It is tough to raise a child, not impossible or overly complicated. Just tough. Patience is definitely tried, but once you establish ground rules and stick to them, parenting is what you make of it. I love my son, and to say that I have learned more from him than he has from me is an understatement. That being said, he does have so much to learn, and neither his mother or I can teach him everything; it takes an entire community.
Last weekend my 10-year-old son had the opportunity to rake and bag leaves in one of our friend’s backyard. It was his first real “job.” Up until now, most of his paid jobs came from us or his grandparents. This one would require him to work for someone else and fulfill someone else’s expectations that may not be as lax as ours. It was a big step for a 10-year-old and one that I wasn’t quite sure he would embrace. Much to our surprise, he embraced it with enthusiasm and resolve.
Off he went on Sunday morning, raked and bagged leaves for the better part of four hours. When he came home, he was a different kid. Something clicked inside his head, the connection between hard work and earned money was made. A little maturity that only comes from doing, not from something we as parents can teach. I was proud of him, not for what he had done, but of the pride he had found in himself and the confidence he created.
It takes a community to raise a child. One of the more difficult things for me to do sometimes is trusting in others to help guide my son. From my own past, I sometimes allow those insecurities to creep into my parenting. Thankfully though, I catch myself and realize that “the bad guys” make up an almost undetectable percentage of the human population. I also realize that a lot of “the bad guys” that may harm our children are mostly those who we actually trust and know. It is a shame that we guard our children more than ever before against an enemy that has never been so small.
Parents cannot teach children everything that there is to learn in life. They require diversity in their environment, their challenges and their relationships. Each learning situation often leads into another and by staying at home, learning about their world through video games and YouTube, our children learn nothing but the inside of a box. To guard them against the evils of the world is only a reflection of our own insecurities and our own selfishness.
We simply expect our kids to grow up without ever really growing up. It’s not fair, and neither is life. The quicker our children learn that the more prepared they are to face a world and a community that is ready to take them on when you can no longer hold them back.
It takes a community to raise a child; we have to trust that our children are going to do just fine, it really is the only way for them to grow. We won’t always be there for our kids, but our communities, they will be.
Thank you, Scott and Jo!