Sunday, August 29, 2010

It takes a village

I read a study recently which examined a shift in the way children are raised in the US. The old idea that "it takes a village to raise a child" is giving way to isolated mansions, suburban sprawl, and ideas that we shouldn't ask each other for help when we need it.

My parents, and maybe yours too, talk about playing in their neighborhood until the literal dinner bell or dinner whistle called them home to eat. For most of us the idea that we could just let our kids run around outside casually supervised by a mom or pair of moms enjoying a gin and tonic or hot cup of tea makes our blood run cold with fear.

Outside is not baby-proof. It's not safely contained or controlled. It's scary for us moms to throw safety and control by the wayside even if our kids could benefit from learning independence, exploring their imagination, and even exploring social rules without their parents hovering reminders to share, use your words and be nice to your friends. I embrace control as a mother; parenthood is a scary thing and my attempts to maintain control makes life little less overwhelming. But it's best for me and my kids that I let go of that from time to time.

I live in this unique little gem of a neighborhood. It's like a big family, there is a lot of love and respect among the neighbors but we bicker like brothers and sisters sometimes in that happy dysfunctional sort of way. Our little townhouse community is like a throwback to the 1950's and 1960's. Moms sit on our front stoops watching the kids play, occasionally shouting a reminder to stay away from the street. We let the kids run and play until dinner time when, because many of them are toddlers, we have to carry them kicking and screaming home.

Our children aren't afraid to say how they feel. They love nights like this. They love playing with their friends until the dinner bell rings and even then they don't want to stop. If we're being honest, sometimes, neither do we. We'd love to stay on the lawn chatting with each other until way past our bedtime. Bonding, commiserating and supporting each other.

The kids love running around barefoot past their bedtime because it's a special end-of-summer party. We love it too; it's a rare thing to find a true community among the suburban sprawl. It's special. Even though we're planning to move these people will always be my neighbors.


emk said...

You guys have been very lucky to have so many similarly-aged peeps in the 'hood!

Kate said...

My older sister's street is the same way and I'm hoping to find something similar at the new house. The playground is basically in our front yard so I figure that should help :)

Mrs. 2nd Lieutenant said...

Except for the mosquitoes, i totally agree - nothing like running around late on a warm summer evening :)