I’m looking out for this kid.

And this one too.

And these…

village

Aren’t they fabulous? I mean really wonderful, with their smiles and their exuberance and their crankiness and even their adolescence?

I don’t have a legal or blood connection to any of them (except for my two boys obviously…) but I’m a part of their community. What does this mean to me? It means that I’m going to do my best to listen to them and love them and look out for their safety when their parents aren’t around.

My friends Gail and Joan and I have started saying “It takes a village” anytime one of us helps the other with her kids. When we say this, we’re basically acknowledging that we need each other. And that our children benefit from our relationship. I remember how my fear turned to relief on Dylan’s first day of Kindergarten when Joan located him in the cafeteria and called me to say she had him with her. No one on the bus or at the school–not even the Principal–had been able to find him. And no one seemed very concerned. (I was trying hard to look collected but panic was mounting inside.) Joan asked how I was and looked as worried about finding Dylan as me. Best yet, she went straight out and found him when I was kind of immobilized by it all.

It takes a village. Hillary Clinton’s book of the same title aside, the spirit of this proverb reads loud and clear: No matter how self-sufficient we think we need to be, guarding our separateness…our children suffer when they can only turn to a very few people for what they need.

I have great (and colorful…more on that later!!!) childhood memories of the other grownups my parents brought into our lives. People like “Thomas B.” and Kate Kinloch and Debbie and Ernie Jones, Rose and Pat cared for us, applauded our successes, and listened to us when our parents weren’t available or we just needed someone different to talk to. Still interested in our lives today, these people were our family when our blood relatives lived too far away to be very involved.

During the last ten years, one of the positives that has come out of the illnesses Jeremy and I have faced has been that our children have developed strong, loving relationships with other adults and families. There were many times when one or both of us were unavailable, and people like Colleen, neighbors, church friends and class mates’ parents have stepped in. Though I would never choose to be unavailable for my kids, I am profoundly grateful that Jesse and Dylan have the emotional resiliency to trust and seek help from others.

Wouldn’t we all like to live in a world where people care about others and do what is needed to help each other? Whether it’s venting about daily frustrations or sharing the life-altering experiences we’ll all face at some point in our lives, it seems to me that we have to be deliberate in order to make this a reality for ourselves and for the children we love.

How can we do this? Perhaps more open doors, more reaching out when we think someone needs help, more saying yes to offers of small kindnesses, more sharing the good, the bad and the ugly. I believe that our children will thank us one day.

This post is dedicated with love to Gail, Joan and the Park Avenue Playdate families.