Monday, August 13, 2012

It Takes a Village

For the first 4 years of my life as a mom in California,  my village was pretty close knit.  There were our parents (the girls' grandparents), there were the girls' preschool teachers, there were a handful of carefully selected beloved babysitters, and there were the few working mothers whom I worked with who became dear friends and partners in parenting.  Our village was more than some have, to be sure, but definitely not the utopia I'd dreamed of when raising my family.

I was still a kid when the Clintons popularized the old adage, "it takes a village" and encouraged communities to see themselves as integral to raising children.  And, the message stuck.  I believed it was possible- and part of the move to Seattle was about that ideal for me.  

I wanted to live in an old neighborhood, with kids in every home along our street.  I wanted to feel safe about letting our kids roam the community, playing and exploring for hours.  And, to me, this concept of neighborhood was the "village."  Nothing more and nothing less.

But, today, I went to hear a speaker talk about raising difficult children.  And, the topic was one that hit home for me.  She, a mother of 4, had raised one child (her youngest) with autism, and she spoke about how many who were close to her drifted away, uncomfortable with the challenge her child was to be around at times.  She challenged us, all moms in the room, to be accepting and welcoming to each other when we face hard times as families.  She broadened the definition of village, and shared that really as mothers when we see one another struggling at the grocery store or at the park we should offer to help in concrete ways and share one another's burdens.

The message hit home for me, because recently, there has been an issue at Norah's school with one of her classmates.  He has hit, choked, and seriously injured children in Norah's class.  And, I had previously reached out to his mom to say that I was willing to set up play dates between her child and Norah.  But, he is having some significant behavioral issues and the question has really become, in what ways should I be advocating for my daughter's well being in her class and in what ways should I be advocating for his?  I am a part of their village- and I need to care not just about the well being and upbringing of my daughter, but of her son's as well...  

So...what do you think? What would YOU do?  What is the line between caring for those in our own home and reaching out to those who are hurting beyond the four walls of our house?


  1. Such a beautiful post.

    This made me reflect a lot yesterday. I came back to it today because it challenges me a lot:

    "In what ways should I be advocating for my daughter's well being in her class and in what ways should I be advocating for his?"

    1. Yes, such an interesting topic. Actually, Norah came up with some solutions on her own. For instance, she wants to have a group of friends over (and identifies him as a friend.) She told me that she'd like to have cookies at the playdate with her other friends but doesn't think it's best if he comes. She came to this decision because Adam (let's call him) wouldn't make the other kids feel comfortable but in lieu of inviting him over with the group, she wants to have him over separately to share a cookie with him in a calmer environment. I have learned a lot from her about how to handle the situation. She has set really great boundaries with him (for instance, she is honest with him in saying why she won't be inviting him over in a group setting to our house), but still invites him into her life. I love, too, that his mom shared that Norah is one of the things he lists each night as a blessing in his life. :)

    2. That made me tear up - him including Norah as a blessing. She seems wise beyond her years.

  2. Totally agree, Jessica, about Norah being wise beyond her years. I also think that you Diana, must be modeling boundaries to her for her to know how to set them with "Adam".