If you watched–aghast, or maybe even hopefully laughed–at my July 14th IG or FB vlog @meg.in.the.mid (first on left in second row) well, then you met me in “downtown [mom-town], Mr. Burton”. Yeah, I may have gone overboard. (At least Goldie Hawn had amnesia.)
If you don’t catch either of those two allusions, then you are clearly a Millennial, or of the Generations X, Y, or Z, or wherever the hell you are. I’ll meet you halfway in Netflix.
Okay, now that we’re back together: you the hunter of two iconic movies, and I the gatherer of “how to parent”, we’re an official village.
We’re the village people.
Yup, YMCA style all the way, baby. Go ahead…you know you want to.
Let’s start with Y: Why?
My tween daughter is drifting away from the anchor of Command Central (e.g.=me), and into the normalcy of tween-hood: eye-rolling, testing boundaries, snippy tones, directing me on where to park (down to the inch), what to say (or not) when her friends are in the car, making superfluous and a plethora of wish lists on Amazon assuming she’ll receive these front porch goodies not only for her birthday, but without any allowance money to pay me back.
Excusez moi? This is not a Prime time, folks.
In fact, it’s all totally annoying, and dare I say enraging at times. But it’s also totally how I was to my own mother when I was her age. Ugh. I finally get it. If my mom were here, I’d thank her and express my empathy, and she’d laugh at me. And I’d let her.
Because mother/daughter relationships are like that. Boomerang-y.
My daughter circles back to Command Central with me at night. She’s only like the aforementioned during the day. Gremlin? Maybe. Does water help or hinder? I don’t remember. Shit.
Night-time, under the cover of darkness and a cozy blanket we share: we share our days, our dreams, our disappointments. Lying beside one another. Elbow to elbow. Heart to heart. Looking up. Frankie the common anchor on our feet.
I love all of it.
Thankfully we maintain this open line of communication…so far, so good. Yes, I count my blessings and my time.
If there’s one thing I learned from my mother, it’s that I need to be able to talk to my kids about anything. No, that’s wrong. My kids need to feel okay talking to me about anything. I may need to put my judgment on the nightstand and just listen if that’s what she needs. At least she’s telling me what’s going on.
Command Central is really good at commanding, but needs to work on its listening skills at times. Check this out: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/thinking-about-kids/201104/want-your-tween-open-listen
My mother never gave me “the talk”. Never.
Sure, she was a force as a (basically) single mother of three teenagers: enforcing curfews, curtailing parties, binding our frequent groundings. But the avoidance of any kind of awkward or uncomfortable conversation left me ignorant and vulnerable.
If there’s one major thing I wish had been different, I wish I could’ve talked to my mother more openly and honestly about those very awkward and uncomfortable zones.
Why couldn’t I? Because some conversational magnet was missing. In its place was some kind of repellant.
I don’t want that. I want her to be able to open up.
The uncertainty of today’s terrain helps kids figure out who they are not. It also fittingly helps them figure out who they are. So we need to give them some sturdy hiking shoes and bungee cords–life skills–to help them through that tough terrain.
Then there’s my 10-year-old-son who knows everything about Fortnite, its skins, every tip & trick from famous YouTubers. Beyond that, he loves to cook (mostly scrambled eggs and brownies), tells funny jokes to anybody around, he also helps old ladies get milk from the top shelf of grocery stores. He is all the aforementioned, plus a bag of chips (Cheetos if I’m not watching; Sunchips if I am.)
Yet, he needs more structured routines and clear-cut boundaries because has has different needs than his sister. Unique needs. Don’t we all? He is not merely a label. None of us is.
What’s in a label? It is just a word or phrase, which could never possibly encompass what each of us “is”.
Mady is Mady +
Lance is Lance +
We all have our own strengths. We have our own challenges.
M–Motherhood and the Three Musketeers
The three of us have our flow and groove over here in our home.
I get them, and they get me, and together we make a family. That should be a bumper sticker. (#intellectualproperty)
So when other people unsolicitedly point out behaviors and observations, without understanding the context of our family dynamics, by saying things like, “You should…” or “Have you looked into…”, or “Well, if I were you, I would…”
That’s when I hit one of my thresholds.
And that is exactly what transpired on a beautiful July summer day at the pool with my kids.
Someone raised some concerns regarding my son.
As any “mother warrior”, I left the pool in order to process the encounter. Hence the July 14th vlog.
And then my garbage disposal broke…again. (Shout out Tim Hiatt!)
How metaphorical: we can all take on only so much garbage before we break. So as I cleaned the noodly goop out of the belly of my sink, I cleaned the noodly goop out of my underbelly, as well.
C–-Contemplation and Community
Who do we turn to when it comes to raising our kids (with or without) unique needs? Do we trust our instincts? Our significant others? Our ex-spouses? Our therapists? Our specialists? Our authors? Our pediatricians? Our neighbors? Our girlfriends? Our own mothers? Our mother-in-laws? Our husbands? Fiances? Brothers? Sisters? Clergy? That elderly lady who needed assistance getting the milk off the shelf? The crabby old gent at the pool? The blue-haired bagger at the grocery store?
Why not an amalgamation of all of them? For each holds his/her own place.
This makes us The Village People.
And it takes a village to raise a child.
What does that even mean? (Luckily my insomnia helps with my research.)
So I hit up my most trusted scholarly source Google, which sent me to my second most trusted scholarly source Wikipedia. (I’m pretty sure I broke every sacrimental research rule there.)
According to Wikipedia: “It takes a village to raise a child is an African proverb that means that an entire community of people must interact with children for those children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. The villagers look out for the children. This does not mean an entire village is responsible for raising your children or the children of a crowd.”
But wait: re-read that definition again. The “people must interact” but “this does not mean an entire village is responsible for raising your children”.
I’m confused. Isn’t that just common sense of living within a community? A neighborhood? Schools? Friendships? Family time? Get-togethers?
It does make sense that kids need encounters with all types of peeps, but do we offer our kids enough of these interactions in a “safe and healthy environment”? I understand in today’s world, we need to supervise our kids; I’m not saying we turn them loose. After all, part of that definition is that we are still the parents at Command Central. So we need to maintain vigilance, of course.
Kids screw up. They’re kids. Parents screw up. We’re parents.
But, hey, we’re all in this together. Let’s remember that. Our kids need more context, and sometimes we do, too. That’s why the amalgamation is necessary.
We need to look out for our village’s kids, and our village’s people too. And the ornery villagers? Well, try to kill them with kindness.
So after I vlogged, then considered the old gent’s perspective, it gave me more context of my villagers and my parenting and my kids. I may not have liked it, but there it was.
So what does this all mean?
It means that if somebody raises a red flag in a respectful, thoughtful, and loving way–they love you. Because they care.
And if somebody raises a red flag in a disrespectful, thoughtless, and spiteful way–listen to that, too.
For they’re all in our village, whether we like it or not.
The Cop. The Native American. The GI. The Biker. The Construction Worker. The Cowboy. And anybody else whose path you cross.
YMCA: Y=Why? Just parent; maintain Command Central and appreciate more context as we grow and our kids grow. M=Musketeers. Insightfully, nobody knows our kids better than we do. Maintain cohesion. C=Concede when necessary and collaborate perspectives while you process. A=Answer? Well, maybe Jack Palance can help me here.
So be a member of your village: speak and listen. Have empathy. Put it all together and whaddya got? The one thing that guides your life.