It Takes a Village
(Or at Least a Posse)
If you’ve got school-age kids, or even younger, you know the truth in the expression “it takes a village” to raise happy, healthy kids. Where would we be without grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, coaches and carpoolers to help us guide, shape and share the load? In the fetal position, probably. It really does take more than just Mom and/or Dad to keep a family going — especially these days when we’re all running faster than we can tweet about it.
But in putting together our kids’ village, I think what we sometimes forget is the parent posse – those kindred spirits who make up our tribe. Who may not be on the ground with us, on the front lines doing the dirty work, but whose sole job is to be there for us parents — to lift us up when we’re down, when we’re at a complete loss, or just to stop by at the right time with coffee or a cocktail. These villagers are just as critical to the health and well-being of our children — by being critical to the health and well-being of us.
Of course, it’s hard to find time to work adult friendship into the madness that is our family lives. And sometimes I’m not even aware that it’s missing from mine. But there are a few ways that, when I do remember, I like to nurture this aspect of my life now, as a parent. Maybe it will give you a few ideas of your own.
Where would we be without grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, teachers, coaches and carpoolers to help us guide, shape and share the load?
If you’re an extrovert, your parent posse may be far-reaching and readily available. You tend to get energized from a night out with 10 of your closest friends or a last-minute block party with all your favorite neighbors. If you’re an introvert, like me, you probably prefer one or two buddies for dinner. Or maybe you find it hard to connect at all in the short burst of time shared on play dates or the playground. My tribe is not large or showy. It’s a select few who make me feel safe and sane, and make me laugh. Whatever your friend-meter, seek out the people from your present or past who feed your spirit and inspire you to keep going. Take note of the inherent value these adult friendships bring to your own happiness and well-being, and maybe think twice about those that don’t.
Walk and laugh.
One of my favorite pick-me-ups is the simplest to do and the easiest to make happen. I picked my funniest friend to go with on a weekly “walk-and-talk,” which almost always turns out to be a walk-and-laugh (and, every once in a while, a walk-and-cry). We talk about our week, our biggest parenting faux pas and how our husbands make us crazy. And it makes us feel better, and normal. Sometimes it’s the only exercise I get, and, most times, it’s the highlight of my week.
My tribe is not large or showy. It’s a select few who make me feel safe and sane, and make me laugh.
Start a poker club.
I get tired of the wine-and-cheese thing, so a few friends and I started a poker club. We do the full-on experience with card table, poker chips (cashed in for coin), mixed drinks and fatty foods. It’s delightful. The only thing missing is cigar smoke (but maybe we’ll add that in for kicks). And it can be done with just the girls, just the boys or couples, depending on what your soul needs that week.
Re-invent the sleepover.
When our kids got to be of sleepover age, we pretty quickly recognized the beauty in this phenomenon (when it happened at someone else’s house) — especially when it worked out that both kids were sleeping out on the same night. It occurred to me that, instead of waiting for this coincidence to magically occur, I could “create” it, along with some much-needed adult time, by hosting a family night/sleepover. The idea is to have one or two of your favorite families over for dinner and a movie. Afterwards, the kids stay over, but the parents leave, giving the other couple(s) a probably-much-needed night alone. Next month, another family hosts the event, and so on. It’s a win-win-win — for kids, couples and friends!
My idea of friend time may not be yours, but the real idea is to think about what really picks you up. What you can do, and how you can take the time, to nurture and strengthen those friendships and parent relationships that help you to be not just a better parent, but a better, healthier version of yourself. Which will ultimately keep you, and your village, going.