About the lapse in daily posts, the following from Ann today (she has pneumonia and not the energy for blogging) : “I haven’t died, I will return…”
Every year I settle down to write a Holiday Story. I usually get it done earlier, but this year I had an Anti-Gun-Violence vigil on top of my other responsibilities. And I was tired. I didn’t know if there was even a story in me. But it seems there was. I actually now have another story flirting with me…
I’ve tucked the Story of Hilda and Mats below. They’re two young gnome children, who inspire their village to save the village of Winfield’s Christmas. I hope you enjoy it. If you do, share it with your friends. It was fun to write.
I hope your holiday is lovely and filled with everything that matters to you.
I wish us all Peace in this season, and in the year to come.
I come from a nuclear family full of worriers. There is no one better for catastrophizing than my mother. It didn’t take long before she and my sister (who had always wanted me to have a biological child) were kvetching about whether or not it was a good idea for us to have taken on such a challenging child. Along with their worry came a bit of detachment – because their fear would have likely lead them to stop the adoption process, they were a bit slow to warm in their commitment to seeing our son as a full part of the family.
Without grandma fully there, there was another unexpectedly unfilled role in our village. Where was our wise and loving female elder who was going to love him unconditionally and bake him cookies right before we wanted him to eat a healthy dinner? The answer came in a woman I have adored myself since I was about the same age as he – my beloved aunt! Auntie came with us on a week-long timeshare vacation and came with a full and open heart ready to love our boy with all of her being, just as she has my sister and I through our whole lives. Watching the two of them together – doing puzzles, watching the birds, giggling in imaginative play – it was suddenly clear that “Grands” weren’t the only loving elders who could play a role in community!
Sometimes our immediate families aren’t our best supports. Who else is there in the extended clan that might be there in your village in a role you didn’t consider? A beloved aunt? A cherished coach? A favorite teacher? A church member? Love can be packaged in many ways…are you open to finding it in a different package than you expected?
One of the first challenges in taking custody of a 4-year-old was in finding daycare. Lots of folks were quick to offer up recommendations – church and other private daycare programs that seemed ideal on the surface but that had stringent behavioral criteria for the children they cared for. Rules like “no biting”, “no bad language”, “no hitting” were amongst the offenses that could result in being asked to leave the program. While I might have previously agreed that these offenses in a preschooler were suspension worthy, now that I had my own child who came preprogrammed with these as his default settings, I couldn’t take the gamble that he wouldn’t express his true colors all day long.
So then who in the community do we turn to that will provide daycare to our less than perfect young ones? It didn’t seem that it was going to be the places that took care of our neighbor’s or colleague’s kids! Luckily, we found out that there are some AMAZING caregivers in publically funded Child Development Centers and Headstart programs providing nurturance, guidance, positive behavioral support and care to kids! I also don’t think that I could have found a more saavy and seasoned behavior manager who also managed to love our son at his most unlovable moments than I found in our beloved “Miss Danielle”. We talked a lot with Miss Danielle over the year – trying to figure out what set off tantrums, how to soothe anger, how to build friendships, what rewards motivated good behavior – and when it was time to graduate from preschool, Miss Danielle had tears in her eyes as she presented our son with a signed book about a Little Engine that Could.
Sometimes members of our village aren’t where we expect them to be. Miss Danielle was not in the cushy private daycare that caters to the kids of professionals and receives fabulous ratings on all measures. But boy were our preschool days better because of her presence with us! Where are you looking for your village? Who do you really want in your community? Are you stuck because the box in which you search is too limiting? Perhaps it’s time to expand or abandon your box. Who knows, maybe your “Miss Danielle” is just on the outside of yours too…
The textures of life are made up of approximations of ideals, as it is never possible for an ideal to ever be fully realized. Just as it is never possible to reach the speed of light, only get infinitesimally closer and closer, without ever actually arriving. But that is the journey! Growing ever closer to the world even as it constantly changes! What joy!!
Ann: Hey Everybody! Say Hello to Maia… Maia! Talk to us about families and communities, will you?
Maia: When, in 1996, Hillary Clinton made it known to the world that It Takes a Village to raise a child, I had no idea how true those words would someday become to me. In my work as a child psychologist, I had observed many times how “others” in children’s lives had stepped up to be the difference in their world, so I guess I had an inkling of the importance of community in raising kids. However, it wasn’t until just about 3 years ago when the foster care agency dropped off an adorable, smart-as-a-whip, behavior-disordered, attachment-challenged, 4-year-old alien at my door that I really began to understand the place that the village has in helping to raise our children.
At the time my partner and I decided to adopt, we were already feeling pretty good about the community we had around us – family members (both biological and chose), friends, coworkers, church members – lots of good folks who were cheering us on in our pursuit of adding a child to our happy, coupled life. The ideal of community support seemed to be there and we were ready to take on whatever child was to come our way. We were ready, but the community that we thought would be there maybe wasn’t quite so ready for the challenges that came with the amazing child the universe had chosen for us.
As our default village started to be less present in our lives, our challenge, then, became to figure out how to surround ourselves and our new son with other people, a new community, a welcoming village; those folks who were willing to be an important part of our lives…to nurture him and us, to challenge us to be the best people we can be, and to help to hold us accountable to giving back to others as well. Little by little we have found the members of our new village. They have not always been those we would have predicted, but they are folks that we hold near and dear to us. I hope that in telling our story of creating our village, others who are also looking for a village will find hope and inspiration while creating their own…