Childhood

Don’t “mind the gap” but “fill the gap”. It takes a village to raise a child.

kid.jpg

We are all born with certain traits such as green eyes, mocha-colored skin, raspberry red hair and for some like me, an overbite to boot.  Some of these characteristics can be changed or modified using hair dye or colored contact lenses, or even very expensive dental work.

We are also all born with certain talents/gifts/abilities, or whatever you wanna call it.  Sometimes these gifts are obvious to the general masses (i.e. musical talent or sporting ability) and sometimes they aren’t (i.e. generous and kind-spirited or a good problem solver).

I bring this up because parents can be very very hard on themselves, and I know I am one of them.  It is hard for me to admit I’m not a “perfect” parent and that I can’t be the “one perfect person” in my child’s life.  The funny thing is we can’t be that perfect person for anyone really, not a parent, spouse, teacher or partner.

No individual will ever able to fulfill all the needs of another person. It’s impossible; even though media of all types tell us that there ARE perfect parents out there we just aren’t one of them.

Ok, now let me get to my point.  Here it is. If you have something, anything to offer ANY child in the world, please offer it…fill that gap don’t be shy.


My Younger Village-

My mother used to tell everyone she met that I was raised by the village and I would have to agree. Some village members I sought out and others found me.

For example, we didn’t have a lot of sweets growing up and I am not a “sweet-toothed” person in general.  Nevertheless, every once in awhile I get a hankering for something sweet. I guess the need to fulfill that desire is strong because…

When I was 3 years old my mother caught me going door-to-door in our neighborhood asking people “Do you have any candy?” Our neighbors would happily fill me up with sugar and then send me back home.

You don’t think that’s a good example of a village raising a child?,    Before you think my parents were negligent, I assure you they weren’t. They knew the people I was going to see so it was all good in the hood, as they say.

Here’s another example: My mom used to drop me off at a church friend’s house when she needed a break from me or had to run some errands.  This family had 6 children and the mom who ran the house didn’t play….you know what I’m saying? Not a criticism at all…

If you have 6 children in your house someone needs to “alpha up” and this mom did it well.

When I was at her house running wild and having fun with her kids, I often found myself sitting in the “time out” chair.

Recently, I was reminiscing with my friend from this family and she said she thinks I sat in the time out chair more than any of her siblings.  We had a good chuckle about that…guess I needed some serious fencing at times when I was younger.  

I still have the internal desire to run wild but have learned, over time and through trial and error, how to rein in my impulsivity and excitability.

God, I sound like I am describing a dog. Well, I guess if you think about smaller type breeds, you know the type that when you let them off the leash they go absolutely bananas? That was me a lot of the time…especially in crowds because I’m a natural extrovert and feed off the crowd’s energy.  

Quick side note:  Recent research states that time-outs don’t actually work like people think they work.  This is a debate for another post.  What I will say is this:

no matter who you are at some point or another your child will have pushed every single last one of your buttons and will then come in for the kill, and in that moment you realize you’re about to lose your shit.

Instead of unleashing it on your child, you put them in a time-out instead (i.e. a chair, couch, room, whatever, you just get them out of your line of vision).  

Those types of time-outs I’m totally down with because it’s  

  1. halting the racing mental train your child was riding, and

  2. prevents you from regretting a behavior.  

Many people had a hand in raising me, from the strange man at the grocery store who held me so I would calm down, to my 6th grade teacher who took me aside and told me

“You’ve got to learn how to control yourself and behave. When you get out of control I can’t control the class. Realize you’re a natural born leader and act like one.”

Or something along those lines. To everyone: thanks.


My Current Village-

I do believe there are angels among us and my neighbor Robin just happens to be one of them.  My co-parent and I literally walked into our house with our freshly-squeezed brand new baby boy when we heard a knock at the door.  I knew it wasn’t my family because we had asked them to give us 2 weeks alone with the baby before “showing him off” to anyone. Friends and family ended up coming before that 2 week marker, but Robin was the first.  


She just “had to see the new baby” and from that moment on she became my go-to-gal to help fill the role family or close friends often do when they live nearby (i.e. babysit, let out the dogs, babysit, watch the house when you’re away, babysit, let the repairman into the house, babysit, become a much needed emotional venting person, babysit…you get the drift.)

My family is close enough for visits (a 2 hour drive) but not close enough to help with those day-to-day things like popping over for 15-30 minutes so you can go grab the oldest from preschool without having to wake the youngest from a nap.. Robin fills a very huge gap in our family unit and she most definitely deserves this shout out for helping me with my village. I wish every family had a Robin.  


My “Paying it Forward” Village

I have made an effort my entire life to put good energy and deeds into the world and it always comes back to me and then some.  Even though I am a parent and have young children I still believe I have to keep “paying into the bank” so I don’t incur a negative balance on my positive karma spreadsheet.  

When my son was a little over 3 years old he attended a preschool for a few months.  During this time I volunteered at the school because….wait for it….. I believe in paying it forward.  I had the time and talent to do several things; I ran a music group and the gardening program for the school.  

When I would arrive at the school some of the kids would come up to me for cuddles, or to show me something or tell me something they did…and 99% of the time I gave these children my “priority attention” over my son who was also in the class and also wanted to say hello to me.

After school one day on the drive home my son asked me “Momma b.  Why don’t you pay attention to me at school like you do the other kids?”  (or something along those lines). I told him “Darling, I love you to infinity and beyond (yes, I actually say that and no he has NEVER seen Toy Story…he has always loved numbers and will say to me he loves me as much as “1000” and I say I love him to “2001” etc.  Then one day I was over the game and taught him the word infinity so I could “win.” He then askes me what was beyond infinity….hence the comment and hence the feeling that I needed to explain.)

Moving right along. I said to him that I loved him very much and that I was talking to his classmates because they don’t get to see me very often.  

I reminded him that he gets to see me all but the 3 hours he is in preschool. I also reminded him of the happy feeling he gets inside when I get “excited” listening to his stories.

(By excited I mean animated and engaged with intense and playful eye contact with the child talking to me…most adults/parents don’t do this. Totally fine…don’t feel pressure to act silly.  I just know that acting a little silly often makes someone else feel really good inside, or so I’ve been told/seen).

I further explained that other children don’t get to see their parents as often as he does. We discussed single parent homes and dual income homes (both parents work) and compared the hours those children were able to see their parent(s) vs. the time he got with both of his parents.  

When I focus my attention on classmates it’s because I can sense in that moment that child might be needing some extra love, so I gladly and willingly give it.


I have no clue the child’s background with regard to time spent with their parent, I just know my kids get enough and they can share a little of my love and attention when they’re around other children who may need some.

He got it and he actually stopped coming up to see me as often because he was “leaving space” for those who may need it.  Kids get it.


The Wrap-up

Society in general is built on the idea that we work together for a greater good.  So let’s do it. Start filling small (sometimes big) gaps in the lives of the children you are around and who you  know might benefit from what you have to offer.

Invest in the future of the people who will make decisions that will impact your life when you’re old.

Obviously be respectful of the relationship between the child and their parent(s).  Ask the parent if there is anything you can do to help out. You can even point out something you think you could offer their child that they may not know about (a  secret hidden talent or skill like magic tricks, or a passion for art history).

Even if you have children, see if there is anyway you can help fill any gaps for other children in your life.  It most definitely took a village to raise me and I’m grateful to those in my life who did.

Society won’t survive by producing carbon-copy kids. We need to nurture the shy artist, help channel the energetic athlete’s focus, encourage the soft-spoken to speak louder and above all make sure to share your love.

Love grows when you share it…and every single person in the world has something to offer someone else if we are just open to giving and receiving.
“THE CHILD WHO IS NOT EMBRACED BY THE VILLAGE WILL BURN IT DOWN TO FEEL ITS WARMTH”
— African Proverb