your village

I think it’s safe to assume we have all heard the phrase “it takes a village to raise a child.” Even if you haven’t, the meaning is fairly clear: we’re all in this together.

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Oh, lovely friend who came directly to the hospital from her job hours after Ev’s birth and told me I was beautiful even though I felt entirely exhausted and puffy? VILLAGE.

When I hear someone reference their “village,” my mind first travels to the people who helped raise me —

my mom, who stayed up sewing costumes for plays and Halloweens,
my dad, who instilled in me a lifelong love of all things Disney
the aunts who taught me how to fish and how to play piano
the teachers who taught me how to sing and how to think
members of my first church, who introduced me to God

And then I think about those who have helped and continue to help my husband and I raise our boys —

my in-laws, for rushing over to watch our kids even when they are puking
my siblings, by blood or by marriage, for loving John and Ev so much
my friends, who, at different times, have brought us food and prayed over us
my friends, who I could answer honestly when asked how I was doing after a miscarriage
my friends, who tell me stories about their crazy kids so I don’t feel so alone

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Oh, lovely friend who accompanied me to the Riverbank Run Expo while her lovely husband stayed home with her kids AND mine? VILLAGE.

My village is huge. If you are reading this, there’s a pretty good chance you have been or currently are at the very least a temporary resident. See, I’m an observer. I’ve learned parenting tricks from people I’ve never spoken to. Additionally, I have some very important people living in my village who I am not regularly in contact with, and who may be unaware of their valuable influence on my family’s life.

One of these individuals is a woman named Teresa. Jay and I met her soon after we got married and moved out of state. We went back and visited once since moving away, and she was able to meet John (Ev was a tiny blueberry squirming around in my uterus at the time), but otherwise she doesn’t really know my kids (at least, not in a “real life”-way). We moved away from her when I was pregnant with John. She belonged to the same church as Jay and I, and we were gifted with many lovely things on our last Sunday (related: this is how you make a pregnant woman ugly-cry). She gave us two board books, Jamberry and Barnyard Dance, along with a note that said these were two of her daughters’ favorites when they were young. I thought of her every time I read those books to John. I think of her every time I read those books to Ev. I’m lucky that my boys love books — but they really love these books. We love to pretend to eat the cascading blueberries in Jamberry and “promenade two by two” in Barnyard Dance. (And of course, Barnyard Dance was our introduction to all things Sandra Boynton, and she is simply the best.)

I follow Teresa and her daughters (now successful, strong women; kids when I knew them prior) on facebook, and I take special note of her support for her children. I know that she is a strong, successful woman herself, and it makes me believe that strong women make strong kids (who, it turns out, grow up to be strong adults). She has interests and passions outside of parenting (and of course, within parenting as well) that makes me realize the importance of having “non-mom” interests in my life. Her impact is strong, even across so much distance.

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Every single person who cares about these boys (shown here in an old but good photo) and their parents, whether or not they are parents themselves? VILLAGE. VILLAGE. VILLAGE.

So. This brings me to — who is your Teresa? Which member (or members) of your village play an important role but might not know it? Please — I implore you — let them know! Share this post on facebook and tag them. Send them a note and tell them how much they are appreciated. Get to know the members of your village, and you may learn you belong to more than one.

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