There is the well known proverb that “it takes a village to raise a child”. Why does this saying exist? Why do villages not seem common anymore? Do we need a village to be a gentle parent? How can we create our own village? I refer to a poem about my Dad which I wrote shortly after he died. I then include a second poem about how I imagine life with my Dad in our support village would be.
What Are Villages?
The ‘village’ is a community where many people contribute to your children’s upbringing. The mother, father, grandparents, siblings, neighbours, teachers… and many more. Each person in that village cares about the community’s children and, through caring, help to raise them.
What Has Happened to the Villages?
It is becoming increasingly common for adults to not feel comfortable talking to someone else’s children, since some people fear looking like a predator. There have also been a generation or several generations of failed attachments. Grandparents may no longer be reliable, or available due to time or distance, and that leaves just the Mum or Dad to do all of the childcare duties.
Gentle Parenting Without a Village
You can be a gentle parent without a village; it just can take its toll on your mental and physical health. It means being extra strong when you are feeling triggered or lonely. It means having faith that in a few years you will get more ‘me time’ but until then you have no choice but to sacrafice yourself. It can mean doing things that wouldn’t come top of your ideal parenting goals, such as resorting to more TV time to help get your children’s siblings to sleep. All of these things may not be the perfect environment for a gentle household, but the main themes of gentle parenting can still be followed.
Poem: My Dad’s Gone
I wrote this poem about my Dad shortly after he died. I had not yet conceived any of our children when he died, so this was not written with a gentle parenting theme in mind. However, it is clear when reading it back how connected I felt to my Dad. He was not a perfect gentle parent, and probably had no idea there was such a style that existed. He never smacked me and he never shouted, and I knew 100% that he loved me. To me, that made him as gentle as they come.
Every memory stirred brings tears to me
When I cried it made your heart rust
I would’ve given up if you weren’t here
So what do I do now you’re dust?
I’m left with nothing but your blood
No-one feels my shivers at your grave
Everyone thinks my loss is small but IT’S A FLOOD
Everything washed away, I’m no longer brave
When I was young, you believed in me
What am I now, I’m nothing just a wreck
You left my hand and broke my soul
There’s no-one to phone and no-one to want to see
Give me one more day to tell you my news
One more day to spend with you
One more smile to make you feel proud
To tell you I can’t live without you, it’s just too sad
I always knew you knew everything
But you didn’t know this
Nothing will replace you, not even close
Because you are me and you made me, and now you have destroyed me
Poem: If My Family Had a Village…
I included the above poem to show why I feel lonely sometimes about my family village, but also where my aims generally come from for being a gentle parent to my own children. I wrote the below poem imagining if my father was still alive to meet my children. I also hope that this is some sort of future that my children will have if I can be there for them, if they choose to become parents.
If we had a village to call on… I imagine I’d call you everyday
You’d be there to let me take a nap allowing my brain to have some peace
I’d hold you tight when I feel like I just can’t take anymore
I’d stumble over, angry, sad, amazed and … grateful to be home
If we had you in our village… I’d love knowing someone cared that much
I’d be mesmerised to see the bond of you and your grandchildren
You’d feel strong and proud to keep us dear, you’d be so gently loving
We’d trust you with all our hearts to be the one to watch over our children
Dad, I imagine how incredible it would feel… to see you hold my babies into their adulthood
To watch them tug on your hands and dance along a cobbled street
I’d capture a picture of you reading them stories in a creative and funny voice
How utterly deserving you’d be to stand here with us today and always
As I realise the sorrow your absence brings… I look to the depth of my heart
Although you cannot hear my children sing, you are subconsciously guiding my parenting
You are the grandad they will never meet
Yet I’ve met so many new parts of you since becoming a Mum, through my own learning
When I was a kid, you wondered out loud if you’d be missed when you died
I said of course I’d miss you, tonnes and tonnes
Fast forward 30 years, I can’t imagine why you’d have those concerns
You were the gentlest, kindest, loveliest man to know
Not everything you did was for the best, but everything came from a beautiful place in your heart
Every part of your imperfect parenting makes me know I was loved by you… and still am
Keep shining the way for our family, I will always love you, just as I love your grandkids
What an honour it was to have a Dad like you