I hate that worn-out quote “It takes a village to raise a child.” Because it’s such crap. It’s so fake. It’s the quintessential abdicating of responsibility by both family and community alike. Sure, in many communities it’s truth: many people banding together to raise children into responsible, ethical citizens of society. But in most of modern America? It’s a lie.
For our family, the village consists of me, my husband, and one friend. One. One person that I know I can call at 3 a.m. in an emergency and trust to watch the kids. One person that I know would do everything in their power to help us out. One. And that one isn’t related to me.
How sad is that? I wouldn’t – couldn’t even trust my own family with my kids. Why? Not because they’re deficient – not because they’re untrustworthy, nope. It’s because they don’t KNOW my kids. They’re never around my kids. They couldn’t tell you what my daughter’s favorite color is, or my son’s favorite music is. They couldn’t tell you how to manage a meltdown because they’ve never dealt with one.
They’re never around because we live too far away. We took the job, they stayed. We left for a different future, they’re still where we grew up. What little amount of village we had is in our past. Gone.
Sure, create a new village you say. When? We’re raising little kids. Special needs kids. High needs kids. In what universe do I have free time to go make and maintain friends, let alone find the kind of friends who would move mountains for us? It’s impossible. It’s exhausting. It’s depressing.
No, modern America has no village. We have caregivers. We have teachers. We have acquaintances. Some of us lucky ones have a few family near. But none of us really have a village.
A village is full of people you trust. People you don’t have to pay to deal with your kids. People who, because it’s the right thing to do, will tell a child to “stop that right now!” before they get hurt. People who won’t call child services on the parents because they let their kids walk to the park alone. People who listen, who advise, who are willing to help out.
And you have to be part of that village – you have to be the listening ear, the helping hand, the support that others need. For parents with kids like mine, that’s just as hard as making friends in the first place. Trying to drag my battered, tired body up to go help someone else is a sacrifice that I have trouble making. But the fact is, I can’t whine about the lack of village if I can’t even participate in one myself. I am the problem and I am the solution.
I’m angry at family tonight. A part of that is spilling over to the nebulous village – this thing that we do not have. I’m angry because I feel abandoned by the village. In reality, I guess we abandoned the village by leaving its boundaries, but it shouldn’t be this hard to build a new one. To put down roots and find others.
I’ve put down roots. I have friends – online. I probably spend more time talking to these people than I do my own family. I know them. Their struggles, their heartaches, their dreams. If I lived near them, I would watch their kids or bring over dinner. I would be there if they needed help. I would celebrate their victories in person instead of posting little cheering emoticons and smily faces. And I hope, they would do the same for me.
But like my family, they’re all far away across the country. My tribe is scattered, divided, distanced.
I wanted better for my kids than I had. Better relationships, a better village. I guess that’s not happening. I see no way to make it happen, even if we moved close to family. Which family? Which state? They’re all in different states, so even moving close to family is an impossible pipe-dream.
So for now, we’re going it alone. We’re forging our own path, meeting other solo voyagers along the way and banding together to form a new tribe, a new family.
Instead of a village, we have a homestead. Instead of a family, we have close friends. This is the new not-village, people. This is our life.