Who loves you
It was Valentine’s Day this week, so there’s been a fair amount of bother about love. Each kid’s class was doing something a little different, so we were writing cards, baking cookies, and whatever else in order to meet the expectations of the various teachers. My oldest two also planned more personal Valentine’s gifts for some significant people (though this had to be done outside of school, since the school doesn’t permit Valentine’s gifts that aren’t given equally to everyone in the class).
In the midst of all that craziness, I sat the boys down one morning to talk about the idea of love a little, trying to emphasize that there are many, many kinds of love, not just romantic love but also the love between friends, between family (which is a big category in our house), between neighbours, and so forth. I had them talk about some of those people a little, and then I asked them to meditate for a bit (as we do often in the morning) on all the people they know who love them.
As we were doing this, it struck me how fortunate we are as a family in this respect. My kids have a huge (if somewhat complicated) family who love them and are actively involved in their lives. They have a wide network of friends centred around a small school where everybody lives within walking distance. They have a strong and vibrant neighbourhood with dozens of houses where they know they’ll be welcome. They have a loving church community that cares for them. They have great connections through their sports and activities.
Just counting all the people who love and care for my kids in one way or another would be a massive undertaking. There are just so many people, from social workers to soccer buddies, from the family next door to their foster families in other towns, from the librarians they visit weekly to the Nana they visit yearly. Their network of care and support is vast.
It was so encouraging for me to reflect on all that, because I know I can’t possibly meet all my kid’s needs by myself. No parent can. The old saying about needing a village to raise a child is a cliche for a reason, because there’s real truth there. Even perfect parents couldn’t be everything for their children, and I’m far (really far some days) from perfect. My kids need more than me in order to reach their potential.
Now, I also realize how fortunate I am in this. I know that many parents find themselves much more isolated, living far from family, moving too often to put down roots, working in different cities than where they live, struggling to find time to build real community relationships. No matter where we are, however, I think it only benefits us as parents to go looking for places to build community relationships around our families where we can.
Go next door, introduce yourself to the neighbours, maybe invite them for dinner some night. Get involved in whatever community activities your school is running and make a point of introducing yourself to the parents of your kids’ friends. Go to the local library or community centre often enough to know the staff a little. Go out to the nearest park and meet the families there. Join a church or temple or service organization.
There are lots of places to begin building the network of people who love your kids, and you’ll know the ones that fit your family best. But it’s important to build them somewhere, because the more people who love your kids, the better off your kids will be.