if you’re a parent, you’ve heard the phrase (often to the point of inanity) “it takes a village to raise a child”. Coming from a huge family (Mexican-Irish-Catholic, I have a lot of relatives) this concept was not lost on me when I had my son. Family dinners and carpools, shared discipline and food. My parents were never alone in the ups and downs of parenting, and I have many fond memories of late nights listening to them talk with their friends and siblings, playing hearts and drinking wine.
I live fairly far from my extended, often fractious family. My parents divorced shortly before I did and shortly after my last remaining grandparents passed away. My extended family had a lot of heartbreak in very short amount of time and never quite recovered from that hard year. Our gatherings now are fewer but no less lavish in love. I am grateful that I am so close with my multitudinous cousins, close enough with a few that we see each other much more regularly than holidays (my cousin has a son a year younger than my oldest). I am even more grateful that my sister and I weathered the storms of divorce and death and remain incredibly tight. She lives in San Francisco and I miss her terribly but we talk almost every day on the phone and she adores her nephews and brother in law.
Because of this distance, emotional and geographical, we have had to build our own village to help us manage the ups and downs of parenting our children. It is a marvelous village, made up of dear friends from college (and in one case much MUCH earlier!), other young families we met at church and loved instantly, college students we mentor and a few wise women and men who’s babies are long grown with babies of their own. Many of these villagers share our faith, a comfort to me, a new Christian and the only member of my blood family to wear that title, many of them have similar stories to ours, a surprise pregnancy followed by a lovely marriage, but many of them have lives very different from ours, and we are so grateful for the broad variety of wonderful people we have in our children’s lives.
I know, to gushy. To touchy feely. I made myself faintly ill just then.
One of these people was unexpected. That’s her in the picture up there. She’s 20, and loves my kids. Has more patience than I have at almost 30, is curious about everything and incredibly smart. Babysits for free! Wears awesome hippie clothes and has tattoos, loves Jesus and is a vegetarian. She was the first person I met who couldn’t eat gluten. I’ve known her since she was 18 and from the first day we met we have been fast friends despite our almost 10 year age difference. She comes over often just to sit on my couch and fold my laundry with me and chat, or comes over on baking day despite not being able to eat what I’m making…
and she is leaving on Friday for Australia. For 4 months she is going to live across the world from us. I am excited for her and sad to see her go.
Our village is getting a little smaller…but a whole lot better traveled.