It takes a whole village to raise a child, states an African proverb.
Back in my younger days, I wholeheartedly disagreed. In 2000, when I became a father for the first time, there was still much discussion over this premise. “It doesn’t take a village!”, I scoffed. “It takes parents. Active, involved parents.” Love and discipline, I might have said. That’s all it takes to raise your child.
As life often does, it’s shown me the error of my ways. I am required, every day, to rely on others to keep my children safe. In small town America, ,neighbors take interest in your life. As a young man that grew up in suburbia, I once declared that i simply couldn’t handle that level of intrusion into my personal life. This is one of the things that I’m most thankful for, about where we live today. Not only are we related to the whole blasted town, (sorry girls, but you’re going to have to find a mate elsewhere), but the ones we’re not related to take a genuine interest in the girls. Caring for their well being. You can see it when Linda, childhood friend of my father in law and girls’ bus driver, greets the kindergartner. On a separate trip, she also drives the pre-teen to school. There is a cohesion to the neighborhood. A neighborhood, I might add, that doesn’t stop on “Snob Hill”.
But, it’s important to remember that we’re not on an island of safety, right? Some people certainly do despicable things, and it’s our job to protect our children from those despicable things. Sadly, I think that means that we sometimes keep them isolated. In a social bubble, if you will. Through our fear, we inhibit their social comfort. In some ways, technology has vastly improved our lives. News, regardless of distance. is delivered nearly instantaneously. This quenches our thirst for awareness, and nourishes our fear. We can interact with people from all over the world in an instant, but may not interact with our neighbor.
Because of this well-nourished fear, we are now conditioned to expect the worst of people. When a friendly older gentleman sits down to interact with our children, we immediately question their intentions. And it doesn’t stop as children. We don’t trust our peers. Why don’t we trust our peers? It’s ‘my belief that we’re doing ourselves and our children a disservice. Through our need to protect and cleanse everything for our children, are we inhibiting them socially?
Are we, as a society, better off if we’re more comfortable talking via SMS Text than our voice? Or when we’d prefer to talk via a web server two thousand miles away as opposed to thirty steps to share a beer with our neighbor?
“Doveryai, no proveryai”, or “trust, but verify”, is a Russian proverb made popular by Vladimir Lenin and Ronald Reagan. Perhaps, we would do well to heed the advice of the Gipper before we instill an ever escalating, paralyzing fear into future generations.