It takes a village.
Not a fan of cliches, I have never been too fond of this phrase. I know the intention of its meaning, but I think my dislike of it is rooted in my doubt that this "village mentality", that we SAY we all desire, actually exists. This is an area where I wonder if we are "all talk".
I have these four friends. We meet together one morning a week to catch up on our lives and to pray. We are alike in that we all share the same faith and attend the same church. We also hold similar convictions in certain areas. We have children around the same ages. We enjoy each other's company and have many of the same interests. Only, we four couldn't be more different. We have different personalities. And parenting styles. Even so, I TRUST THEM. I trust them with the things I need to get off my chest. I trust them with sharing tough stuff about myself, my children, and my day. I'm not embarrassed to say that I selfishly created this weekly fellowship for me. It was intentional. We didn't just fall into it. I slowly got to know these women as individuals over the short amount of time I've lived in my new town. And then, I crafted the group. On purpose. I'm sneaky like that.
Gathering this small village was a brainchild of mine last January, and we've now been meeting together once a week for just over a year.
And sure, while it sounds like this group was developed for my own selfish purposes - to feed my personal needs - there has been another, bigger purpose.
To feed my children.
Not literally. (Although they have. And my kids seem to prefer their food over mine.)
I want my children to know my friends. I want my children to know the women that I trust. I want my children to feel comfortable with my friends. I want my children to know that my friends are watching out for them. No, not like a hawk. More like a mother eagle.
Case in point.
All of our kids have an iPod Touch. And while we are cool with them playing games and listening to their music, we carry the concern that they will stumble upon something online or YouTube for which their young eyes are not ready to see. It is after all, the big world of the Internet - where there is much good. And also, so much more. Yes, the devices come complete with the ability to restrict applications. We're all good with that - after a quick lesson on my son's iPod this morning.
We also have general rules for the use of their iPods. For example, here a just a few for our household:
1. The iPod can not be played until homework, chores, and musical instrument practice is complete.
2. The iPod is not a guest at our dinner table. Ever.
3. "Obey the first time" (in reference to something either I or my husband tell them to do) or lose the iPod for a full 24 hrs.
Maybe these seem "over the top", but my kids DIG THEIR IPODS, and could play on them forever. Hyperbole? Yes. Um, no. (Okay, yes.)
So, what does my "village" have to do with this?
We are currently compiling our iPod rules and sharing them with one another. Why? Because I have given my friends permission to talk with my children if they find them breaking one of my rules.
Here again, let's be clear. My kids KNOW THESE PARENTS. They play with their children. And they know that George and I trust and respect these parents. We have a relationship with these families.
Why is this important?
Let's say, in a few years (please, Lord, give me a few years), one of our kids hits some difficulty and is having a tough time talking to us about it. Sure, they will have their youth leader to talk to at church. But, in our case, remember, Daddy also WORKS at the church. So I want to provide other avenues. Thus, I am doing what I can to communicate to my children that I am surrounded by some stellar friends, who also happen to be Moms. Moms that I trust. Moms they can trust. Moms who pray for them every week. That's not just talk. I've heard them.
It's worth a shot.
But, until that day, we will simply continue to meet once a week. To talk. To pray. We'll get together for dinners. And birthday breakfasts. And we'll keep an eye out for one another's children.
So there you have it. It may be Village 101, but at least we're making attempts to actually build one.
Joline Pinto Atkins is an actress who also uses the web as her world-wide stage and can also be founding writing at The Cuppa Jo, and is the founder and a contributor at Daily Fast Fuel. Joline is wife to one (phew - that's good to know) and mother of two amazing children, aged 11 and 7, who are both named after authors. Addicted to fitness, she is an Independent Team Beachbody Coach and sweats out any daily angst by running (not with sharp objects) and P90X'ing, and longs for good books, vats of coffee, and an endless supply of buffalo wings - which she will not share with you. So, please, do not ask.