(I am reposting this as it is a topic that is close to my heart, and feel as intentional parents, we need to have like minded people around us to influence and learn from each other. We need to create our own village).
It is said it takes a village to raise a child. This saying is from the good old days when the community around would be active participants in the child rearing process. When people lived with or in close proximity to relatives. Back then, it was easier to instil values the family preferred or believed in and maintain them.
These days things have changed. We live in a highly individualistic society. A lot of us are far from loved ones. Many of us live in isolation in our city apartments where we are always minding our own business, and our circles of those we share values with is even smaller. We also give birth to less children than our parents and in many instances, we have to leave the young ones we have at daycares or hire outside help as we are busy with work or studies.
There is no perfect manual on parenting. Inasmuch as we live in an era where information is at our fingertips, it is not black and white when it comes to practical experience on how to parent positively. The books and pointers do help, but we need to keep in mind parenting is full of surprises. But putting into practice what we read is not as easy as it looks. Experience is the best teacher in this case.
As we raise our children, we have to be intentional at all times on what values we are instilling in them, and how we are preparing them for the world. Sometimes we get too engrossed in building our careers, we do not pay as much attention to the children. We rely (read over rely) on the caregivers and teachers to instil those values, forgetting that it is not their job to do so, and they might not share the same values or belief system that we do.
We often refer to our children as tomorrow’s teachers, legislators, engineers, scientists, explorers and many more. Giving them a quality education is one of the main things we do to prepare them for this future. We often forget they are also future partners, caregivers, friends, parents, and spouses. How do we prepare them for this too? If married, the relationship you have with your husband or wife is the first relationship your child will see up close. They will learn how to love, nurture and treat loved ones based on how they see the parents love each other. If the relationship is manipulative or abusive, it imprints on the child too, with detrimental effect.
Gone are the days when all the children would gather round a village fire to listen to tales of yore, filled with wisdom and caution. When songs and dances would tell the passing of seasons, and prepare one for the different stages of initiation or marriage. We are no longer learning our communities’ language and history through stories, chants, sayings, and colourful ceremonies, all whilst honouring those gone before us.
We live in completely different times. We are a global village. As our languages; our mother tongues are being quickly forgotten, how do we help our children create an identity for themselves? Is it important for them to know their mother tongue? Their history? Their culture? Culture is dynamic and languages die, what else can we share with them to teach them who they are? Books? Films?
We have the best intentions but still fail at it. We are too hard on ourselves and sometimes one feels like they can throw their hands up in surrender even though we know it is not an option. When we get it wrong in parenting, we take it badly, not remembering that there are others who have gone or are going through that we have. It is ok to feel helpless as a parent, but we should not give up or keep quiet. We need to share what we are going through.
I am coming to the realisation of having to actively create a village for my children. A support system comprised of people with whom we similar values with, and are raising their children more or less the same way we are doing. This village includes relatives and friends that we trust and the children trust too.
In this village, we are intentional on the basic lessons we want them to learn. How to love and value themselves, how to value others, encourage them to be critical thinkers, be open minded, self confident and effective communicators. Self discipline, being organised among many many others. Not forgetting that children learn most by watching and doing. So we have to be intentional on how we communicate with each other as adults and with them too. By watching how we treat each other respectfully, being honest, putting in the hard work, they will learn it too. Letting them see our faults and our efforts to correct them. Why should we delude our children that we are perfect beings in a perfect world?
This village has a long term plan of working and learning from each other, acknowledging what works, recognising what doesn’t and agreeing on methods to encourage the children to do good, and discourage them from doing wrong. We know this is by no means a walk in the park, that is why we have to be there for each other as parents too.
It really does take a village to raise a child; nobody can do it on their own.