Beware the Village Idiots
There’s something that’s always bothered me about former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s famously titled book It Takes a Village. 1 The title paraphrases an African proverb about the many cooperative efforts required to raise children. Indeed, the community your kids experience can provide them with an important sense of belonging and stability. But even though many villagers may participate in your kids’ formative years, you are their most important guidepost, mentor, and friend. Relying too heavily on others for those roles is risky and, ultimately, unfulfilling.
Your kids’ village is diverse, unfocused, and conflicted in its priorities. First of all, every village has its idiots who may negatively your kids, either intentionally or unintentionally; you have to be there to undo their influence. Of course, as Mrs. Clinton wrote, there are many villagers who can positively your kids—day care providers, playgroup parents, teachers, classmates, clergy, coaches, college counselors, etc. They each have their own well-meaning agendas for your kids. But you must be the filter, finding the right balance of influences so your kids get the right messages.
The villagers also have worries and distractions to deal with in their own lives. None are committed to your kids wholly and solely. That’s your job alone, and your privilege.
1 Hillary Clinton, It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996).