The Boy didn’t have school yesterday, which was why he and I had our grand cooking spree. (I was also playing a version of “Use Up Stuff in the Pantry and Refrigerator Before It Goes Bad”, but he didn’t need to know that.) As I was explaining to one of my coworkers this morning that Cute Husband and I had each assumed the other was taking the day off since The Boy was off from school, I recalled an exchange that I had with BK this weekend at the birthday party.
I was watching The Boy at a distance while he played with K. BK was nearby, photographing the boys at play, so I knew he was safe, but as the kids were playing with sticks, I wanted to make sure I’d be able to quickly step in and offer BK some help if they started getting too rowdy.
At some point, K ran away from BK and towards Doug, and The Boy was not far behind him. They ran past Doug, Cute Husband, and the rest of the dads at the party, and K kept running towards the playground, The Boy still hot on his heels. When it didn’t look like K was going to stop any time soon, I called them back with my most authoritative Mom voice.
“K__! C__! Come on back, guys!”
The Boy turned first, waved to me, then told K to follow him back. They both came running back, and by this time Doug and BK were beside me.
Not long afterwards, I watched The Boy leave to head down to the nearby lake with BK, our friend Chris, and their respective kids. I knew where The Boy was going, I knew he was with responsible adults, and I knew he would be safe, so I (finally) helped myself to a slice of birthday cake and didn’t give it a second thought. (I did, however, follow them down to the lake after I finished my cake.)
Later, BK thanked me for keeping an eye on K, and I told her not to think anything of it. She explained that she and Doug each thought K was with the other, which I assured her happens all the time. But this is also why we, as parents, each step in for each other. From a very early age, The Boy learned to follow directions from Aunt BK or Uncle Doug the same as if it came from Cute Husband or me, and K shows me similar respect.
I thought of another mom I know whose little boy is about a year and a half older than The Boy. They were over at our house several years ago, before The Boy was even talking, and I asked her son if he wanted some juice.
“No,” he replied.
“No, thank you,” I corrected him.
“No, thank you,” he mumbled.
His mother bristled. “Eileen, I will raise my child, thank you very much,” she said sternly (and in full earshot of her child).
To each their own, I suppose. But that wasn’t the parenting style I grew up with; mine was just one of four families that were constantly together while the kids (collectively 7 of us in total) were growing up. I heeded my friends’ parents as if they were my own, knowing full well that if I acted up around them my parents would be informed. No one can witness everything; it’s impossible to have a decent conversation with someone while keeping an eye on your child at all times. And it’s easy to mistakenly assume that the other parent is watching the kids. That’s why parenting teamwork – involving multiple parents – is so critical.
I’m thankful for friends like BK and Doug. I’m thankful that my parents created a kind of surrogate family for my sister, and that this kind of group parenting is second nature to me.
It really does take a village to raise a child, or at least a network of close friends.