I've always appreciated Mrs. Clinton's fairly famous discussion on raising children - It takes a village to raise a child. As a parent of young women, I can look back at their childhoods and see moments in time where young adults or older individuals had a deep and profound effect on their lives just by befriending them. Taking an interest in their lives. Spending time with them one on one. After all, your family has to do those things with you. They have to love you. They have to take an interest in your activities. As illogical as we know those last thoughts to be, we also know children believe them.
The people who were not family and loved my children offered an amazing gift.
These individuals inspired my daughters and allowed their self esteem to grow and gain strength in ways that I never could. Where I was weak, another individual, "family" or not, was strong. Simply put, for me a child can never have too many people love them.
I wanted the girls to have as many ideas and different opinions swirling around them as I could get. It made them more well rounded, more accepting of other people's foibles and better able to give love and caring to someone that needed it regardless of whether they were family or not. It was hard to do since we home schooled. We didn't necessarily have teachers to lean back on. We spent most of our time with our kids and were, well, almost enmeshed in their younger lives. So it took some effort on my part to find people, to introduce the girls to activities where I wasn't in control, to let them go even though it meant taking time away from us and our family. David and I did what we had to do, we asked questions, we took advice and the girls, thankfully, no matter how much I may grouse sometimes, are strong, independent women with minds of their own. They know how to listen. They know how important it is to ask for advice. They do so and then they make a decision based on as much information and even criticism as they can find. They both, now, have the ability to make great mentors.
I remember the time Bonnie came home from a Wednesday night church program. She was in a group of five children and their leader was a grown man with a family of his own but he was a true mentor of children. After that particular night, Bonnie got in the car, excited, hardly able to sit still. When I asked her what she was so happy about, she replied, "Mommy, Mr. Steve loves me. He really loves me, just me. He said he's gonna come to my swim meet Saturday". Sure enough, he was there, early Saturday morning, clapping for her, encouraging her on. Waiting for her at the finish with a towel. She swam some of her best times that day. She still remembers Mr. Steve though she probably hasn't seen him for 10 years or more. Just by being at the swim meet, he achieved what her coaches had been trying to accomplish for weeks. He showed her she had the ability to up her game simply because he took the time to spend some one on one time with her. He came for her and she swam for him.
What confuses me these days, is how prideful younger mothers are about their parenting. They don't want advice. They don't ask for advice. Its as if they are missing the forest for the tree. Parents who see only what is in front of them and not what is coming down the road. Heaven forbid they would even acknowledge that maybe they don't know what they are doing in a particular situation.
These parents limit the amount of time other adults or even young adults spend with their children because as the parent they know best. I'm not sure how they know best since they haven't actually raised a complete person. They're jealous of the child's time, energy, and love. Children are the great foundations of self esteem. Why share that with anyone else? Never mind the foundation is built on sand and I can say from my own experience and those who have gone ahead of me, women I have listened to and taken notes from, parenting is a crap shoot. You can do everything right or at least what you perceive to be right and still have a child who is rebellious, takes a turn in life that you don't approve of, makes decisions that literally make your head spin and green vomit spew out.
So I make a call to younger parents. Let the village raise your child. Allow your child to love someone that may threaten your self esteem as a parent. It isn't about you. It's about your child. One child can never have too many people love them. Can you have too many people love and care for you? Care about your thoughts and dreams? Care about the things you like to do? Can you have too many people who are really and truly friends, unselfishly giving of themselves? I don't think so and I certainly think in this world and this day and age, children can't afford to lose or give up one single relationship that makes them feel special. Adulthood comes quick enough, with it's politics, blind corners, disingenuous friends and acquaintances. There is enough hurt waiting for every child in their adulthood, enough people waiting to trip them up, break promises, and generally just be assholes, they need all the foundational love they can garner right now.
Dedicated to Leila W. and the pink princess. Never forget how loved you are.