I’ve been thinking about all the help we’re going to need when these kids land, and how bad I am at asking for help. What an opportunity this will be!
I don’t usually complain about my childhood; I have very fond memories of growing up. There are just a few things I’d change: wish I found yoga sooner, ’cause I was so traumatized by sports I was an inactive, interior kid. Also wish I’d trusted my emotional side more. But looking back, it was also completely crazy how isolated our “nuclear families” were. I suspect, and I hope, that it will turn out to be a relatively brief trend in human history, and that we’re seeing the pendulum swing to a broader, more tribal approach to family again.
Both Jay and I have helped raise good friends’ kids, and have loved it. Being an honorary uncle has been a highlight of my life so far. But will I be able to accept the same help?
I take my godson once a week, and his parents’ friends say they’re jealous that they don’t get a date night. Meanwhile many childless people I know are chomping to be involved with kids, they say. Why don’t these people find each other? Should we start a matching website for wanna-be-aunts and uncles looking to meet needing-a-break parents? Or is there something in our culture that makes these transactions harder than we understand?
After all, our culture is so against “strangers” getting involved. I remember a time I helped up a kid who fell over right in front of me, and the not-happy look I got from his mother. We’re not allowed to touch each others’ kids, talk to them, correct them. We live in these little silos, in our urban culture.
And to be fair, how many times have I recoiled, witnessing someone parenting in a way I judged to be wrong, or poor parenting? In such a diverse society, I’m not sure there are clear norms and assumptions we can all share, about how to treat kids, how to teach them, how to discipline them.
Transitioning to more of a “village” model would be quite a leap.
I sure hope we find a way to have a broad section of people in our kids’ lives, to give them the gift of other adults’ perspectives. My fondest memories are of those times we got together with other families, at Thanksgiving, or a trip to the zoo. I treasure a very young memory of my dad playing the guitar and a bunch of us singing Peter Paul and Mary songs. I must have been 3, ’cause we left that town, and dad gave up the guitar. I’m sure he had his reasons–you can’t completely fight the times you live in. (And did I mention I loved my childhood? Really loved it, thank you thank you thank you dad, and mom wherever you are!)
But I hope our kids won’t be an excuse to cocoon away, or not only. In addition to burrowing into the heart of our new family, may our kids also be an opening out to the broader world, for all its challenge and difference.
I’d love to be part of that. “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” anyone?