Saturday, September 3, 2016

Be The Village

I've heard up and down and around since I popped out offspring that "it takes a village". I think most people use this phrase as either a jab or an excuse.

I've had moms tisk at me while grocery shopping "it takes a village" dripping from their mouths as they watch my kid have a meltdown on the produce isle. Sometimes they say it with a simper, like my failed parenting isn't that bad because "it takes a village".

I've heard other parents use this term as an excuse for lax or halfhearted parenting, like the village will pick up the slack somehow and their kid will turn out just fine despite their lazy attitude.

I was all too aware of the village when I went out to get my license renewed. Because I lost it. So naturally I went to get a new license one Friday morning, my 12 month old son in tow.

Reuben was fine. He was toddling around, people were smiling and congratulating me on having such adorable offspring. But all too soon he was running everywhere throughout the very small waiting room while I was desperately trying to fill out paperwork and remember my number and watch my kid all at the same time. It was quite stressful.

As I was trying to intently recall some personal information from the depths of my mommy brain and impart it in written form, Reuben decided to stick his hand in the trash. I realized this ten seconds later to my absolute horror and sprang up to grab him and chastise him.

One lady, next to me, the one who when I arrived had been so kind to complement my son on his adorable face, turned to me and said she'd been wondering when I was going to get him. "Parents these days, they just let their kids run everywhere. You need to be more watchful" She said.

I felt very small in that moment. But at the time I really didn't know what else to do. The room was pretty crowded with other people who were also visiting the DMV that day and I wondered if they too thought my parenting lax. I finished my paperwork. Reuben cried once or twice so I nursed him. You try nursing a toddler in a room full of strangers. Two people stared. To make it all worse, Reuben would not stop trying to get to the trash for the rest of my visit. Even when I was finally at the counter, explaining my lost license predicament, he would not behave. Several times I had to stop mid sentence and retrieve him. He would not remain in my arms but screamed so I set him down, trying to finish as fast as I could, because holding a kicking, screaming toddler is harder than chasing one.

And then I went home and cried.

Hindsight is everything. For one, I wish I had asked that lady why she hadn't seen fit to warn me when Reuben had started to get close to the trash. I was trying to do two things at once. She, and everyone else in there, let my son stick his hand in a trash bin without saying anything to me, his mother. They let him almost eat paper from the bottom of a trash can. I feel sick even thinking about it.

This is only one example of many I could choose to tell. And my son is only one. I have to be subject to this "village" for many more years to come, and I'm already tired of it.

This is why I think the village is a joke.  Everyone is always saying it takes a village but no one wants to be the village. That's "other people's" job. Their job, it seems, is to sit back, judge you, and enjoy the show. Or smugly tell you how to do better.

We need to be the village. Do you hear me? You should be the village you expect from other people. Our society is way to caught up in our own drama and we all need to learn to love others better, with intention and without an ulterior motive. Start small in your own community. Branch out from your own home and family. But above all, give yourself grace and give strangers ever more grace in abundance because you don't know their background or circumstances. And you don't know what they might need, either, but I can tell you they don't need you to watch their kid play with trash. They need your help. We all need help.

Motherhood is isolating. The village could make that better, but instead they make it worse.They point fingers when they could be offering a helping hand. They turn away in pride when they could kneel down to assist. And then they have the audacity to lecture you about how much water is in your boat while you are drowning. You'd think they'd get a bucket or something. But no, you should have known better than to try and sail when a storm was coming. If only storms were subordinate to the whims of personal desire. 

I believe it is the job of "the village" to support families. It is not the job of the village to raise my son. It is not their job to point out everything I am doing wrong. I think their role is one of guidance. And I think the village is mostly non-existent these days, full of judgmental men and women whose actions and worlds speak of malice and careless attitudes, not of comfort or compassion. We judge instead of love.

It takes a family to raise a child. It takes a village to support a family. Be the village you want to see.