“It takes a village to raise a child.” A phrase I’m sure most of us are familiar with. I had never really bought in to the whole ‘village’ concept. I was confident that I could raise my children on my own and we didn’t need anyone else except our little family unit. We had grandparents around who loved to babysit and be involved but I considered it a perk more than a necessity. I kept my kids pretty close and while we did have friends around, I didn’t see a need for their help with raising my children.
When my oldest started Kindergarten, I was suddenly thrust in to this huge community of other parents. I remember seeing a younger sibling (probably 2 or 3 years old) run out in to the parking lot during drop-off time. A quick-thinking mama (not his own) managed to grab him and pull him out of harm’s way and back to his mother. As the boy’s mother thanked the other, the other mom simply smiled and replied with “it takes a village” and she went on her way.
In all honesty this scenario played out in less than ten seconds but I watched it and I remember it. I remember how natural it seemed for one mama to help another without judgment. I remember hearing that phrase “it takes a village” and for the first time thinking that maybe it really does…maybe raising children is not a little family unit sort of gig but a community one. But the only ‘villages’ I had witnessed up until this point were the ones online and a lot of them are filled with judgment and drama. So while the idea began to flicker, I ignored it and let it die out before it really had a chance to ignite.
A few months later though, a funny thing happened…my village showed up. Without trying, I had surrounded myself with people who would step up for me. Family, friends and friends of friends – they all showed up.
From the moment the news of my injury hit the ears of all of these people, I was flooded with love and offers of help. My children were taken care of without hesitation by their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Friends would pick up the boys and take them to see movies, go to the aquarium and have them tag along on other fun play dates. I wasn’t sure what I had ever done to deserve all of the outpouring of support. I’m still not sure I know… But I do know I would have reacted the same way for any of them as well. I suppose that is the village mentality.
What really blindsided me were the offers of help and words of genuine encouragement from parents and teachers at my boys’ school. These were people I had known for barely 6 months and most just on a before-and-after-school basis. So many of them wanted to aid in my recovery in whatever way they could. A group of moms from the school ended up being some of the people I felt most normal around when I started to venture out in the world again. Both of my sons’ teachers were so wonderful at including me and keeping things normal for the boys. My children were cared for; my children were loved. And, most importantly, they were comfortable and as happy as they could be as their lives were uprooted and turned upside down.
Then we had this decision to make…we had always known we wanted our children in a particular school that started in grade 1. But the thought of taking them out of the school they were happy in with everything that had happened to us seemed precarious. And on a purely selfish standpoint, I was comfortable at the current school; I had found a village (something I now knew was important). Everyone knew my story and I could just keep moving forward with my life there.
In the end though, we decided to move to the new school. My son was great almost immediately. I on the other hand had to adjust. I knew there would be questions but I’m fine with questions…I actually prefer questions to avoiding the topic altogether. I was mostly hoping everyone would just see past the wheelchair relatively quickly and I would be just another mom. My expectations were far surpassed.
I must be lucky (or maybe just my bad luck ran out with the broken back…one can hope) but I have been embraced by another amazing group of moms at the new school. I have become friends with these women who have such a strong sense of community. They are honest, helpful and caring. They also think I’m funny which is super great.
Within a few months at the school I already knew of three other mama’s I could call on if I needed something. That number has only grown. And not only do I feel accepted but I know that my children could find comfort in so many of them if the circumstances arose. That’s a powerful and, in my opinion, incredibly important thing. Because life happens when we aren’t expecting it and sometimes we need help executing our most important job – loving and raising our children.
I have been playing with this village concept in my head for a few months now and during that time I read an Instagram post that my friend the lovely Aleks Sharpe posted (@aleks_sharpe on IG). I was in awe of her poignant and precise description of how it feels to be a part of the bigger picture…
“These women just blow me away with their innate ability to see and without hesitation enforce this ‘village’ concept that is constantly oozing on social media but not always put in to play in reality”
It’s such a beautiful sentence filled with so much inspiration. To find a group of people that are truly engaged and willing to work through the difficult seasons and also celebrate the accomplishments and milestones is incredibly special. To be part of a group of people who can recognize a need and face it in a productive way as well as lift each other up instead of tear each other down is a privilege.
I have been fortunate in my life to have not only an amazing and supportive family but to have found friends and communities of other parents who want to help me in my life as I want to help them in theirs. When we raise children to tackle the world solo than we raise children who lose community and who think that asking for help from others is weak; it is not weak. But when you find yourself part of a village…you don’t even have to ask. I never had to ask for my children to be taken care of after I got hurt. I also never worried that they would be nervous about where they were because they had been loved by these people their entire lives and had spent countless hours with them before – looking back, I’m so thankful that I allowed that to happen.
“It takes a village to raise a child.” It’s not a disability thing…just a parenting thing. But it took a disability to help me understand the importance of a ‘village’. I highly recommend skipping the disability and going straight for the realization that doing life and parenting alone is the hard road. Find your village – it doesn’t have to be big…it just has to be.