Village Children

I actually wrote this a few days ago, and then I got stuck. Because I could identify the many reasons why I thought we should care for others, even when there was no obvious reason for us to do so. As it happened, the other night, I was reading Alexander McCall Smith's The Full Cupboard of Life, and in it, the main character Mma. Ramotswe is reflecting on exactly this, the notion that it takes a village to raise a child. And she makes the both simple and breathtakingly beautiful point that we - the village - raise children, because when these children are older, we will have taught them - by our very care for them - that they are responsible to care for the village.

And frankly, that seems to make the point better than anything I could say. But, because I've put all this time into it, you might as well read my musings anyway.

I got to thinking about the whole "it takes a village" thing last Friday night, as Mr. Spit and I took The Girl Next Door (TGND) to dinner, to celebrate her marks at the end of grade 10. You will note, those of you who know us, we are not TGND's parents, but we do seem to find ourselves doing things with her. (and I am compelled to add that TGND is a lovely, remarkable young woman, and this is not a hardship)

I heard someone remark, a few weeks ago, that they don't think it takes a village to raise kids, that this job is best left to parents. And I was a little harrumph-y about the statement. At least in part because the person making the statement has derived a great deal of support from the world around her, and I thought that it took real moxy to suggest that in spite of the support she got, the help, the assistance she received, she was perfectly fine on her own, doing fine raising her own son, without our help. Harrumph.

But, rather more than that, I would posit that most people who argue it doesn't take a village to raise a child, don't actually believe what they are saying. Hands up, anyone, who thinks that I should ignore the child of 3 who runs into the street, because the child isn't mine. If it doesn't take a village, I have no responsibility to your child, the child is, after all, yours and not mine, and it's not my job to grab your child. It's your job to watch your child. I think we can all agree that we would prefer I ran out into the street after the child and grabbed it by the arm. That's rather enough said about that.

And if we can accept that, I think we can all accept, particularly in Canada, but even in the US, that when you have a child, on the whole of it, the government bears a rather larger burden for the financial cost of your child, system-wise, than your taxes happen to pay into it. And if that's true, I think we can say that in my end of the village, I am paying your child's bills, and even if it doesn't take a village to raise your child, it would seem to take one to pay for a child.

Rather, it seems to me that the parents above, they are fine with the village, until the village wants to do something with their child that they don't want to do. And sometimes they might be right to object. It equally occurs to me though, the rights of a village and the rights of a parent might not always be mutually exclusive. There is, at least according to my mother, more than one way to skin a cat. And there is always room to respect the rights and concerns of each other.

The whole story of the dinner out starts a few weeks ago, when I came in from a board meeting, and Mr. Spit told me that TGND had finished her exams, and figured she hadn't gotten a mark below 75%. I think there are probably lots of reasons that we decided to celebrate TGND's marks. We have something invested - not much, but something - in them. I've helped with Macbeth, Mr. Spit assisted in the construction of a roller coaster thingamijigy for Physics. But really, that's not enough to explain a celebratory dinner, a gift card to her favourite store, and a card that told her we were proud of her hard work. After all, that's not our job if it doesn't take a village.

But more than that, it seems we have a responsibility to be involved in TGND's life.

And this is where, as I noted above, that I ran out of steam.

So, in the thoughts of Mma. Ramotswe, there are lots of reasons for us to take TGND out. One of which is so that 20 years from now, she can take another young woman out, and tell that young woman she is proud.

Perhaps what Mma. Ramotswe is getting at is this: the investment required in a child is huge, massive, it beggars belief. It is both selfish and foolish to think that one or two people can invest deeply enough, without the assistance, the support and the aid of others around them. The village.

And in turn, I'll look back, at Sherry, and Cheryl and Gary, Lynn and Joe, Otto, Simon, Lori, Jenny, Kate, Howard, and I will remember the time they gave me, the village that surrounded me, and surrounds me even now.