“It takes a village to raise a child.”
When I started this journey growing people other people would want to be around, I trusted the Africans to know what the heck they were talking about. After all, from what I observed in National Geographic, Africans had kids. Lots and lots of kids. They lived in villages. None of the kids looked like they were sociopaths. In fact, they all looked pretty well adjusted, even without a lot of clothing on. That whole “village” thing seemed to be working pretty well.
It’s how I was raised. In a village. Not in Africa, but in a place far more exotic – Minnesota. Surrounded by relatives, and neighbors, teachers, and clergy- all there ready to help me to grow and learn. They watched. They listened. They got in my business. They checked up on me. They tattled on me when I was somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. And in doing all of these things, they parented me as much, or more, than my own parents did. I hated it. But I grew up. And now, I understand the purpose of a village like that…the necessity. My parents could trust that this village always had my best interests at heart, even when I couldn’t see it. I get it now. I SO get it now.
It’s comforting, this idea that you are not alone on the Sahara raising kids. And when mine were small, I was blessed with a community of women raising other small humans. These women made my job easier and more interesting than it might otherwise have been during the decade of purple dinosaurs and blue boxes of mac and cheese. Rarely a week passed without a play date or trip to the park. As our babies grew into toddlers, we grew as friends. Our children were a joint effort. We took turns relieving each other and played referee over the last Teddy Graham. We were equal opportunity “time-out” enforcers. We were custodians in charge of the wiping of the toddler trifecta of noses, hands, and butts. Sometimes we argued about things…disagreed….got hurt feelings. But, ultimately, came back to the sandbox in the village we’d created out of necessity. We remained friends even during the times when we didn’t, or couldn’t, or wouldn’t, agree on the “right” ways to parent these soft, sticky people we all loved. And because of this, I always knew that when it came to the “Big Stuff” we were mostly in sync. I trusted that they had my kids’ best interests at heart and I loved them for it. I miss those women, those days.
And then I had teenagers. In a new decade, a new world. And I missed them even more.
If you are acquainted with one of these young creatures, you are nodding your head and sighing about now. Maybe twitching. Welcome to the Freak Show Carnival of 2011.
Lately, I’ve been creating a fantasy world. First, I would unplug my Dear Ones from the technocultural umbilicus that tethers them to this new, strange, awful Village of Fools. Then, I would dig a deep moat, toss in the TV, video games, computers, and cell phones. House arrest would be implemented for at least five years. My fancy new moat would be stocked with alligators. Bi-polar alligators. Would doing so protect them from this new, weird Village of Fools we inhabit?
Let’s see, now… Who would I toss in first?
The villager who decided that “sext-ing” was a really good idea.
(If you don’t know what sext-ing is, ask a teenager. They know.)
The teen villager who posts photos online and “tags” others, but has no privacy settings on her own Facebook account.
(Umm…Facebook is forever. Like herpes. I don’t even want to think about whose hard drives my daughter’s pictures are saved on, do you?)
The villager who creates slime that denigrates our young women and passes it off as music.
(I know, I know….it’s “art” and “self-expression” and the Constitution protects his right to create slime. I’m not supposed to dictate that. Whatever.)
The villager who makes being homophobic, racist, and sexist sound “cool” to teen boys.
(Comedy Central Execs…grow up. We’ve had to. You’re embarrassing the rest of us.)
The villager who makes it virtually impossible, in any city in the U.S., to find a dress for a pre-teen daughter’s first formal dance that doesn’t make her look like she’s a 26 years old pole dancer named Bebe.
(OMG. Why didn’t I pay more attention in Home Ec? If you can sew, call me. We’ll talk.)
The villager whose job it is to market to 11 year old girls in stores like Victoria’s Secret by giving away free stuffed toy puppies with the purchase of three thongs. Thongs? Really?
(This truly is a paradox since I’m pretty sure that the only butts thongs actually look good on are eleven year old ones. But you get my drift.)
The villager who created Beer Pong and Jag-Bombs and Red Bull.
(If you are so out of it that you don’t know about these two new “party activities” ask a college student. Beer Pong is just dumb. Jag-Bombs kill.)
The villager who decided that “friends with benefits” was a viable, acceptable option for college students who want to have sex but not a lasting, meaningful relationship.
(Have a stiff drink before you ask your kid about this one. But not a Jag-Bomb.)
The villager who told the first teenager in the village that “oral sex” wasn’t really sex.
(I know, I know…..you’re going to need another glass of wine. Sorry.)
The villager who, for whatever reason, decided that her job was done while she still has a teenage son at home.
(This villager can cause the mothers and fathers of daughters a whole lot of grief. Watch out for her. If you meet her, tell her there’s a really nice moat up the road that she may want to visit. I’ll handle it from there.)
The villager who created the show “Jersey Shore”
(My grandmother always said, “garbage in—-garbage out.” I think she meant Twinkies, not Snookies, but it still applies.)
The villager who sells black eyeliner and/or “booty shorts” to teenage girls.
(Okay…can we just all agree that black eyeliner drawn around eyes doesn’t look good on anyone who isn’t singing in Green Day? We have thousands of fourteen year old girls walking through shopping malls in this society resembling packs of demented meerkats with rotten attitudes.)
The villager who says, “I TRUST my son/daughter to tell me the truth. I don’t need to check up on him/her.“
(You shouldn’t. Their underdeveloped brains, not some moral deficiency, is why.
And yes, you do. Need to check. Early, and often.)
The villager who says, “I need some ME time. When is it gonna be about ME?” who is still raising children.
(It’s gonna be about you, my dear, when your house is finally empty, and quiet, and clean. Until then, there’s no such thing. You’re on duty. 24/7. Quit acting like you aren’t. And quit whining.)
My thought for the day?
Before you let the villagers help you to raise your teens, it’s probably a good idea to check to see which ones are the idiots.
(Meerkat Manor – Google Images)