“It takes a village to raise a child” is a popular phrase that shows up every now and then at touchy-feely community building events. It is often quoted as an African proverb or something similar. And it is true.
I remember watching news video showing children in a war-ravaged country. There had just been a massacre and most of the village was destroyed, and in the midst of the burned out rubble and the distraught adults there were children . . . playing. Some of the children had fashioned properly scaled toy guns out of sticks and strings and were pretending they were shooting each other. They were playing war! In the midst of a war zone and the results of a bloodlust massacre these children were pretending they were killing each other! Wouldn’t you think they’d know better?
The village raises the child whether we want it to or not. My first three children were raised without TV so it was amazing how peaceful shopping would be with them. They were excited about so many things, it was like a safari to go to Target, but rarely did they say “I want.” They might say, “Look at that!” but rarely said “I want.”
After student loans and a car was paid off we decided it was time to catch up with the rest of the world and get TV. We were best served by satellite so we got one and pretty soon we were watching the Packers, the Brewers, the NCAA Basketball Tournament, the Hallmark Channel, National Geographic, History Channel, Turner Classic Movies — and commercials.
We had been commercial-free for over 20 years and an amazing transformation happened to my youngest kids. They started wanting. “I wants” punctuated every trip to even the grocery store. My kids started to be ruled by wants. Even a little envy creeped into my life as the commercials reminded me how crappy my stuff was and that hair loss was not inevitable.
Our culture is a culture of wants and suddenly the culture had invaded my house. The village was raising my children whether I wanted it to or not.
In Norway people eat healthier and are more physically active. Why? Because that’s what people do. Norway recycles 93% of its waste. Why? Because they do. And because they do what they do that is what children learn to do.
Every culture has a normal and because it is normative it is what the children learn. It is almost like osmosis, it is absorbed until the external and internal pressures are the same, the children learn what is normal by trying to fit in and mimic what the dominant culture is doing.
The culture of '70's TV helped raise me. The Fonz was a role model. The Fonz was a serial dater who treated women like playgrounds and would snap his fingers and they would fawn all over him. And because we laughed and were entertained by it must have been right, right? The Fonz was cool.
Did we think about what was being said about the expectations of male and female behavior, of double standards, about the level of commitment expected of men as compared to women? We didn’t think, we absorbed. Good thing I had “M-A-S-H,” “Gilligans’s Island,” “Hogan’s Heroes,” “SOAP,” “Love American Style,” “Incredible Hulk” and the “Gong Show” to straighten me out.
And I had church. Probably a good thing, too. I learned that it was normal for people to sing together, to pray for important things, to serve people when tragedy strikes, to be generous, to be challenged to be better people, and to love.
Like a normal parent I wonder what my children are learning. What signals are snowing my children under? What is that smart phone making them smart and dumb about? Do they know that most of the world doesn’t run full blast over floating logs? Do they know that even if it is their “best” Packer hat it still shouldn’t be worn in church? Do they know that mass shootings aren’t normal? Do they know that different simply means another way to do things and not stupid? Do they know their grandparents? Do they see me when I am happy and unstressed?
What atmosphere am I and my village creating that they will absorb that will make them unique and good and interesting and hard working and dutiful and loving?
I guess I’d rather raise children than bury them.