Wednesday, January 26, 2011

It Takes a Village

This is a concept I've been mulling over in my head for some time. What does it mean "it takes a village" and how does that apply to my life, in my family?

I started thinking about it after a class (graduate level social work child assessment and treatment) when we were talking about risk and protective factors (i.e. a protective factor for a child would be living in a high socioeconomic status family, or having other supportive adults in his/her life). Surprisingly (to me at least), the professor said that living in a family where there are 4 or more children is actually a risk factor. Now, this was surprising for several reasons (uh, 15 years of being a social worker, or being in school to be one and I've never heard this before) but mostly because when I think of the large families I know, they aren't ones that I've served as a social worker. In fact, they're often the most well functioning families I know (related tangent - have you seen the Duggars??!! O.M.G. One day I will be as patient and well organized of a mother as that woman. Or not. I will continue to dream about it at least). I mentioned this to the group I was talking with and one of them said that it was because the older children are "parentified", which is not a good thing to be in social work world and basically means that a child is acting as the parent, taking on adult roles.

As I thought more about that, though, I disagreed. Yes, older children in large families often take on caregiving roles of the younger children, but this doesn't make them parentified. When I think back to how families functioned 70-100+ years ago, that's just how things worked. Once children were weaned, they were sent out to run around with their siblings. Have you ever noticed how mesmerized children are with other children? Rarely are other children so interested in adults as they are other kids. This is just how it's supposed to work. Instead, as parents today, we seem to feel like it's our responsibility to entertain and "educate" our kids every waking moment. But what kids today often miss out on is their own little tribe of peers. Where are the village kids? I want my kids, who will not be growing up in a large family - because, lets be honest, adoption is super expensive - to have their own tribe of kids of varying ages to learn from, model behavior, and be able to count on.

And then I started thinking about open adoption and how it really falls into the whole "it takes a village" mentality. While, of course, birth families are not in the parental role, they are certainly part of my kids' village. They're other people who provide support, information, education (about who they are!), and love to my sons. They're other people who I know will look out for my boys as they grow into men.

And then (I know, how can there possibly be more??!), I thought about baby E's new milk mommies and how they are also part of our village. They have provided love in liquid form, giving him one of the most basic of needs, the best nourishment possible. Also, when I think about how breastmilk provides antibodies, can you imagine the amazing plethora of antibodies he's getting to all kinds of illnesses from all the different women. He's gonna be like the healthiest baby ever! :)

The role of the village is to provide kids with holistic care. Parents can not be everything to every child. In fact, no one of us can ever be everything to any one other person. The village is there to fill out those needs and roles. So, today, there are two more special people in baby E's village. Our village runneth over, y'all.

Today's lesson - According to the kid he is "always right. No, Superman, you are right most of the time, except when I'm right, which is, like, all the time. Just accept my words as right". Yeah, I think this may be problematic as he gets older. I'm pretty sure we're really going to need a whole village to raise this one.

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