Over the last couple of years I have grown to realize that the no doubt clichéd African proverb it takes a village to raise a child is quite true. I think parents in general are very territorial and protective of their offspring, much like our animal friends. Because we grow, birth, and bond with our children, we assume that they belong to us, and only us. Sometimes we are reluctant to share our kids with others, sometimes the other parent even. It is almost like asking a three year-old to share their favorite toy.
Growing up I had one toy that topped all others. I vividly remember my Cabbage Patch doll, Adah Marie. I would comb her hair until it gleamed, change her clothes at least three times a day, and keep her impeccably clean. I even put lotion on her chocolate-colored face. Adah was the one gift that I never shared— for who else would treat her like I did? She was my most prized possession.
When I became a parent, it was not much different. I didn’t want too many people holding my son, fearing that they would drop him, handle him too roughly, or pass their germs to him. I even made an excuse when my aunt asked to keep him so I could get some much needed sleep. I could not bear being without him for a few hours. He was my living, breathing Adah.
As he grew older I slowly began to lessen my eagle grip. It didn’t mean that he wasn’t mine anymore. It just meant that others could be apart of his life, too. His circle was widening as was my perception. I had learned to share.
I came to see that everyone played a role in his life. I had to build trust that others would care for my son, perhaps not the way I would, but adequately enough. There would be no way that I could prevent him being in the presence of others and possibly being influenced. I could only hope that the majority of his encounters would be positive interactions.
His circle grew to include people such as teachers, dentists, doctors, babysitters, and coaches to name a few. While I can meet his educational needs through home schooling–I don’t know how to fill cavities or diagnosis health problems. I can’t take him every where I go or teach him how to make a defensive play. But I do know that I need every single one of these people for the wellbeing of my son.
So when I received an Easter card from Eliza thanking me for relaying a message to her from “our sons,” I was dumbfounded. It was quite a generous gesture on her part—especially considering that she is the “mama bear.” Her words acknowledged the important role that I play in the life of her sons. I was the stranger in the village who had finally been recognized for my contributions.