They say it takes a village to raise a child, well, I believe it takes a metropolitan to support a parent. Over the last few years I have learned and logged a few key personnel that I believe are present in a parental journey:
The tour guide. A leader, someone who we know has walked in our shoes. Someone you know that no matter what kind of question on the ridiculous scale that we may want to pose, they will not judge or laugh (well not too hard anyways) in our face. My parents and my in-laws slide into that role, offering their words of wisdom and tales of experience to form a base of parental strategies. That being said, my husband and I update their advice with common practices such as wearing a seatbelt, utilizing helmets and donning sunscreen.
The parent posse. A group of parents that are on the same path and enduring similar stresses and achievements. A tribe of people who we can relate to, understand that when your child acts in the most ridiculous way it is not a signal that we should be finding a therapist but understand that other kids are doing the exact same thing and therefore they are all in essence “normal.” I want to add a special mention to the school volunteers who have the ears to the ground, who tirelessly donate their time and are able to educate us on what the hell went on at school that day! Anyone with school age children can relate to the drive home and dinner conversation:
Parent: “How was your day?”
Child: ‘Good’ ,’Fine’,’ok’
Parent: “What did you do?”
Child: ‘Stuff’,’Don’t remember’
My mom posse fills this role. The amount of intelligence that my matriarch informants have been able to provide over the years have been invaluable. These woman have not only been essential to understand the scholastic side of my child’s life, but also a pivotal role in my social life. Our schedules normally clash, and attempts to gather in a childless session, only appear to align during the occurrence of a solar eclipse. However, when we do get together it is full of laughs, sharing stories of how unbelievably frustrating, crazy and adorable our children truly are, usually over a bottle or two or three of wine.
The dream seeker. The single and childless friend(s). These are the owners of the Instagram and Facebook feeds that we scroll through with torn proud and envious emotions. We follow their partying habits, their growing travelling portfolio and their personal and professional achievements. They may not have the words of wisdom or the experiences that all parents have weathered, but they are essential to remind us that there is more to the world than diapers, formula, homework, PTA meetings, music lessons, team practices etc. A part of us wishes we could be in their shoes but most importantly they also allow us to have the insight that we are blessed to have children as we post another family photo.
The sitters. These honourable soldiers give parents the break they deserve. Bless these people who will take time out of their lives to temporarily assume the parenting role so we can experience shopping without a child rolling his eyes or mumbling how bored and hungry he is. To be able to exit a parked car in 0.6 seconds without struggling with a car seat. They allow us to escape and reminisce about “easier” times but also reminds us that when we do come home and check on our sleeping little ones, that no matter what is going in our lives that we love them and could not imagine of our lives without them. The children, I mean, not just the sitter.
The BFF. The person that without judgement you can turn to, regardless if he/she is navigating the same life path. The individual who knows you deeply and can determine by just your tone of voice and the look on your face whether it is time for a night out or sweats and movie evening in. This dedicated soul will push you to be greater than you are because they know what you are capable of and have the ammunition to ‘inspire” when he/she feels you slacking. He/she is your unpaid therapist that accepts warm conversation and shared memories as compensation.
The elders. They are the group that verbally slap us across the back of our heads to force us to slow down from this fast paced world. My husband and I are very lucky that our children are able to interact with three of their eight great grandparents. I enjoy watching the kids listening to their stories of days with no electricity and dirt roads. Apparently my personal technological stone age (that internet used to come at a cost of using the phone line or that you had to watch tv shows on their weekly assigned spot WITH commercials) does not strike fear as much as a time when their technology never existed. So thank you to those people who can give a daily dose of reality that is not digitally enhanced.
The digital community. The people who we know through our telephone/tablet/computer screens. Whether you know them personally or not, having your posts “liked’ or shared does uplift any spirit regardless of what kind of day you are having. There is some solace to know there are people out there fighting the same fight to be a good parent. We can laugh together at how random our children can be and seek comfort with supporting comments when you just want to start drinking at 1:30 in the afternoon. We are a worldwide group of empowering individuals and with each passing day the numbers grow and bonds strengthen.
The partner in crime. The one person that has been at your side through this entire journey. My husband is the one that endured the marathon of sleepless nights, changed abhorrent amount of diapers and knows what is like to have vomit pierce the fabric of his underwear. That is an experience you can only find once in a blue moon people! During the early days when I was only able to make the bed and unload the dishwasher while caring for a newborn he would still shout praises for my effort. When my days were spent in a bathrobe, feeding and changing diapers: he did not make a fuss at the state of the house. When I look in a mirror and see the ever present bags under my eyes while wearing a baggy old basketball t-shirt and worn out yoga pants: he still calls me beautiful. He is my rock, my lifesaver, my sounding board and sometimes my verbal punching bag but ultimately he is my soulmate sharing this breathtaking rollercoaster ride called life.
There are countless more people who in essence deserve a blog dedicated to their role. I am talking about the teachers, nurses, doctors, day home providers, bus drivers, coaches, countless volunteers and even the Starbucks barista that hands me my perfectly prepared coffee order on the mornings when I had four hours of total sleep and I need to go grocery shopping with a cranky child because we are completely out of milk and bread. To all of the unsung heroes, thank you for your essential roles, we parents cannot do it without you.
To all my friends and family that have had my back over the years and especially over the last couple of weeks please know that your time and effort has not gone unnoticed.
And you, the person reading this, I thank you, for your support and time given to read this blog.
PHOTO CREDIT: Thank you Don Joyce, for the beautiful photo of “The Burmis Tree” that I asked you to take en route to your ski vacation. When I was thinking of a perfect photograph that embraces the theme of support, this tree was the first image that came to my mind. It is an iconic vision of life withstanding the test of time and harsh living conditions. This Limber Pine tree is long since dead and when the tree fell in the late 90s it was a partnership between federal and provincial governments, local community groups and citizens that raised it and placed the apparent and hidden braces. The tree continues to stand this day and is a vision of a partnership between strength and support. If you would like to see this iconic tree yourself, it can be found on the north side of Highway #3 between Lundbreck and Frank Slide in the town of Burmis. (Information on the The Burmis Tree was gathered by the “Alberta’s History – The Burmis Tree information road side sign that accompanies the tree.)