Friday, May 3, 2013

It Takes A Village

It was an African proverb before Hillary Clinton popularized the phrase with her 1996 best seller of the same name.  The premise is simple; while parents play a vital role in raising their children, so does their entire community.  From siblings and grandparents to friends and neighbors everyone within a community must share in the responsibility of raising the next generation.  Take a historical look at cultures around the globe and you will see that this is true and has been for some time.  In earlier days clans and extended families stuck together if for no other reason that sheer survival in both the social and physical senses.  Sometimes this might mean multiple generations living in the same town, on the same street or in the same neighborhood, or even sharing a house.  Other times it may refer to an entire neighborhood looking out for one another, adults volunteering to coach sports teams and taking part in the car pool, or simply taking the lead in supervising kids playing in the neighborhood. Or more likely, it is a combination of all of these and much much more.  During long ship deployments fellow Navy families united to become one big family to offer support to one another during times of need.  While our blood families may not be close enough to provide assistance, a member of the Navy families was always steps away ready to jump in when called upon.  This is not just a relic of the past nor is it country specific; today I look around my own street here in Tirana and see multiple generations sharing houses and contributing to the raising of the next generation.  Regardless of whom the parent is, all of the adults on the street share in the responsibility of supervising and if need be, reprimanding the children.  Older children look out for the younger ones and younger ones in turn look out for the even smaller ones.  And this is not unique to our neighborhood.  Many of our Albanian friends and co-workers either live with their in-laws in the same house or at a minimum in the same apartment building.  Sure this arrangement provides for built in babysitting but it offers so much more.  From family history, cultural traditions, and the wisdom that only comes with age and experience, a village raising a child is more powerful and beneficial (and easier) that going it alone.

As nuclear families have become more geographically diverse, non-traditional "villages" have become even more important.  As Sidney gets older and we find ourselves living thousands of miles away from our own families and close friends, I am becoming increasingly aware of this.  Sure we can Skype on a regular basis with our families back in the United States and while that is an important part of the support system that is our village, we have had to forge an adopted one for ourselves here in Albania.  Just as we did in Washington D.C. and in Virginia before that, our neighbors and co-workers here have become our friends and these friends have become like family to us.  They are the ones we turn to when we need support and in turn we offer the same.  It is becoming increasingly apparent that in this day and age we just can't go it alone.  While Glenn and I play a key (and the lead) role in Sidney's development, it is our entire adopted village that is helping to raise and shape him into the boy he is.  From our dear nanny and her own grandchildren who play with Sidney to the neighborhood children who taught Sidney to play football (European style that is) and cheer him on as he learns to peddle his bicycle they are all a part of our adopted village.  Our co-workers who provide us with the day-to-day support we need and our friends who serve as our power of attorney should anything go wrong are all a part of our village.  More than ever it truly does take a village to raise a child and we are very grateful for the one we have here.

1 comment:

  1. I agree 100%. It does take a village. Not just family but the family you create with the friends, neighbors, and other people that you let into your life and your family's life.