Bring back the village

I read this article today, and even though I’m terrified to write this blog, I think it needs to be written. And I can only hope and pray that it doesn’t end badly for us.

So here’s my “confession.” Our summer daycare option was going to cost $200 per week, and we simply cannot afford that. So we made a decision, based primarily on necessity, secondarily on our knowledge of our children and what we believe they can handle.

My children spent the summer at home. Alone. One of us came home every day at lunch, and we got home between 4:30pm and 5:30pm every day. So my then-6 year old and 8 year old were home for four hours at a time, twice a day, every weekday for 10-11 weeks. We got a land line so they could call our cells if they needed anything.

And they were fine.
They got up to typical brother mischief. Some things got broken, but nothing we can’t replace. No injuries, no emergencies.

But part of their list of rules to follow included not going outside. Not even in our own, fenced-in backyard. Not answering the door. Not answering the phone unless it was on the list of approved numbers we gave them. And we put those rules in place NOT because we thought they would be in danger in our backyard. In fact, I think we would have had less mischief if they were allowed to play outside. No, they were isolated from the outside world because I was – and still am – terrified that some “good Samaritan” who truly believes their intentions are pure will find out my children stay home alone and make a call. And that call could start a chain of events that might possibly lead to my children being taken from me – all because, as a parents who know their children, we gave them responsibility we know they can handle.

In fact, telling the Internet that my children stayed home alone puts them in more danger than simply allowing them to stay home alone EVER would.

This isn’t the world I grew up in. There’s very little “community” in my neighborhood. None of us really know one another. I don’t know whether I can trust any of them. And a lot of that is because of the economic changes in the last two or three decades. Far fewer families can make it with one income, and with no one at home during the day, there’s not much of a chance to build a camaraderie with the other stay-at-home parents in the neighborhood.

But more than that, as we can see with the witch hunts that take place on social media – that I even admit I’ve taken part in, unfortunately – any time a parent makes a mistake, and the public learns about it, what follows is not a show of support, of empathy, of understanding. No. The comment section is full of hatred, vitriol, accusations, and perfection. “I would never do something like that. How on Earth could a parent who loves their child do that?”

We like to think that the anonymity of the Internet is the driving force behind these types of reactions, but in reality it’s what we’ve become. The village is gone from a lot of the country. Instead of working together, watching out for each other, taking a bit of responsibility for one another so we can all thrive – instead of that, we have become a community that believes we are doing good by one another to punish each other for choices that are different from our own. You would never leave your child alone at that age, so you call the police when you discover another parent has done so. You see a child playing alone in a park, and you think they’re in danger because it’s the danger you worry about when you refuse to let your own child play alone in the park. So instead of watching out for that child for a few minutes, instead of giving that child’s parent the benefit of the doubt, you call the police. Or worse, video it and publicly shame the parent.

My 8 year old wanted to stay in our locked, well ventilated car while we ran inside the grocery store to grab a few things. We left him a phone. Less than a minute later, he wanted to come with us, but he accidentally set off the car alarm trying to get out. That scared him, so he started crying. I heard the car alarm (we were still walking into the store), so turned back to go see what was going on. When I got to the car, there was an older gentleman standing there, visibly angry. As I approached, he started yelling at me. How could I leave my child alone? Anyone could break into the car and take him! I should be ashamed of myself. He’s a grandfather who actually loves his grandkids and takes care of them, unlike me. I was an unfit mother.

I should note, he included a lot of profanity in his tirade at me. Aside from telling him to mind his own damned business – which, furious at his audacity and done with being shamed for PARENTING MY OWN CHILD AS I SAW FIT, I upgraded to telling him to mind his own fucking business – I focused on calming down my child. My child who was more afraid of the old man yelling at his mother than he was of being left alone in the car.

That is not how the situation would have gone down if the village were still in place.

Do we wonder why so many parents rely on books, on blogs, on experts to tell them how to parent so they can make sure they do it “right?” We shouldn’t. We have been systematically destroying parental confidence in instincts for decades. Yes, I know children are snatched away from their parents in stores, standing mere feet from them. I know that happens. But we also – all of us – know that it happens. So. Rarely. It is not something we truly need to fear.

What we do need to do is get back to supporting one another. As parents. As people. Stop looking for opportunities to show each other how much better we could do, and start helping each other. In little ways, every day, we can help each other. And be helping each other, we can bring back the village.

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