Saturday, February 10, 2007

Village connections

As the mother of a 3-year-old active boy, I feel like things have moved pretty fast since I became a parent. It feels like just yesterday that Thomas was a little baby and now he’s growing leaps and bounds every day. Sometimes I think about how my life has changed and how I’ve gotten through those changes during the last three years, and I think it comes down to the connections I’ve made and kept through this journey of parenting.

As parents we work so hard to make a connection that will last with our child, but the connections we make to the outside world through friends, family and even strangers help keep us sane in our journey through helping shape our child’s life.

We went to the emergency room for the first time this week. Thomas has never had to go before, so we’ve been lucky, but I was surprised at how emotionally unprepared I was for the visit. He has had a chronic cough for months, but has otherwise been healthy. Finally, his pediatrician decided a chest x-ray was necessary to rule out any serious problems, and thank goodness the doctor at the emergency room found nothing wrong.

As I was walking out the door to bring my son to the emergency room, one of my oldest friends called me – we’ve known each other since college and she has been a great friend throughout the years. I hesitated to pick up the phone because I was so emotional, but then I remembered that she has been to lots of doctors and even ER trips with her two boys, so I knew she’d get me through the next few minutes.

She helped calm me down, and I valued her kind words and advice, even though she wouldn’t go to the ER in my place with my son and husband. Though we met in college, we’ve grown closer through the years because now as mothers we have an amazing understanding of each other and who we are. That is an old connection that through the years I’ve valued and have been glad many more times than I can count that she is there for me.

But through the years, I have made other connections that have been more fleeting and less meaningful, but surprisingly helpful to me. When I stand behind another mother at the grocery store in line, I usually strike up a conversation about their child’s behavior (either good or bad), not because I enjoy commenting on other parents, but because I like to feel connected to any mother or parent.

It makes me laugh if I see another child beg their mother for candy or a balloon or whatever prize is in their eye because I know my son has done that countless other times. And it makes me feel good to say something encouraging or jokingly to another mother to help her get through the day. It makes me laugh even harder when a child sits quietly while passing the eye-catching candy or treats in the store. I usually say that I wish my son was that good (though he usually is), though it makes me feel good to compliment another mother’s parenting.

I do remember trips to the supermarket with Thomas when he was under a year old and would scream his head off two seconds before we were ready to leave and I had no idea what to do. I usually made a comment like, “I know honey, don’t be mad that the prices are too high – it’s not your fault.” But it was that special person in the store who would make a nice comment about remembering those days with their child, or saying something like “don’t worry – you’ll get through it,” that helped encourage me.

Even the other day, while I was standing in the locker room at the YMCA with another mother, I realized that everyone tries to make connections – either locally or globally. She told me about this woman she knew in Indiana who was due in May (the same month as her), but had just had her baby prematurely. The woman was struggling through a heartbreaking experience of not knowing if her child, now about 1 pound, 3 ounces, would make it through the day, week or month, but was sharing daily updates on a message board that my friend visits.

When she was telling me the story, I thought my friend knew the mother personally, but then I realized it was a woman she has never met and probably would never meet in her life. Though I have not found comfort in the online message boards and have only lurked here and there, my friend has really made some great connections with people all over the world.

Begrudgingly, I have to admit that Hillary Clinton was right – it does take a village to raise a child, but maybe it’s more complicated than that. Maybe everyone’s village is different and while mine is made up of local people or people I know personally, others can make and find connections in a global village online.

Through this journey of motherhood, I feel like instead of focusing on the differences of how we raise our children and being critical, it is important for me to remember that though others may try different avenues, we all have the same goal - getting through each day with our children and hopefully making each day better.


Cape and Valley Mom said...

Those connections with other moms are very important, especially when the kids are young. One of the best things about having my kids in group childcare was that I got to bond with lots of other parents going through the same things we were. We were our own support group!

Years ago I participated in a Web forum called Moms Online. I was turned off when the "working moms" board split into the "professional working moms" and (other - nonprofessional? Unprofessional?) "working moms" threads. Apparently some "professional" moms didn't like having to mingle with the hoi polloi at the playground. Now, I could match degrees with anyone, but when it comes to being a mom, it doesn't matter what your career or educational background is. We are all part of the village of motherhood and have a lot to share with - and learn from - each other.

Annie said...

I completely related to what you had to say. Can't wait to read what you write next.