Yours may be tiny and discrete or vast and far reaching but allow yourself to appreciate and take advantage of all that God has given you within it.
Tao Howard Parent Blogger
Tao Howard is a little ‘crazy’ – by nature and by circumstance. The wife of one husband and mother of three boys with seemingly endless energy, she is 99% Bajan, 1% Trinidadian and a second generation purple lover and good food lover. Tao is passionate about good design, writing, and helping young people navigate, sustain and preserve their lives and relationships. Most of all she loves Jesus and worshiping Him in various expressions