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  • Writer's pictureMegan Kelly

Parenting: Let’s be a village again.

By: Megan H. Kelly




Group of people supporting each other

I can remember growing up, I had several Moms and several Dads. We were in a small Christian school and church. Our parents all knew each other.  If you got in trouble with one set of parents, trouble was still waiting for you when you got home. 


If there was something my Mom didn’t notice about me, you could rest assured that one of my ‘other mothers’ was going to notice and report to her like a seasoned investigative journalist.    It’s one of the things I think of when I hear the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” 


I think of the nosey neighbors who notice when the kids are still out long past the street lights going off. I think of the prying Grandmas and Aunties who ask way too many questions. I think of a time when people cared so deeply about other people’s children as much as their own. 


Somewhere down the line, we have lost that.  In losing that, we’ve truly lost an invaluable part of what makes us a village. Who notices now when little Billy seems to be turning a dark corner?  Who asks the prying questions when sweet Sarah’s gentle glow has faded? 


Kids climbing out of window to safety
Columbine 1999

I can remember exactly where I was when I first saw the breaking news alerts of a mass shooting in Columbine High School. I think we all can. The article that still has me dumbfounded would come five days later. The headline read “Columbine High School shooting plot planned for more than a year.” A sawed-off barrel of a shotgun was later found “clearly visible” in the bedroom of one of the dead suspects. 


Sue Klebold, Mother of Columbine shooter Dylan Klebold, said she didn’t know anything was wrong with her son leading up to the shooting. Did her village notice anything? Did anyone around ask any questions?


Where was the nosey grandma sitting out on her porch, watching? 


Recently, a landmark case in Michigan just ended with Jennifer Crumbley becoming the first US parent ever convicted of manslaughter over a mass shooting by their child. Were there changes in their son in the years leading up to this point? Did the parents know the signs? Did they know who to reach out to? Did anyone around them notice?


Before I get a bunch of comments, I'm not placing blame of this magnitude on one person or group of people. There are many pieces to this puzzle.


We could talk in circles about what the parents should have done. This is not ‘that’ article. This is about looking at one way that could possibly help prevent this from happening in the future. The truth of the matter is that this is a situation any of us parents could be in at any moment.  It may not be a mass shooting but as parents, we are all susceptible to crises involving our children. 


We need each other. This is about each of us looking inward, readopting the village model and refusing to do life alone. Will the questions of a nosey neighbor suddenly cure the world or stop mass shootings? Sadly, no. It is, however, a very necessary piece to a puzzle that desperately needs to be solved.


Here’s four tips each of us can do right now:


1. Notice signs in our own kids (article)

As parents, no one knows our kids better than we do.  We notice when they’re a bit more dreary than normal. Be intentional about creating a safe place for your kids to open up and talk.  If talking isn’t working, look for a family therapist. 


2. Pay attention to your child’s friends. 

I don’t know about you, but my friends in school were the first line of defense in every scenario. Their opinions often served as my compass. If we are the average of the 5 people we spend the most time with, find out who those five people are in your kid’s life. Ask the questions and listen to the answers. Invite the families over and get to know the parents. 


3. Ask for help (resources)

Asking for help is the greatest sign of strength. Every home is different and in a single-parent home, help is essential. Ask teachers if they are noticing a difference in your child.  Ask a trusted neighbor or friend to spend time with your child and see if they notice anything. It is difficult to ask for help. It feels vulnerable. We are all human and we all have limitations.


4. Refuse to do life alone. Create a village.

In a world with so many outlets and points of connection, there is a place and space for everyone. One of my favorite spaces are Mom groups on Facebook. (Join ours here) These Moms are eager to be your friends. They have an answer for everything from best prices on clothes to a full breakdown of your kid’s poop colors. True story. Moms are the greatest. 


Get involved in local church groups or Boys/Girls scouts of America. There is a place where you can connect with other people and meet new friends. Create a village. 

—---

It should go without saying but if you see something, say something. We live in a culture where it’s not as easy to ‘pry’ or ask questions.  Do it anyway.  Care enough to notice. Care enough to ask if they are ok or if they need help. You may never know the difference you’ll make.


Let’s be a village again.

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