It takes a village to raise a child.
– African proverb
It is true: it takes a village to raise a child.
Mama can’t be everywhere. I can’t know everything. I can’t always do, wipe, give. Hug. I can’t always be their person. Or confidante. Friend or taxi.
And while we may not live in huts or teepees where our children run freely between the Mamas for their needs, wants, growing, we still must surround them with people that can accept them for who they are. Love them for what they offer. Challenge them. Care for them. Find a way to get to them. To make them understand. To help us raise them up.
To support me. Love me. Because Mama needs love, too.
There are so many times I feel isolated and alone in this journey of growing girls. I feel judged. I feel petty. I feel completely inadequate. I feel guilty and full of worry. And about the time that I am at my last moment of self loathing, I am reminded that this journey is not about me. It’s about us. It’s about our family and the village that we build around us.
And our village is strong.
This year, in particular, I’ve seen how strong our village is.
I’ve seen it in my oldest daughter’s teachers – women who give time, energy, money to provide exactly what each child needs. Both of her teachers gave up hours on a Saturday to come see her dance recital. Because Caroline asked them to be there. Their support, unconditional love and at times hard hand gave her the confidence she needed. Gave her courage I couldn’t tap into. Gave her a desire to help and encouraged her propensity for kindness. They believed in her and trusted her to be a good peer, to be a good student, to understand the needs of those around her. They taught her more than just sight words and letters and calendar skills. They taught her so much more than I could ever teach her by myself. She needed their support and guidance to be prepared for the next level. And she’s ready.
I’ve seen it in my mother & father-in-law. Who drove ten hours in twenty-four hours to help me get my husband home after a back injury. Because we needed them.
I’ve seen it in Caroline’s dance teachers. Bonnie understands her “sparkly brain” better than I can. She nurtures her passion for art and creativity and gives her a forum to be herself. Michelle sees it too, encourages it too, but most importantly, provides the boundaries I have a difficult time drawing. She challenges her to be better in ways I never could. These women tap into some of the best parts of my girl. And they get to her in ways that I can’t. And they love her sister, too, always making time for the baby and understanding that she is her own person with her own needs.
I’ve seen it from co-workers who are more like family. Letting me cry when I have no words. Hearing me out. Recognizing when I need encouragement. Or a kick in the butt.
I’ve seen it in my own mother. Planning for weeks to take my children into her home for days at a time so that I can write and home improve and rest. Giving around the clock care to my babies because that is what her baby needs. Never asking for anything in return or expecting more than I have. But being the grandmother that lives in her head and heart for these little girls that just need some time with Mimi. Loving them both the same but different. And knowing the difference. Never complaining about cutting more cantaloupe or watermelon or pouring another cup of milk or rocking for just a little while longer. Watching just one more jump in the pool. Reading one more story. Taking them out for ice cream. She soaks in the snuggles and I know that for the moment, she is me and I am them – the memories of her life before. They need that love. They need to feel that there is someone else that loves them wholely. Someone other than me and their dad.
I’ve seen it in the friends that come over at the first call to move furniture or help hang shelves. Who don’t mind lending a hand. Or a hard time.
I’ve heard it in the crackled voice of hysteria. The I didn’t know who to call. The I need you. Can you help me? Would you mind?
In a world so big. And disconnected. And jaded. I’m learning that we have to expand our circle. Let people in. Ask for help. Because we can’t do it all ourselves.
Because it takes a village.