Wednesday , May 28, 2014 - 4:31 PM
It takes a village to raise a child. But sometimes the village is left wondering how to help a child when the mom isn’t interested.
I’m seated at the ballpark watching a peewee league softball game where the players are just slightly taller than the bats. Lots of moms and dads and siblings fill the simple bleachers behind the 20-foot-tall chain link fence just back of home plate. I’m there to root for my favorite peewee.
But not too far into the game, my view directly behind the catcher becomes obstructed by a young boy, maybe 4 years old, testing his climbing skills on the fence. He climbs back and forth, and up and down, gradually working up not only his skills but also his distance from the ground. Eventually he climbs up to the mid crossbar on the fence which puts his little body about 12 feet off the ground.
Watching him with an increasingly worried eye, I become aware of nearby murmuring, conversations of, “Whose kid is that?” and “He shouldn’t be up there” from the bleacher crowd. Many seem concerned, but no one is quite sure what to do. Finally a woman — a brave and wise woman — steps up to the fence and calls up to him, “Hey, little boy! You’re going to get hurt. You need to come down from there. Where’s your mom?”
The kid looks down at her, then over to a young mom seated at the end of the bleacher who has been watching the conversation. This mom turns to the woman and asks, “Does it bother you that he’s up there?”
It’s certainly not the comment anyone in the crowd expects. But undeterred, the woman responds after a startled pause, “Well yeah. He could get really hurt.”
“Well, it doesn’t bother me,” says the mom. To emphasize her point she turns her back to the woman and focuses on the game going on far below her 4-year-old.
Flustered, the woman retreats to her seat. But I notice several folks smile encouragingly at her and shake their heads in disbelief at the mom. The mom probably doesn’t notice it but the village has spoken, and it isn’t very flattering.
I’ve had moments when I’ve been like that mom, times when I was certain I didn’t need the village. I once insisted from my sick bed — where I’d been for two weeks and still had four more weeks to go — that I didn’t need any help. Fortunately my village was very patient with their idiot and took care of me anyway, taking my children to their homes to play for the day so I could sleep, then bringing them home in the evening along with a warm dinner. This went on for weeks. The best I could do when I finally got on my feet was to help take care of the next one in need.
That’s how a village functions. In the interest of making sure everyone in the village stays safe and sound, villagers take note when something is amiss, and they address it. This tribal-like existence is based on relatively basic premises that none of us is as smart as all of us, everyone needs a helping hand every now and then, and independence without wisdom can easily disintegrate into foolishness.
I find myself walking next to the wise woman as the crowd flows out of the ball park after the game. I thank her for her courage. She, in turn, thanks me for saying that. “I wondered if I was the only one who cared,” she says.
No. Villages are alive and well as long as caring villagers are willing to address that fine line between not getting involved and being overbearing. Sometimes that line is hair thin, but it can make all the difference between a child’s success or failure, and an unteachable mom’s education.
You can contact D. Louise Brown at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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