We're all familiar with the phrase...
I very much believe in this statement, this ideal. And I think what we each need from our village is unique. For some, the village is a daily and vital part of parenting. A single mom, a mom with a special needs child, a mom with a terminally ill child. For some, the village is a community of love that surrounds the family and the kids. These people are a positive influence on our kids as they mature and grow. For some, the village is called upon when a need arises.
Lately, I've had 2 experiences where I was clearly called upon to be part of a village. And it got me thinking about how we know to handle these situations.
I was recently at an event with a bunch of bloggers and their families. At one point, a little boy came to his mom (I was nearby) and was very upset about a toy that other kids were playing with. Teagan was playing with one of the toys so I let him know that if he wanted that one, she would be happy to share. The little boy first continued to express his frustration. And his mom corrected him, telling him not to be rude to me. Which surprised me because in my estimation, he wasn't being rude - he was just dealing with all these emotions of not getting what he wanted. He did calm down and everything ended up fine.
A bit later, I was back at my table and the boy and his dad came over and he was asked to apologize to me.
Again - I didn't see that he had done anything wrong.
But he isn't my kid. And his parents have their own rules and their own expectations for how their child is going to talk to someone else. And to his parents - he was disrespectful to me when I tried to offer some help.
I think a lot of us would have listened to his apology. It's the next part that is our role as the Village. When a child apologizes to you, how do you normally react? Do you say, "It's ok! No big deal!" Do you say, "Thanks for apologizing. It's all fine."
I think I've often brushed those apologies away. But something about this circumstance, about realizing that this was a big enough deal to his parents that he had to come apologize... made me think carefully about my response.
"Thank you for apologizing. I know you're going to work hard to choose better next time."
Another incident happened when a child and her mom came to me and the child wanted to be excused from a commitment she's made to me and to an event. She had been invited to go do something fun with friends.
I felt that strange situational thing again - I wasn't sure what mom was wanting from me, I wasn't sure what the right answer was. The easy answer that would have led to immediate happiness on her part would have been "Sure! Go with your friends and have fun! We will barely miss you!"
But I know this girl and her parents. I am part of their Village.
"Well, you can choose what you want. But by choosing this fun event over our commitment - it means that the fun thing is more important to you than what you promised you would do with me."
And sure enough - the girl had to make a difficult choice and there was lecturing from mom and dad about keeping commitments. And I hope that the answer I gave aided in the lesson for their daughter.
How do you respond when you are asked to be part of someone's Village in these ways? Where you are pulled in to be part of the parenting, part of the teaching, part of the guidance? Do you respond thoughtfully? Or is it more off the cuff, standard answer?
And if we teach ourselves to take a child's apology and make it a teachable moment... how do we do that with ourselves and with other adults? When someone apologizes to you... when you offer an apology... what are the expectations for the response?
When you make a commitment as an adult... do you hold yourself to it? Do you look for ways to get out of it? Do you let other people out of their commitments easily? Was there someone in your life that taught you about the importance of keeping commitments?
It takes a Village to raise a child... but I think we all need a Village to continue our own personal growth, too. I'm going to continue being part of the Village for the kids in my life - from the kids at church to the kids in my neighborhood. I'm aslo going to continue to seek ways to grow and improve on my own, within my Village, so that I can be the best example I can be, so that I am living the lessons that I have opportunities to teach.