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/
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,