It takes a village!

I’m looking out for this kid.

And this one too.

And these…

village

Aren’t they fabulous? I mean really wonderful, with their smiles and their exuberance and their crankiness and even their adolescence?

I don’t have a legal or blood connection to any of them (except for my two boys obviously…) but I’m a part of their community. What does this mean to me? It means that I’m going to do my best to listen to them and love them and look out for their safety when their parents aren’t around.

My friends Gail and Joan and I have started saying “It takes a village” anytime one of us helps the other with her kids. When we say this, we’re basically acknowledging that we need each other. And that our children benefit from our relationship. I remember how my fear turned to relief on Dylan’s first day of Kindergarten when Joan located him in the cafeteria and called me to say she had him with her. No one on the bus or at the school–not even the Principal–had been able to find him. And no one seemed very concerned. (I was trying hard to look collected but panic was mounting inside.) Joan asked how I was and looked as worried about finding Dylan as me. Best yet, she went straight out and found him when I was kind of immobilized by it all.

It takes a village. Hillary Clinton’s book of the same title aside, the spirit of this proverb reads loud and clear: No matter how self-sufficient we think we need to be, guarding our separateness…our children suffer when they can only turn to a very few people for what they need.

I have great (and colorful…more on that later!!!) childhood memories of the other grownups my parents brought into our lives. People like “Thomas B.” and Kate Kinloch and Debbie and Ernie Jones, Rose and Pat cared for us, applauded our successes, and listened to us when our parents weren’t available or we just needed someone different to talk to. Still interested in our lives today, these people were our family when our blood relatives lived too far away to be very involved.

During the last ten years, one of the positives that has come out of the illnesses Jeremy and I have faced has been that our children have developed strong, loving relationships with other adults and families. There were many times when one or both of us were unavailable, and people like Colleen, neighbors, church friends and class mates’ parents have stepped in. Though I would never choose to be unavailable for my kids, I am profoundly grateful that Jesse and Dylan have the emotional resiliency to trust and seek help from others.

Wouldn’t we all like to live in a world where people care about others and do what is needed to help each other? Whether it’s venting about daily frustrations or sharing the life-altering experiences we’ll all face at some point in our lives, it seems to me that we have to be deliberate in order to make this a reality for ourselves and for the children we love.

How can we do this? Perhaps more open doors, more reaching out when we think someone needs help, more saying yes to offers of small kindnesses, more sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe that our children will thank us one day.

This post is dedicated with love to Gail, Joan and the Park Avenue Playdate families.

12 Responses to It takes a village!

  1. Jen January 25, 2010 at 8:58 pm #

    love this Rachel!

  2. Anna January 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm #

    Absolutely – lovely!

  3. Gail January 26, 2010 at 6:36 am #

    I cannot tell you how much your blog meant to me. I truly feel blessed to have you as a friend, and that you and your family are part of my and Jack’s village.

    Love,
    Gail

  4. Joan January 26, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    Rachel, that brought me to tears.

    I live here without any family around, and as the daughter of a good friend once said, “you are my chosen family.” In an age when many of us live away from family, we need to choose a new (or at least additional) one. I am so grateful to be a part of a community of such caring friends. The other night, Gail apologized for disciplining Noah in front of me – but the truth is, I am so glad she feels so responsible for the well being of my children that she feels that comfortable to do that!

    I had no idea how much my small contributions on the first day of school meant to you. But it is a wonderful reminder to me of the impact we have on each others’ lives.

    Thank you for this beautiful post and the reminder about how fortunate we all are to have each other! I agree with Gail – I too feel truly blessed. And I do hope that our children do thank us one day!

    xoxo
    joan

  5. Laura January 26, 2010 at 11:55 am #

    So true! We feel so blessed to have become part of this wonderful village!

  6. Bri January 26, 2010 at 12:15 pm #

    Yes. Yes. Yes. It does take a village. I’m finally getting that. Surrendering to it. Thank you for sharing.

    Bri

  7. Sheila January 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm #

    Beautiful and oh, so true! Thanks!

  8. Ernie/Debbie January 26, 2010 at 7:36 pm #

    Rachel our time with you was rewarding for us also. For a while, we had no children of our own but we always wanted them to be raised and act like you, Amy, Sky and Matt.
    Our trip to Oklahoma in the early 80’s with you and your family was one of the best vacations we have ever experienced. We tell all our friends about that trip and how blessed we were to be part of the Hedrick and Brown family times. Even to this day we feel we are still a part of your family connection although it’s now primarily via cyber space. PTL for computers.

    • Rachel Greenhouse January 27, 2010 at 10:33 am #

      PTL for computers. That’s so true! ( :
      By the way, was that the vacation when Thomas B. gained 20 lbs. in 10 days?
      Love you lots, Rachel

  9. Shannon January 26, 2010 at 10:18 pm #

    I am blessed to have met you Rachel through The Michelle Project. You are always so warm and funny. This blog really touched me. My boys are still young, but you have inspired me to adopt another family or bring good Adults into my children’s lives. Thank You.

  10. Jen Cleveland January 26, 2010 at 11:12 pm #

    Wow Rachel! You are a truly special person with specials gifts.
    I feel so luck to know you and have you in my life.

  11. Heather January 27, 2010 at 9:10 am #

    Just got to this lovely writing. Eyes welling up — seeing those faces. Love our neighborhood — love you guys!

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