Back To Basics: Community!

In life there are always polarities and then A Middle Way. 

My dear long-time reader Elizabeth urged me to write a post to balance out and harmonize a post I wrote regarding staying at home (http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/11/06/back-to-basics-staying-at-home-and-loving-it/).  Thank you, dear friend!  You see, she has been reading  my blog for a very long time and she knows a few things about me, and has probably read some of my past posts I have written about the importance of COMMUNITY.

She knows that whilst I was an only child, I lived with an extended family that worked together in a family business.  I had lots of cousins and aunts and uncles, many of whom came and stayed for extended periods of time. I had a group of maybe ten children in my neighborhood as well to play with.  Right now, as an adult,  I am very outgoing and have a very  large community of friends – through our homeschooling group, through church, through my neighborhood, through helping mothers with breastfeeding and homeschooling.  My children are involved in things at home and in our neighborhood and yes, also have a few activities.  

I love people, and I  certainly never mean to say we don’t ever go out!

However, you have to understand another perspective from which  I am writing from.  I  live in a very big, very bustling city where parents really do drag their children around way too much, the commute times to get to things are long, the needs of small children are generally not respected and very tiny children are enrolled in classes, lessons, mother’s morning outs, etc. etc, etc.  Separation and learning skills are pushed incessantly. I see mothers who are consistently stressed and harried and just generally not having any fun at all on their parenting journey.

I also see small children under the age of seven whose senses are being bombarded, children who are being treated as miniature adults and are the worse for it.  And many times the implications of this treatment during the Early Years doesn’t fully appear until the child is the age of the grades or even the teenaged years.

So, maybe you are in the opposite situation that I am, living in this large urban area…Maybe you live somewhere rural, somewhere where you are unsupported.   Maybe you don’t have a car for any of the days of the week and you need one to get out in your community.  So you mainly stay home.

Part of that is necessity for where some mothers are…And I absolutely believe that the family is the unit of socialization for the small child.  But hopefully that consists of more people than just one mother.  If you do not have family near-by, have you discovered any friends who can become like family?  If you can only get out once a week, can part of that be to go and get involved in a place of worship and build a community through that?  Can your one errand day also involve a picnic with another family?  Can you let go enough of your grades age child to arrange for them to spend time with other people, other adults besides you,that would also nurture them and be positive for them?  I think this is an important question.

I also encourage mothers to form support networks for themselves, to rely on more than just themselves from sun-up to sun-down to take care of their children.  I have encouraged you all to have mothering mentors,and  to reach out to other mothers yourself.    Maybe you have some beautiful friends or neighbors who can be part of your family.  I know my own personal “family” extends way beyond just blood relatives!

I especially think this is IMPORTANT FOR THE GRADES CHILD.  The grades child really needs to be part of a community.  The six and  half year old or seven year old does need friends, the world does need to open up a bit.  When I hear about nine or ten year olds and up who have no friends, this makes me feel  sad.  They should, hopefully, have some friends by this age!  In nine years or so, they will be out on their own, no longer in your house, and they will need to be able to navigate the social world by themselves, without you.  Let them develop their skills in discerning good friends, deal with friends who don’t want to play what they want to, all of those childhood things we all go through.  This is their social work, and it is important.  I don’t believe that this has to happen at age three or four but it does become important as children mature and grow. 

It is always important to PARENT WITH A PLAN.  What does your child need right now?  What needs to be balanced and harmonized?  Does this need to happen now, can it wait, what is child doing developmentally and is this something that needs to be worked with deeply or something that needs to be guided but  will pass?  What does the family need as a whole?  Your needs as an adult count as well….

Here are some back posts on community, and I hope you find them helpful:

A few notes on the importance of a spiritual/religious community:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/07/a-summer-parenting-project-for-you/

9-12 year olds and community:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2010/06/06/the-foundation-years-of-ages-9-12-decreasing-high-risk-behavior-in-teens/

Another post about this debate of protection and community:  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/09/09/more-about-social-experiences-for-the-four-year-old/

Are we making this too hard?  Are these things mutually exclusive?  http://theparentingpassageway.com/2009/06/19/the-simplicity-of-parenting/

Protection of the twelve senses is so important (Waldorf readers will understand that which I am referring to!), but one of those twelve senses is the Sense of Balance.  Simplicity and rhythm are wonderful, but so is warmth and fellowship.  Fellowship can carry things that are so difficult to carry alone.  I do not want people to mistake simplicity for emotional distancing.  Life, and living with people, can be messy.  So be it!  The pros far outweigh living life isolated and alone, I think.

This is a hot topic and one that is so important to figure out where you and your family stand – be mindful and create what works for your family!  Let the comments begin, LOL.

Have fun creating a family culture that extends outside the walls of your home,

Carrie

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8 thoughts on “Back To Basics: Community!

  1. Thanks for the lovely reminder. There is a big difference between being out of the home, busy and “community”. I lived a suburban, nuclear family lifestyle and although we were busy, and surrounded by people, we were very isolated emotionally. Most interactions throughout my day were superficial. I was incredibly lonely.

    I have since, intentionally built a community with friends. We share sunrise breakfasts and seasonal rhythms. We support each other though births and deaths and marriages and milestones. It is much more conscious and full, and far less busy. :)

  2. We have had a very difficult time finding community here – so we are pretty much friend-less. It can be tough, particularly with an Asperger’s Child. It is nice we have a few kid neighbors who like to play with the boys, even if the parents are not thrilled their kids are friends with homeschoolers! ;) Generally we like to just be together as a family, at home or in nature. It can be very isolating for me as I don’t have anyone but my husband to talk to, but my boys do see kids in the neighborhood once or twice a week (a lot in the summer, not so much once it gets dark so early and kids are in school all day), at karate and at the library, even if they are not ‘friends’ with any of them. My boys are best friends with each other, though, and that is priceless!

  3. Thank you for this post. You’re right, I am lonely and so are my older children.

    Have you written about how to balance older children’s needs for friends and activities w/ baby and toddlers’ needs for shelter? I have friends who drag their little children all over creation because each of their grades children is allowed to pick one social activity and it all adds up. Carpooling should work in theory but most moms of many already have a full van!

  4. I have a local attachment parenting community. We see our friends most days for 2-3 hours in the morning and spend the rest of the day at home. My kids are 3 and 1. This fits perfectly into our rhythm right now!

  5. I have my family who are involved in my son’s life. However, I am now also trying to build a community with other mothers in the area- though t osay the truth I dont know where to begin exactly….do you suggest I send letters in the post since I dont really know anyone but i know the street where I live there are about 6 children all the age of my son!

  6. Very true! Finding community is like finding heart and home. And quality over quantity in terms of outside contact is definitely of so much more meaning. Thanks for your beautiful thoughts Carrie and the other folk who have commented xxx

  7. I struggle a lot to find balance in this. I worked hard to build community and I know that I need the support and companionship of other mamas, but it’s so easy to fill up the schedule and find ourselves hardly at home. My children are 3 and 1 and the one-year-old still naps twice a day but the schedule keeps shifting. And my friends’ schedules shift too, and I work PT from home, so I find that keeping a consistent rhythm is complicated. I’ve been spending a lot of mental energy lately on trying to figure out a perfect rhythm that balances time at home and time out and not getting very far….I think I need a rhythm tutor!

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