It takes a village. This is true. I’ve not read the book nor have I read the wikipedia entry or even google searched the term and skimmed the results. I’ve simply heard the sentence, lived a life and come to understand this phrase. What I’ve come to gather from this is that it takes me and my wife to raise our kids and a village to teach them all the crap they can’t learn from us because we’re their parents and the psychodynamic between us blinds us to some of the realities of them and deafens them to some of the wisdom of us. In steps the village. Don’t be fooled by the name, these villages exist in urban and rural settings, are not necessarily defined geographically and are populated by those we choose to populate it with until the kids start to have the power to populate it with people they choose. What ensues is political battles about borders and what’s best for the future of our village, why some ‘immigrants’ are taking our jobs and whether or not it is smart to have such porous borders in a world so fraught with danger and conflict. Finally, the kids win, there is a transition decade or two, and we wake up to realize we live in a village of fading vitality and yearn to become a part of their village and we start to think they’d make great parents.
I’m using this space to make this humble request. If you are a good person, if my child knows and trusts you at some point in the future, if you are not a person who will EVER cross the line from petty intimidation into even minor corporal punishment and if you are a person whom we have had dinner with or sat down with for a meeting regarding our child or if you are a coach or a conductor or a director, or any position of adult authority in whatever extracurricular events that my children choose to participate in, please, for the love of god, please know that you have my permission to ca
ll my kid out when he’s being a dope, being unkind, being entitled and bratty or if you just don’t like the look on his face on a given day. Short of complete public shame as judged by me, a person that airs almost all his dirty laundry publicly, you have license to discipline as you see fit. You might balance it with praise. But that is not at all required. What is required, what I request, is that you be the adult and they be the kid, with all the ‘unfair’ imbalance that entails. If you could do me this solid, if you could be unfair, scary, harsh and ultimately harmless, I’d appreciate it.
Why you ask. Good question. Many of the learning opportunities of my youth are seemingly gone. I can’t even conceive of a parent complaining about playing time or arguing with a teacher about a grade. Are you kidding me? However, from what I can tell this is now a standard intervention that parents make on behalf of their kids. There seems to be a new type of parenthood that prevails in the villages I’m a part of. Parents will take up their children’s complaints as if they were there own. They seem to take offense when a coach, a teacher or just a concerned parent in the neighborhood corrects their kid instead of thanking them. This is an unfortunate trend.
When I was yelled at for being a dope, whether it was warranted or not, it was assumed I was in fact being a dope. Any defense I might be able to fit into the conversation was shrugged off. They were merely the defenses of a twelve year old dope. It didn’t crush my self-esteem, it didn’t make me hate my parents in the long run (perhaps in the short term, and in a mean and ugly fashion, but it only strengthened my love for them in the end) and it didn’t end up with a teacher/coach/grown-up that thought me a punching bag. Nope. It ultimately resulted, 80% of the time or so, in me understanding that I had been a dope and the way I was treated was largely my fault. The other 20% of the time I was suffering the slings and arrows of my elders for no reason and they were surrounding the offender and saying, so what? This was a good thing, too. Your 12, your a knucklehead and lets just chalk this up to the umpteen other things you weren’t caught doing. They were in no way invested in taking the tools away from an adult responsible for me simply because they made a mistake this one time. They didn’t want this person to feel like they couldn’t put me in my place simply because I hadn’t done anything wrong. Nope. How could they ever know I was safe if my adult wasn’t allowed to make presumptions and act on them. It’s a very important tool. I’d tell them what happened, they’d ask me what I did to deserve that, I’d shun any responsibility and paint myself a martyr, they’d say, well that sounds unfair the way you say it and we’d all figure it out and go about our business. Or I’d acknowledge wrongdoing, they would instruct me to apologize and outside of egregious mistakes they’d leave me to do what was right.
‘What did you do?’ was and remains the most reasonable response from a parent that’s told by a kid that they got punished, yelled at, mildly publicly embarrassed and the like. A parent that err’s on the side of their kid at all turns is erring indeed.
The truth is it does take a village. Because to learn how life is and isn’t fair you have to endure unfairness. Sometimes just because. Because someone don’t like the look of ya. Or because someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed and you came before them at the wrong moment. And in those circumstances, being well meaning adults (This does not hold for strangers or people we are suspicious of, but it does for day to day adult presences in our kids lives whom we trust) it’s to us to first determine if our child may be in any ACTUAL danger. If so, may god have mercy and all that. But if not, we must allow the adults to be the adults, in all their imperfections. If they can’t deal with a coach that prefers another kids skills to theirs how in god’s name will they deal with the real world and all the inequities waiting there to knock them down. I simply can’t provide enough of this disappointment alone. I need the help of others.
So please, for the love of all that is holy, will you please yell at my kid. Especially when he’s being inconsiderate, ungenerous, unkind, uncaring, entitled, unfair or just being a dopey kid.