“‘Omwana ni wa bhone,’ meaning regardless of a child’s biological parent(s), (his) upbringing belongs to the community.” Kijita (Wajita) Proverb.
The saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” (unknown source) is a commonly tossed around phrase. There have been numerous books written about this important topic as well. I feel that I was granted the privilege of being raised in this type of atmosphere and feel blessed that my children also get to experience it to some degree. My family moved around a lot when I was younger, but from my earliest memories until age ten, we lived in Pennsylvania. My dad was the pastor of a small community church that consisted of probably around 35 to 40 families’ total. However, we were all transplanted so none of us really had extended family around – grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. We became our own extended family. We shared all major holidays together, had Super Bowl parties (we lived there during the time the Steelers won four Super Bowls), New Year’s Eve was always a whole church affair, and Easter started with a sunrise service following which the men would cook an all-church pancake breakfast for the women and children before we would have the traditional service that followed.
Spending all that time together, it was a great experience to learn about different parenting styles, kids creating bonds with each other with the older ones looking out for the younger ones, and different parents stepping up and helping whichever child had a need, regardless to whom that child belonged. Families would babysit for each other without expecting monetary compensation, meals were shared with families that were in need, and it was just a time of real community.
Now, fast forward thirty years. A lot has changed in our world from the 70s and 80s to now. Technology has advanced at lightning speed, the way the economy is now does not give job security like it did so there is more migrating to where the jobs are, and family life is just busier than it seemed to be with more things vying for our attention.
However, the sense of community can still prevail. Friends can still make time to get together to share their struggles, joys, and just offer a different perspective on a problem that you may be experiencing with your child. Grandparents are great resources in that they offer a completely different glimpse at life. They can share about their own childhood and how they were raised in addition to how they raised you (yes, usually embarrassing stories to come), showing your children what life was like before all this technology was around. Also, even though your parenting style will probably look different than your parents or your in-laws since you are blending both your husband and your preferences together, as parents we can gain wisdom by listening to advice from our parents or other older women in the church and community since they have already traveled the road we are on.
It seems to be a touchy subject now days if a parent other than the child’s biological one tries to correct behavior of a youth in public, but really, if done without ridicule or embarrassment; isn’t that best for everyone? If we would just step up and help each other, offering assistance when it is needed and giving each other that extra hand that we all need from time to time, maybe we could regain some of that sense of community that seems to be losing its grip. I, for one, enjoy the Biblical family values of my past, and am working at keeping them alive for my children to pass onto their children. Who wants to join me?