It Takes a Village – Or Does It?

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Does it really take a village to raise a child? According to Wikipedia, “It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that means an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to grow in a safe and healthy environment. It also became a popular saying in American culture several decades back.

While it is entirely possible to raise a child without a support system, there is no denying it’s easier with family and friends to help out. My new granddaughter, who just celebrated her one-month birthday, is fortunate that a loving family surrounds her. Because of divorce and remarriages, Sylvia has seven grandparents, all living close. Her village includes her parents and, of course, her three-year-old brother, who is still quite smitten with her and has not once asked to take her back to the hospital. She’s a lucky baby!

The village benefits all the generations involved. It’s a win-win for everyone to have grandparents who serve as a backup plan for parents; stepping in to babysit, run kids on errands, and maybe even having the occasional sleepover so the parents can have a date night. What parents wouldn’t love a free night, and most kids love spending time with loving grandparents. Some studies show that children who have close relationships with their grandparents are less likely to have behavioral and emotional problems and are better equipped to deal with traumatic events such as divorce or bullying. Grandparents provide stability and support.

When I had young kids, I was a single working mother, and although I tried not to rely on my parents too much, there were times it was essential. Knowing my parents were there to step in for emergencies helped ease my stress and provided a safety net for my children. Although it was almost thirty years ago, I still recall the utter relief I felt on the occasions when my parents picked my children up from school, and I walked into their house and smelled dinner cooking. For a single mother, that was as close to Heaven as I could get!

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I was grateful for the “village” my parents provided for my kids and me!

Covid-19 has thrown a wrench into the family support system. Children are often asymptomatic carriers of the virus, so precautions must be taken for anyone who falls into a high-risk category. Sometimes grandparents are an essential part of the village. Grandparents are often lifesavers for families as parents must continue working, especially if the school is no longer part of the reliable child care plan. Many grandparents assist with homeschooling or virtual schooling during this time. Of course, if the grandparents have underlying health concerns, such as having cardiac issues or diabetes, it may be out of the question for them to be around grandchildren. If in doubt, it’s best to consult with your doctor about your specific risk.

In the first two months of the pandemic, we did not see our grandson. We were all miserable! We know it’s a risk to be around him, but we have made a conscious decision to try to minimize all our other risks and continue to see our grandchildren. Their parents are also following strict quarantining. Maintaining a positive mental health status during the pandemic has been challenging. When we’re with our grandchildren, we forget about all the current problems in the world. We have fun. It’s pretty hard to be depressed about politics or Covid-19 when you’re engaged in an epic pillow fight or escaping into a pile of books to be read out loud to an eager toddler.

While it’s apparent that close relationships with grandparents benefit the grandchildren and the parents, there is also a positive benefit for the older generation. Grandchildren help grandparents stay active physically and socially. Without my grandchildren, I would not have been to the Gathering Place thirty times. I wouldn’t know all the words to Baby Shark, and my Hokey Pokey skills would be rusty. My grandkids keep me engaged and active.

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A pre-pandemic visit to the Gathering Place!

Does it take a village to raise a child? It certainly helps. I’m glad I’m no longer responsible for children full time, but I’m also happy if I can be part of the process of enriching my grandchildren’s lives. There are times I wonder who benefits the most from the village we’ve created. I know my daughter and son-in-law appreciate the occasional breaks they have because of us, and my grandson loves time with his grandparents. But, at least in our case, it might be the grandparents who benefit the most. We’re happy to be part of the village!

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Categories: Grand Life