It takes a village but nobody wants it

5

September 21, 2014 by theresiugoes

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“Your milk is too watery.”
“You’re going to give her a sugar addiction.”
“Well, you’re just going to have to tell her ‘no’.”
“She’ll never go to sleep like that.”
“All babies cry before they sleep. You just have to leave her a few minutes.”
“And that’s exactly how fatal accidents happen.”

I get a lot of unsolicited parenting advice. And I know I’m not the only one. The Internets and my social media feeds are full of angry, tired and frustrated mums who have HAD IT with unwanted advice from friends, family and strangers. They have angry tshirts, memes and slogans.

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And, of course it’s not just the mums on the Internets. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I have found myself silently recoiling whenever people tell me how I should, or shouldn’t be raising my daughter.

Why am I ashamed to admit it? Because I’m so aware that it takes a village to raise a child. And I want my village to help me raise my child.

But sometimes, even the most well-intentioned advice can sting like a smack across the face. It feels like a personal attack, a resounding judgment on who I am as a person. It feels like a criticism on the immense effort, thought and focus I apply to my most important job I’ve ever had.

But I think this says more about me, and our culture of individualism, than it does about the people offering advice.
It exposes us as a culture that rejects the wisdom and experience of our elders.
It paints a picture of an ugly, self righteous people who only want to be told they are right. Who only want positive reinforcement instead of constructive criticism.

I don’t want to be that person. I want to be open to rebuke and advice and encouragement.
If I’m going to be angry, I don’t want it to be about well-intentioned advice, but to be about injustice or oppression of the vulnerable.
I want to be open minded, to try new ideas. I don’t want to be so precious that no one can give input to how I live.
I want to be strong enough in my person to know that I’m doing my best, and no one can take that away from me – in fact they can only add to it.
I want my LittleGirl to grow up valuing community, investing in community, and cherishing the role others play in her life.

I want my village to help me raise my child.

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5 thoughts on “It takes a village but nobody wants it

  1. Michelle says:

    There is a bit of a cultural wasteland in this country when it comes to children (I think!). Or I should perhaps say in the Anglo part. We don’t seem to have that lovely thing of collectively delighting in kids like I’ve seen with friends and on my O.S. travels. I was in Italy with friends and their 18 month girl years ago – nobody ever asked how she was being raised, fed, disciplined etc, they threw her in the air (!!) gave her biscuits, pinched her cheeks, kissed her. It was beautiful! Okay, and sometimes unsettling for her English parents … But still lovely to see all ages, male and female just delighting in a little child.

    I don’t seem to get the advice thing so much. Maybe my age – they assume I’m an old hand 🙂 But I would like to see more of the “village” love and nurturing for our children. Maybe that’s the problem though? We struggle with a sense of place a bit here, with our 1/4 acre blocks and shopping malls. Hmm … Could go on. 🙂

    • wifesylv says:

      I hear that! I don’t think it’s exclusively an Anglo problem though! Although, when my Dad’s Egyptian friends and my Egyptian friends meet our LittleGirl, they do so obviously and passionately delight in her – but they also take their liberty to tell me what I should be doing. But maybe their demonstrated love for my daughter softens the blow?

  2. Michelle says:

    Yes, it’s definitely an interesting cultural study. Not that I’m saying Anglo types don’t like children, they’re just more reserved, as with most things! I particularly notice how some friends – Lebanese, Serbian and Italian (the ones I’m thinking about) – get in there. They’ve wanted to hold, kiss and spoil Eden from birth and really, to them, he’s just another kid. But that’s the point, they just loooooove kids. Nice. Should be more of it. Even if you have to get a bit of a lecture as well 😉

  3. It’s just life isn’t it. I found myself to be so much more sensitive to comments I probably should have just brushed off. My mother in law caused me no end of grief and I’m almost certain now that it wasn’t her intent to do that.

    • wifesylv says:

      Yes! We’re sleep deprived and our hormones are through the roof and we’re so focused on our task, we are understandably confusing well intentioned advice as an attack.

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