Friday, 4 April 2014

It takes a village to raise a child...where the hell is that village?

These guys are awesome - who wouldn't want to spend time with them?
Everyone wants to imprint on a new child - it's in our nature.  We look for ourselves in family members because we want to feel that connection, we want to feel that genuine family bond.  We all want to have an impact on each other too.

When I had Thomas and Ethan, I saw people I hadn't seen my whole teenage/adult life and received gifts and cards from folk that I barely even knew.  People who didn't even know us, but had known our parents when we were small suddenly wanted to 'come and see the baby'.

Everyone felt entitled to a cuddle.  It made us feel valued, warm and appreciated - like everyone around us was going to be this huge safety net for us and our children, should we need it.

Neighbours used to stop us on the stairs and talk in cooing whispers to our newborns, while the folk who lived across the road handed in some really gorgeous gifts a couple of years back at Christmas time, just because they knew we had a toddler and a baby.

Everyone wants to spend time with the new baby.
Sooo squishy! Why can't they stay that way?
As parents of two small energetic children, and ourselves with very full and busy lives, we spend a lot of time seeking out our 'village' now, but the thing is, in a world where technology rules, money talks and everything is so fast-paced, our village has become bulldozed down and turned into a huge, scary, city.

It takes a whole village to raise a child

As our children have grown and changed from placid babes in arms who like a nice nap every morning, to bouncing chatterboxes who want to dress up and play all day, we are completely on our own - that village has disappeared.

Unless we want to pay for it.

Our society has changed so much in terms of what it offers parents in terms of social interaction for their children.

More than ever we are being pushed into commercialization from all angles.

Money, money, money!
School holidays have become less about trips away with family and more about expensive trips to the theatre, holiday camps, the cinema to see the latest film and keeping up with all the other commercial stuff that every other kid is doing, to keep yours in the loop.

We are constantly trying to widen our children's experiences of this ever-changing world, but the hard truth is that unless you have money, it is becoming more and more difficult to keep up with the new 'family values'.

With technology comes the ability to keep in touch over great distances, and a lot of our friends or family are now just a Skype session or social app away.  But can this really make up for real-time interaction and lessons that can only be learned from a couthy neighbour or an elderly relative?

For my part, I can remember going to an elderly neighbour's house where he taught me how to make 'James Bond Cookies' (secret recipe!) and listened to his tales about his escape from Rhodesia in the middle of the night, walking my friend's elderly neighbour's dog when she took ill and spending loads of time with various aunties and uncles on trips to the beach and spending the night.  Not to mention the hours and hours we spent playing outside and knowing who everyone in our neighbourhood was.
Ah, Neighbours! Those were the days!

Nowadays, people keep their distance, everyone is scared to let their children play outside and especially watches what their neighbours are up to.

The concept of 'grandparent' has changed within our generation too - with the older, more Victorian values dying out with our grandparents, whose parents taught them Victorian ways. We are entering an age now where 'Grandpa and Grandma' don't sit in their chairs and knit while the children play happily in the corner, seen but not heard but a lot are hands-off in a different kind of way, with lives of their own, and often in far-flung retirement villas.  Some are still at work and don't have time or the energy to play with their grandchildren in the way that they'd like, and some aren't in a position to see their grandchildren at all, either due to family separations or bad relations.

How cute are these doll-house sized Victorian Grandparents?
The commercialization in the job markets had led to bigger businesses being flung in far away places, and now aunties and uncles are all over the globe in search of their fortunes, perhaps only meeting with immediate family for weddings and funerals.

And now, in place, in the void that has been created, stand a plethora of expensive child-care options, all promising the same creativity, lessons and values to meet your children's particular age-group and scientifically factored to tender their needs.

Everyone has their excuses at the ready:

'We're so busy'
'We're working so hard'
'There's no time'

But when do we envision that we will make up this missed time?

We are now stuck in this endless cycle of family stepping back to make way for what they think is better for the kids, commercial/scientific money-makers stepping in to fill that void and parents struggling to keep their children in a social loop which has been created and perpetuated by all three things.  We need to step back and find our family values again.

Parenting is tough and we should be supporting each other more.

They grow so quickly!
Spend time with the children in your lives, not money on them.

Expensive gifts don't make up for years missed.

Children know the difference.

Whether or not you are a parent, a friend, an auntie, an uncle, a distant relation; be there for that family.

Let's get back to the village.

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