You send out the baby announcements and everyone rings with joy. You receive endless congratulations and suffocating support. Everyone talks of what experiences they want to share with the newest addition, and you finally begin to accept that you aren’t in this alone. And then the village disappears.
Where did they go?
My husband and I always reminisced on our childhood, comparing the traditions, love, and experiences. One part that was common between the both of us was the people. The people consisted of more than our parents. They were our grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and close family friends. These people gave us love, experiences, and memories outside of our parents, helping to mold our being. These people were our village. So, once we began our own family, we were beyond ecstatic that Aria and Hayes would be inheriting this same village plus a few additions.
Aria is our first born, and shortly after she was born, we relocated to Memphis. In the beginning, I was a tad bit nervous because I would be leaving my village behind in Tupelo. What if I needed help? My family and close friends assured me that they would visit, so there was no need to worry. Beside,s the distance apart was only a 1- 1.5-hour drive. Of course, his family beamed with excitement to be closer to Aria. This eased my mind, knowing their excitement. So, there was no real reason to worry. Hmph. The first year or so, we grew closer to his family and more distant from mine, with the exception of my mom and sisters. I began to talk to my village less and less and only physically connecting when we traveled to Tupelo. Other than us making the effort, there was nothing. Nada. This was painful, because I remembered being extremely close to my relatives growing up and I wanted the same for Aria-I thought she would get the same. I was beyond disappointed and frustrated, but I could not linger on this emotion because she was not aware that she was lacking. It did not get better, so fast forward to Hayes being born.
Same excitement, no action. By this time, relationships with his family were fading as well, because we noticed we were the only one making an effort in maintaining our village. We made sure that Aria and Hayes were visiting with family, and it was not being reciprocated. The adults, the village, were not making an effort to be in their lives and this realization was astonishing. How? Why? WTH? We could not wrap our minds around how we live in the same city, 10-15 minutes in distance from family and no one put forth effort to show up for Aria and Hayes. No phone calls or visits. What!? However, when we were doing our part in maintaining the relationships for our children, everyone would be so excited to see them and exclaimed how they wanted to see them more. Nothing would happen and we decided to back away. Family was not the same. Our village had disappeared. We were heartbroken for our children,and, although they did not know what they were missing, we knew.
Since our village had disappeared, this played an enormous part in how I looked at parenting. I felt we had to make up for the love, experience, and exposure that they would receive from others, so we kicked it into high gear. We began to jump into any and all family/children related activities around the city. We began to travel more for certain activities and experiences. We allowed them to express themselves more openly and freely. We started to go on family dates, just like a couple date but with our favorite, family-related activities. We were more present and open as parents. This village circumstance propelled us into a parenting style that we had not known or ever experienced. In the black community, the parenting style is very “my way or no way” and “children should be seen and not heard.” I loved what we had created, but I still wanted my children to have more than just us.
I was set on giving my children what I had growing up: an amazing village. I talked it over with my husband and we decided to create our own, because the one we were given had failed us and our children. We created a village made of my mom and sisters, a couple of his siblings, and close friends that felt like family. Although we’re still in the early stages of our created village, it feels good. It feels good to know that other people, outside of my husband and I, love my children and want to be active in their lives. It feels good to see others show up for Aria and Hayes. It feels good to know that they will get their village after all.
Also, I had to get out of my introverted way and find other moms like me who are nearby. At this point, we’re family dating: "dating" other families and people to see whose village we can become a part of and who we can add to ours. I feel confident that we will be able to create an impactful community for our children.