I went to a sermon by Greg Boyd called "Abba and Abasis" earlier today and enjoyed 40 minutes of thought-provoking listening on parenting. One of his three main points centered around the old African adage, "It takes a village to raise a child." He talked about how North American conservatives today largely disagree with that statement but demonstrated that throughout history that has been the cultural norm. In fact, I found it interesting to learn that it wasn't until after WWII that the thinking moved away from this village concept to a now present-day emphasis on "the nuclear family" as the basis for life.
I have lots of questions about this shift. What do researchers and sociologists attribute this to? I found myself, with no data whatsoever to back up my thoughts, wondering about the shift to egocentrism and the correlation between the two. And if there is a correlation, what about that time period made the shift to a more egocentric society?
Anyway, it seems to me that part of the tight hold on this idea of the nuclear family could be largely rooted in our idea that we know best. "I am the expert on my child and nobody better tell me to do things otherwise." While I largely agree that we do know our children's sensitivities best, that doesn't mean that others, wiser and more experienced, shouldn't weigh in at times. The push for the nuclear family might also have a lot to do with our attitude that we, as parents, have the right to make every decision for our child and nobody better question our judgment. Certainly, when a village is raising a child a lot more input is given. And that's maybe uncomfortable and we don't like it. We want walls and barriers to exist within where we get to be the gods of the small family kingdom.
Regardless of the reasons behind the shift to less communally-oriented parenting, it's a fact we now live with. And yet Boyd asserts that it isn't healthy, it isn't biblical and goes so far as to call it a "demonic strategy." It's something that keeps us in isolation, separate. It keeps us from real community and all the benefits a community can give - something God designed for his highest, relational creation. Furthermore, Boyd points out that there is no way we, as Christians, can be counter-cultural in the way Jesus wants while living in isolation. We NEED the support of community to live radically. And part of that need means letting others into our family, letting others into our children's lives for better and worse.
Anyway, all of this got me thinking about how we do that and what it means to choose a life that strips us of the benefits of some of the closest connections we have apart from our nuclear family: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins to our children. What does it mean to feel like we have God's blessing to be living here but knowing how that affects our access to our "village" of family? How do we foster a sense of village even from afar?
And what does it look like to recreate a new village to fulfill some of those roles? And how do we get other people on board with that and how do we come to that expectation of each other where a year ago it didn't exist and we came from two different villages? And who wants to take us on because I'm looking at being on the side of the "heavy weight" for others to help pull with two toddlers who love to soak up love and attention and two parents who are muddling through and trying our best!