They say it takes a village to raise a child. And it’s so true.
First, there’s your own parenting insight, which is influenced greatly by your own upbringing. Then, you have friends and other family members with their own opinions and advice. Whether your child is in daycare of public school, teachers and other professionals have an impact on raising your child also. So do your child’s friends, and the lessons the parents of those friends have taught their children. It’s amazing how many outside sources actually play a role in raising your child.
I am from a generation where you played outside, without fear or restraint. Neighbors on both sides of your house were friends. They were people you would do anything for. They collected your mail while you were away, they offered to shovel your walkway, and lend you their shower when your power was out. I think the neighborhood in which you live is an important part of childhood.
I remember my childhood neighborhood clearly.
To the left of our house was a family with two small children. The boy used to call me “Rapel” because he couldn’t pronounce my first name. To this day, people mix up my name (April) with Rachel. I’m not sure why, but each time it happens, I remember the small boy who lived next door. When they moved, another couple moved in. The wife was pregnant with a baby boy. After she gave birth to him, I was over her house constantly. She was so sweet and accommodating. She allowed me to visit the baby, feed him, and play with him as he grew older. Shortly after she gave birth to a little girl. Now, nearly 20 years later, my parents still live in that home and both children are grown, working, and in college. But I still have fond memories of afternoons spent on her front grass playing with them as infants.
The neighbors behind us were also extremely nice and social. They also had two small children, but the girl was older. She went to private school and needed a math tutor. Her mother paid me $10 to sit with her daughter and make sure her homework was done correctly. It was my first experience with earning money. It felt good and set me on the path to early childhood education.
And my two best friends lived several houses down the road. We used to ride bikes, have sleepovers, and take long walks around the church property across the street from my house. We were at an age where TeenBeat magazine was our bible, Singled Out was on MTV, and we crushed hard on the young boys that drove their cars up and down our street. Life was simple and safe. When my one friend had moved to a town about 30 minutes away, it was my brother and father who helped them pack and move boxes. We had them over for dinner when they had no dining room table and helped them move into their new home. I remember unpacking plates and utensils in the kitchen before any furniture had arrived. We ate pizza and drank grape soda on the back porch.
Those are memories that will stay with me always. And those are lessons my parents instilled in me. I remember, on more than one occasion, my mother saying, “That’s what neighbors and friends do. We take care of one another.”
I instill these same lessons in my son. Unfortunately, our neighborhood doesn’t lend itself to the same type of relationships. Several houses in our area are abandoned, having gone into foreclosure. Our neighbors are older, without small children for my son to play with. But I still stress the importance of helping one another. Our one neighbor’s recycling bin always makes its way into our front yard and each Thursday, my son and I walk it back up to their driveway. After each snowstorm, my son and I have offered to shovel for our elderly neighbors. The same goes for autumn when the leaves are falling fiercely and our neighbor’s yard is covered. We don’t even knock on the door anymore. We simply go over with our rakes or shovels and get to work. And my son knows it’s because “that’s what neighbors do.”
Another older couple across the street has their small granddaughter living with them and she thinks the sun rises and sets by my son. Though he’s not always interested in entertaining a toddler, he knows that the kind thing to do is to invite her to play ball with us. She giggles in delight every time he comes outside. She doesn’t say much, but she sure does know his name! And says its repeatedly until he gives her shy wave. Because that’s what you do. As a neighbor and a kind person, taking care of those around you is a valuable life lesson.
I have so many fond childhood memories from my neighborhood and I want the same for my son. And though he may not realize it now, he’s helping make memories for that little girl. Because it’s not just you who affects your child. Those around them and the people they’re exposed to play a huge role in their upbringing. It truly takes a village to raise a child. Who’s in yours?