April 17th. The journey continues …
So many, many thoughts have been running through my mind over the past few days. Remember that old saying … “It takes a village to raise a child”? I’ve been thinking about that saying most. This post isn’t specifically about Autism but perhaps relates to some of the issues we face as parents in current society.
When I was younger all the adults around me were involved in my formation. If I played up, they would let me know and provide redirection. Likewise, if you did a great job you would receive affirmation. If you played up at school you’d get your backside kicked there and then your backside would be kicked twice as hard upon your return home! If you were playing in the street and another neighbourhood adult gave you a direction, you would follow it. Out in public if you were doing the wrong thing you would be given admonishing looks and perhaps a harsh word from adults around you. I know this way of operating often may have caused safety issues due to a small minority of adults who may have taken advantage of their position but overall, it was a system that involved respect.
We attended Church every Sunday and had a wide group of families we regularly mixed with. We knew our neighbours really well – they were like family. Mum was for the most part at home with us, and was directly involved with everything we did. Weekends were about family time. In Toowoomba the shops only opened on Saturday until lunch time – for the rest of the weekend the shops were shut. The focus was on family, friends and lifestyle. The neighbourhood kids were our friends and families grew up together side by side, involved in what the others were doing. I very much felt a part of a village. My village.
It seems like we’ve lost the plot now! We are so hands off with other people’s children and even with other people. We often don’t know our neighbours, even by sight, and you wouldn’t imagine giving direction to a neighbourhood child (although if you’re me, you do!) People don’t like to involve themselves in others affairs. Sometimes this is because they are afraid of being sued or that they’ll be accused of doing something indecent or wrong. I’ve seen people literally step over an old lady who had fallen over in the mall and just keep walking. I’ve seen people ignore the mother with a screaming baby, a full grocery cart and a toddler who’s playing up and running away on her. I’ve seen people on the motorway just continue to drive by rather than offer the hand of help to those broken down at the side of the road. We have forgotten that as human beings we need other people. We need to feel connected to people and to the places we work and live. In the busyness of life and in the pursuit of more income and material possessions, have we lost our way?
In a village, families would rally around those families who were experiencing difficulty. Families in difficulty would be supported physically, financially and emotionally. The happiness and long term success of the village relied on the commitment, contribution and compassion of all members of the village. These days I think more and more parents are feeling the stress and pressure of raising their children without the support and care of a village. Many work places simply don’t support family friendly practices and again, they’re in it for themselves and their own gains. Can they not see that supporting the village means better long term outcomes for individuals and families, and therefore their work too?
In the end people need people. We need each other. Our children need other children. As parents we need other parents, and older more experienced people to guide and direct us. We have forgotten that we can’t raise children alone. Children need to feel a part of something bigger than themselves. They need to feel that sense of belonging. They need to have trust for the adults around them. They need to know that relationships and being a good person is more important than the pursuit of money, status and a materialistic lifestyle. They need to be taught the value of caring for others and being aware of others and their needs. Our lack of connection and pursuit of goals extrinsic to ourselves might explain the huge rise in anxiety and depression amongst our young people. Anxiety seems to increase when we feel a lack of control in our lives. We can control that which is within in, but we can’t control things extrinsic to us like our looks, people’s opinion or judgement of us or how we are rewarded and praised for our efforts. We need a village around our families. We are all in this together. Every child and every family needs a community of care built around them. It takes a village…