Hey neighbor! That’s my naked three-year-old jumping on the trampoline in your backyard. I just happened to notice last week that he really hit it off with your two daughters and I thought, well, heck, this is it! We’ve arrived! This is the village of 9- and 11-year-old girls it will take to raise my child!
When we first moved to this neighborhood I had high hopes. I have always dreamed of finding that spirit of the old African proverb: “Omwana ni wa bhone,” which means It takes a village of pretty much anyone other than myself to raise my child, wherever we end up. Before now, I have asked myself countless times over the course of my son’s life, WTF? Where is our village? How will I manage to do this on my own, with only my husband and the nice ladies at the daycare to take care of little Mylo 40 hours per week? And our regular babysitter who comes every Friday and Saturday evening from 6 to 10 so Rick and I can go out for dinner and a movie? And my mother-in-law who comes every Saturday afternoon from 12 to 6 so I can have some me time? And the mother’s helper who comes every Sunday from 12 to 6 to take Mylo outside, away from me, while my husband enjoys his man time? And my sister who brings Mylo food when Rick and I are out of town? And the nice young people who work in the Småland at Ikea, where I try to go two evenings per week so I can enjoy the ambience of the furniture displays, a nice plate of meatballs, and a cinnamon roll without having to think so much about the location of my child. “He is in Småland,” I can whisper to myself periodically, and forget about him until it is time to leave. Except one time I whispered the phrase to myself so many times it lost all meaning and I didn’t actually think about him until I got home and I noticed around bedtime that he wasn’t there, but that’s another story. If I had had the village then that I have now… ah, well, it doesn’t matter anymore, now, does it? Everyone is together again and that’s what matters.
Yes, dear neighbors, I have had no village to help me raise this child, with the occasional exception of the nice people from the DSS. Until now.
Do you see how Mylo so joyfully flings his body off the trampoline, and gets right back on it and does it again, and again, and again? This is the synergy of a three year old boy with 9- and 11-year old girls watching over him. It is a thing of beauty. Your daughters react with such concern — this is exactly what is needed in today’s world! It really does take a village. And I hope they’ve taken their first aid courses — especially the bits about choking and compound fractures. I’ve found those to be the most helpful in my own experience, because as you can see, Mylo loves to jump and eat. Jump and eat, jump and eat. That’s what THAT little villager does. Oh, Mylo!
Don’t worry about him peeing on the trampoline as he just did; it will rain soon and everything will wash away. And yes, sometimes he flings his feces but that’s only when you really pressure him to use the toilet. Just don’t pressure him, girls, and everyone and everything will theoretically be clean. But also… if you could have him completely potty trained in the next two weeks that would be awesome. It really does take a village to potty train a child, don’t you agree?
I love to give Mylo as many opportunities as possible to be independent. So don’t be surprised if he shows up at your door in the middle of the night wanting to climb into your beds from time to time. I told him he can’t climb into mine anymore when I’m home but of course he’s always welcome to check with the other villagers, as it were. How’s that for independence? Right? That’s what all that doorbell ringing was about last night. If you would just answer the door straight away, or better yet, leave it unlocked, he could just climb right in and snuggle up with one of the girls, like a wiggly warm animal. I think of Mylo as a cute little kitten that everyone secretly wishes would visit their homes.
Also sometimes Rick has a business/leisure trip that overlaps with my own business/leisure trips so we just remember to put a box of Alphabits out for Mylo and he’s pretty good about entertaining himself for a day or two until one of us gets home. We don’t like to leave him on his own for much longer than that, but sometimes something unexpected comes up and we’re delayed. This did not always go over so well in our old neighborhood, as nobody seemed to understand that it really really does take a village to raise our child except for perhaps the nice, yet grouchy, sometimes helpful, and otherwise frowny people at Child Protective Services who Omwana ni wa bhone-ed him for four months earlier this year. If there’s one thing I can say about them, it’s this: they really step up when it’s time to be the village. Surprise!
So, neighbor, I’m so grateful for your albeit very small village — but a village nonetheless — of two nine and eleven-year-old daughters, who will now have the honor of helping me raise this child. I’ll send him over later with a rubber sheet and a box of Alphabits to get you started. Omwana ni wa bhone, amigos!