Or does it? I have to keep reminding myself of the affirmative.
We live on a quiet cul-de-sac bordering a very large green area (think “Tellytubby” hill) and it’s a wonderful place for my kids to run themselves tired. We often go out there on the weekends before dinner – we bring out the bikes, the scooters and skateboards, not to mention bats and balls, sidewalk chalk, water guns, and various other assorted playthings.
Here’s the village part – I’d say about 75% if the time, another child, I’ll call him “A” walks over to where we are (which is right outside our house). Now, my kids are 5 and 2 years old. “A” is 9 (I think) but he’s also mentally retarded. He’s a big kid too. He lives on the other side of the hill and I have no idea how he senses when we’re outside. More often than not he’ll ride his battery-operated jeep over (you know, one of those cars you can sit in that goes about 5 M.P.H.) and start playing with my kids. His mom is a single-mom and usually nowhere to be seen. That is concern #1 – that this boy, who has limited cognitive abilities is roaming around by himself. Granted I believe we live in a safe neighborhood, but still. Now, he knows my kids and they know him. He even goes after school to the same daycare the twins are in. I don’t mind so much that he always seems to arrive just as we are getting settled outside in our play, but that I feel like I have to be his, what…his “watch-parent”? When he’s playing with my kids, I feel like I have to watch out for him, make sure he doesn’t get hurt or inadvertently hurt one of my kids (he’s more than twice the weight of Foster). Then of course as I’m paying attention to “A” that leads me to pay less attention to my own kids. But, then again, he’s a distraction to them and they seem to be genuinely happy to see him. Still, his mom is nowhere to be seen. I have no idea if she knows where he is. I think he probably tells her he’s going to play near Foster’s house and she knows where that is and feels okay with it, knowing we all kinda watch out for “A”. I feel for his mom. He can be a handful; he can be stubborn and difficult to manage. Maybe his mom welcomes the respite when he “goes out to play”? I know I’d welcome it if I were a single parent too.
And up to this point, I don't really think Foster knows there is anything "wrong" or different about "A". Just that he acts like him - like a 5 year old. I bet there will be a time that Foster (and the twins) may question what is wrong with "A" and that will be one of his "learning about diversity" kind of lessons. But until that time, he doesn't question and we don't bring it up, it doesn't seem necessary currently. But also, eventually, there will probably be a time when Foster outgrows playing with "A". Guess we'll cross that bridge when we get there.
I guess that’s where the village comes in. I guess it does take a village to raise a child after all huh?
Stay tuned for the next installment where you'll find out what I'm doing on the floor with Kermit the Frog, Curious George and a big purple dragon.