It Takes a Village

Photo: vintageposterblog.com
Photo: vintageposterblog.com

When Hilary Clinton published It Takes a Village back in 1996, it didn’t make it onto my nightstand reading pile.  In 1996, I didn’t have kids.  In 1996, I wasn’t married.  In fact, in 1996 I hadn’t even met my future husband.  In 1996, I was finishing my degree, had just moved to Brooklyn, and was frequenting happy hours around the city, developing a taste for vodka martinis.  I still haven’t read the book, but the sentiment is clear.  My question is this: If it takes a village to raise a child, Dude, where’s my village?

We all need a village, if not for the child minding and matronly advice, at least to hear the cold, hard truth.  Parents are rarely truthful with one another when talking about how difficult raising children can be.  Out there in the trenches, it’s tough. Very few of us are honest about just how tough.  Perhaps it is because we feel the need to save face.  Perhaps we are worried that we are doing something terribly wrong, that we are the only ones flying by the seat of our pants.  Perhaps there is an element of  ‘You can’t handle the truth.’  Whatever the reasoning behind it, there are a lot of half-truths, a lot of systematic distribution of disinformation, and a not a small dose of Schadenfreude thrown in; especially among more experienced parents watching the newbies blindly stumble through the dark.

I am here to be your village, be the bearer of the cold, hard truth.  Bad news, good news.  Just don’t shoot the messenger.

You don’t always get the kid you want.  We all dream of what our kids are going to be like.  Loving and cuddly and doting on your every word.  Givers of hugs and sticky kisses.  They almost never live up to our daydreams and expectations.  Maybe they’re squirmy or colicky or difficult or challenging or talkative or autistic or ill.  Maybe they are a girly boy or a boyish girl.  Maybe they look different or act different or just are different.  It can be difficult to reconcile yourself to the fact that you’ve got the kid you’ve got, you can’t exchange them because the fit is off.  In the simplest of pre-kindergarten lessons, you get what you get and you don’t get upset.  The good news?  You love them anyway, you love them despite their challenges or differences, love them with a ferocity that will astound you.  You will champion them and defend them and go Ninja Spinjitsu Mom when the need arises.

When you have children, your own parents and in-laws develop ‘grandparent amnesia’.  They forget the messy, noisy, chaotic reality of small children.  They forget that children have tantrums and meltdowns and don’t sit, doll-like, on a grandparent’s knee radiating love toward their ancestors.  They forget that feeding their grandchildren copious amounts of sugar followed by buying them things and allowing them to stay up late and have unlimited iPad time is going to backfire.  The good news?  Free babysitting!

You are going to do and say things to your child that will haunt your dreams.  In a fit of anger, you’ll call them stupid.  You’ll demean them, traumatize them, not believe them, swear at them. You’ll throw a cup across the room, scream, slam doors, blame them for your heartburn, gray hair and steady ascent into insanity.  The good news?  They will forget.  While you will remember it for days, weeks, months–talk to your priest, best friend, therapist about it, they’ll be asking you for extra iPad time within minutes.

Vacations will never be the same.  I know I just wrote about this, but it’s resonating with me.  Sure, there is the moment your daughter lays eyes on a life-size Snow White for the first time.  There is the unadulterated glee on your son’s face as he masters a black ski run, but those are the 1%.  The other 99%  is schlepping and arranging, stressing that you won’t be able to find a restaurant that serves buttered noodles and gin and tonics, trying to find the balance between cramming in the sights and stopping for your fourth gelato of the day.  The mountains of laundry upon your return, the readjusting to time zones, schedules, rules. The good news? Great photographs.

Photo: ejumpcut.com
Photo: ejumpcut.com

Your body will never be the same.  Sure, you may weigh the same, even less., but your feet may be bigger, your rib cage wider, your hips wonky.  You can’t do a jumping jack without peeing yourself a little bit or your boobs are down near your belly button. It’s not just age, it’s not just pregnancy, it’s not just breast-feeding.  It’s having kids.  The good news?  Most of your friends will be parents as well, thereby reducing the pool of single, childless, jumping jack capable females your husband can drool over at social functions.

You’re always half a step behind.  Even when you feel like you’ve got it under control for a day or two, something changes and you are starting from square one all over again.  What works for one kid doesn’t work for another.  What worked at eight doesn’t work at eight and a half.  The good news? The constant bumbling give you plenty of blog fodder.

You don’t always like your child.  Yes, you love them.  Yes, you would do the supermom lifting a car off of them if you needed to, but sometimes, for long stretches of time, you don’t like your own kid.  It’s a terrible feeling, but not uncommon.  Maybe they are in a tantrum phase, maybe a smarmy one.  Maybe they are fighting their own hormones and moodiness and struggling to find their place in the universe.  The good news?  It almost always passes and you’ll forget all about it, until the next time.

You’ll have a favorite.  The Good news?  Those cuddly, lovable phases don’t last forever, so like Italy during the war, your allegiance will switch.  Hopefully it see-saws depending on who is driving you crazy that day or week or month or lunar cycle.

Sleep deprivation kills your sex drive and your sense of humor.  See the pork and salad story here.  See the sex stories here and here, oh and here.  The good news?  By their teens, you won’t be able to get them out of bed.

If someone had a gun to your head, you would choose your kids over your spouse.  True, your spouse is the person that you chose to love.  Your spouse may be the yin to your yang.  But if push comes to shove, you would choose the kids.  The good news?  It’s not often someone holds a gun to your head.

Photo: dailymail.co.uk
Photo: dailymail.co.uk

Childcare is never fair. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule.  However, extenuating circumstances aside, no matter how much a father does with his children, it’s almost never going to be as much as a mother does.  There is likely always going to be a small part of a woman which resents the biology, social structure and reality of child rearing.  A mother carries, births and feeds.  A mother makes the doctor’s appointments and buys the birthday gifts and all ten million other little things that keep the cogs and wheels and intricate mechanisms working.  There is resentment, and fair or not, it’s often directed at your spouse.  The good news?  It give you loads to talk about with your friends.

Children are not the best decision you’ve ever made.   Not all the time.  Sometimes it feels like the worst decision you’ve ever made.  Worse than the decision to have that third fish bowl sized martini at Smith and Wolenski.  Worse than the decision to major in creative writing in college. The good news?  The limits to which you push yourself, the level of self-sacrifice you achieve in the name of love, and indeed, the depth of unconditional love you weren’t aware you could feel usually make up for it.  If all else fails, watch your child sleep for five minutes.  A sleeping child erases almost every negative feeling you can experience, even the most hellish of days.

So there you have it.  My village wisdom.  Perhaps in the name of promoting the village, I’ve really exposed myself as the village idiot.  Or maybe, just maybe, if we all shared our collective experiences, we could create a virtual village, one where we turn to each other for truths and help rather than pretending it’s not hard.  So do a good deed, share this with your fellow parents, so they know that if it does take a village, there’s one out there for everyone.

Post Script:  This is my 150th post for Wine and Cheese (Doodles). It seemed fitting to celebrate that milestone with a personal ‘Best Of”.  Each of the links in this post is a link back to a previous parenting post I’ve written sometime in the last year and a half.  While this ‘mother of all posts’ is not a good-bye, it will likely be the last new post for a while, as I am taking some time to concentrate on a personal writing project.  I hope you enjoy it and share it among your village.  x, Dina

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21 thoughts on “It Takes a Village

  1. NotAPunkRocker February 16, 2014 / 4:31 pm

    Great observations, and happy 150th!

    Like

  2. Jostein Sand Nilsen February 16, 2014 / 5:16 pm

    That means I still have some 140 posts to enjoy, then. Until you start blogging again.

    Like

    • dhonour February 16, 2014 / 7:49 pm

      That’s a lovely way of looking at it, thanks! I’m sure I will be back, and I hope to keep up reading other people’s blogs, I just need to concentrate for a little while ;-).

      Like

  3. Rup February 16, 2014 / 5:39 pm

    Spot on. Bravo. Well done on 150. I’ll miss your missives. In the meantime good luck with the other stuff.

    Like

  4. bernadetteyoungquist February 16, 2014 / 9:03 pm

    If more parents were as honest as you it would spare us all hours of self questioning and angst. Thank god I’ve had a small village to raise my kids in that reminds me I’m not alone and to stay true to my path. Thank you for keeping it real! All the best with your personal project.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dhonour February 16, 2014 / 9:20 pm

      Thank you, and I agree with you wholeheartedly! And thank you for the wishes on the project. I really appreciate it. It’s hard to give up the instant gratification of pushing publish on a blog post, but I find that I put off working on other projects in favor of it. Hence the self imposed temporary (I hope) hiatus. Thank you again.

      Like

  5. El Guapo February 16, 2014 / 9:18 pm

    Congrats on 150!
    Sound like you’re handling all the roles of the village…

    Like

    • dhonour February 16, 2014 / 9:21 pm

      Hunter, gatherer, mother, crone, idiot. Yup. Got ’em covered. 😉

      Like

  6. Draws Shoots and Leaves February 16, 2014 / 10:32 pm

    Lovely Honest post, my sons are now grown and in their 20s and 30s and bring me great happiness because of the nice men they have become but I struggled with the things you mentioned and made many mistakes. But having children doesn’t come with a guidebook.

    Like

    • dhonour February 16, 2014 / 10:52 pm

      If there is anything in life that should come with a guidebook, it’s children! The problem is, no one book is going to encompass every child. They do make it difficult don’t they? I hope to be able to echo your words in 15 years or so!

      Like

  7. gallivance.net February 16, 2014 / 11:53 pm

    Dina, You had me at “you won’t be able to find a restaurant that serves buttered noodles and gin and tonics.” I’m still laughing and nodding like a dashboard bobble head. 🙂 It seems that you covered just about everything … and I’m sending this straight to my sister the mother. ~Terri

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    • dhonour February 17, 2014 / 1:06 pm

      Thanks, Terri. Sometimes if you don’t find the humor in the whole situation you may as well curl up and die! I hope you sister, the mother, gets a kick out of it as well. Cheers, D

      Like

  8. pamchance24 February 17, 2014 / 8:16 am

    Love this post! I just discovered your blog and now I can’t wait to read more!

    Like

    • dhonour February 17, 2014 / 1:05 pm

      Thank you! I’m taking a temporary hiatus from new posts for a while, but I hope there’s enough here to keep you busy reading until I get back. And I will be around reading and keeping up. Thank you again.

      Like

  9. Claire Duffy February 17, 2014 / 8:25 am

    Such great insight and so very true. One thing I’d add – I see a lot of (female) riends experiencing guilt that they aren’t with their child 100% of the time if they work, there is a notion currently accepted that it’s ideal for the child to be with mum all the time and any sort of childcare – be it daycare, a nanny, grandparent, even father – is second best and should be avoided. I’ve worked as a preschool teacher (in Sweden where preschool can start at 12 months) and I firmly believe that it is healthy for children to spend time in a social setting, to develop bonds with other adults and learn that there are different boundaries in different environments. That’s assuming the childcare is high quality of course, but I wish this idea that it is always best for children to be taken care of by the person that gave birth to them would be dialled down!

    Like

    • dhonour February 17, 2014 / 1:04 pm

      I say constantly that family time is overrated–and that is part of what I mean. Today’s parents (and I include myself in this) practice such extreme parenting, that it won’t surprise me if we raise a generation of kids that end up drooling in the corner because they don’t know how to do anything for themselves, from sliding down a slide to being responsible for their homework to making decisions to entertaining themselves. Kids need a bit of benign neglect, and so do parents! Thanks so much for taking the time to post such an insightful comment. Really appreciate it.

      Like

  10. cherryreads February 17, 2014 / 5:26 pm

    Good luck with your writing project. The irony of blogging is that while it keeps your writing sharp, it doesn’t leave you enough time for writing.

    Like

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