There is an old African proverb that has become a bit of a cliché in the 21st century. This idea that it takes a village to raise a child in the modern era, is still very much true, albeit with fancier gimmicks and without the fear that a tiger might eat your kid if you or a neighbour aren’t watching.
When my husband and I were planning our wedding two years ago, we found out we were expecting. Although not something every bride who has already selected a wedding dress wants to hear, we were lulled into a sense of security by the proud faces of our families and friends. What better way to finish raising myself than raising this tiny person with the help of a now global village, where the answers are a Google-click away.
Fast forward nine months and we now had a gorgeous doe-eyed baby girl we named Isla. In those first few months, it became apparent to me that the village that is supposed to help you raise your child is a modern day conundrum of things you can do, should do, and definitely shouldn’t do, and all of those cans and cannots are different depending on who you talk to. Instead of the supportive community of women and men I thought I would meet upon the arrival of parenthood, my husband and I were standing starkly alone.
I recently read a post on Facebook from a parent that posed a parenting situation, that in 80s would have been common, but today is considered childhood endangerment. Cue social experiment now.
“If you came across kids playing in the park without parental supervision, would you ignore the situation or would you call the police?”
There were a lot of opinions on both sides, but what shocked me was the lack of social responsibility to be supportive of multiple parenting approaches. If you were to call the police, where no real danger is present, you’re buying into the idea that nowhere is safe for children without the watchful eyes of parents. If you were to walk away, you surrender your responsibility as a fellow villager for the concern you have for those kids. I was shocked there was no middle ground. I was reminded, however, by one comment in particular that the right thing to do also violates social standards today. The commenter suggested you approach the kids, ask them if they’re alright and if a parent knows they’re playing alone, then stay nearby until you’re sure they’re fine. Of course, this then lends to the stranger-danger aspect of parenting – will anyone else see a good Samaritan, or simply an awkward stranger stalking kids in the park?
We really have lost this element of empathy to the village. Without stopping to consider if there might be a parent watching from a distance; or the child has a cell phone in their pocket to call if trouble arose. We’ve lost this ability to trust the judgement of a parent.
Fast forward a few days later, and I see another “global village” post, but this time, it makes me smile. A busy mother completing her masters doesn’t have a babysitter during class hours and takes her baby to school. The infant screams and cries in the lecture and an embarrassed mother tries to take her baby out of class so not to disrupt the other students. Her professor, a man with three children and five grandchildren, seeing an opportunity to help out a young mother trying to better herself, stops her on her way out, scoops up the infant and lectures on, all while soothing her young son.
That, my friends, is the global village. Let’s bring it back.