This started out as a simple show-and-tell post about this wooden Noah’s ark that Adeline got as a Christmas gift from our wonderful neighbors. And as I was writing it in my head, I couldn’t stop it from morphing into this completely other post about how huge this parenting gig is, and how impossible it is to do it single-handedly. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll connect the dots for you …
The neighbors who made this Noah’s ark were two of the first people we met when we moved here. He is a woodworker; she is a quilter. They are retired and have sort of adopted Adeline as one of their surrogate grandchildren. They invite her over for tea parties and popsicles. They adore her and she loves them dearly. They’ve helped us out when we had no one else to watch Adeline. I should mention that, like many of you probably, we don’t live anywhere near our families. And I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but it is a hard job raising children, even harder if you don’t have a support network of family and friends in place to help out once in a while.
This is something that Jake and I lament a lot: that we don’t have our family, our God-given built-in support system, nearby. We do recognize we have no one to blame for this but ourselves. We chose to leave home and go to college, and all the subsequent decisions we’ve made haven’t got us any closer to moving back. However, we like to place a little bit of blame for this on our society, in which it is just expected that children will grow up and leave their parents and “make it on their own.” Neither of us questioned this assumption until it was too late — “too late” being the point where we had our first colicky baby and were living hundreds of miles from our parents and anyone else that we knew.
Anyway, as I know from experience, it is all too easy to just sit around talking about a lack of community or support; it is another thing altogether to go out into your community and meet people, make friends, join things. It takes time to form relationships and make connections, so if you’ve moved around as much as we have you can begin to feel a little reluctant to start all over again for the seventh time. You might get into a little funk of self-pity: “Oh, I have no one around to help me out. Poor me.” (Um, yeah, when I say “you” I mean “that’s what I did.”) But finally I came to the (only and most obvious) conclusion: I had to get out of the house and meet people if I was ever going to make friends. I’m no expert on this subject, but I can tell you that this is the way it begins: go for a walk in your neighborhood. Perhaps you will see other people outside. Perhaps if you say “hi” they will talk to you. Take your kids to storytime at the library. Say “Yes!” if a complete stranger approaches you and asks if you’d be interested in joining a prenatal yoga class with her. You just might find yourself, one year later, sipping coffee with her while your babies roll around on the floor together and your preschoolers draw all over each other with face paints.
So anyway, I guess I’m trying to say: if you don’t already, get to know your neighbors; seek out a community you feel comfortable in. And remember to ask for help when you need it. Helping others in need is one important part of belonging to a community. But it is just as important to ask for help when you need it. Especially as a parent. We Americans can get swept up in the ideal of individualism, and we need to try to shake that and learn that it can be good to depend on others once in a while. Just because you can do everything for yourself doesn’t mean that you need to or even that you should. As a crafter, I fall into that mentality a lot: I could make that, so why should I pay someone else to make it for me? But I’m finding that sometimes I just don’t have time to make that handmade thingamabob before the birthday party (here’s where Etsy comes in handy). Or I just don’t have the space right now to grow and store all my own vegetables, so I buy them from someone who does. And I think that’s ok. That’s part of being a community. One person doesn’t need to be completely self-sufficient if they’re part of a community. After all, no mom’s an island.