There is an age old adage about it taking a village to raise a child. I’d like to take a moment to thank the village that helped raise me as well as the village that is helping raise my son.
We often think that if we aren’t a parent, we aren’t raising a child. Maybe true — that is, if you are a hermit and are never around children. But every time you take a moment to bend down and look a child in the eye, listen, tie a shoe, or give a smile, you are joining a village without even knowing it.
There is a huge misconception that very young children won’t remember what we did or did not do for them once they are older. To some extent, yes, that it is true. A two year old may not remember the specific details of the things you did and said to her, but the impact you made on her developing mind will remain as an imprint. They say the most formative and important years of a child’s life are between the ages of 0-5. This is not to say that every moment thereafter isn’t crucial, but rather that the largest and fastest growth of the brain and neural pathways happens during those first few years of life. The stories you are reading, the songs you are singing, the time you are spending MATTERS.
The thing I remember most when I think of being between the ages of 0-5 are the hours upon hours I spent with my grandmother in the nook of her kitchen, learning to spell, write in cursive, write poetry and draw. It’s my grandfather picking me up from kindergarten and letting me practice the monkey bars until my palms blistered, never rushing me or telling me it was time to go. It’s dancing and singing to the best 80’s music with my aunt while she let me give her a makeover or do her hair. It’s learning to make chocolate chip cookies from scratch on a stool in my babysitter’s kitchen. It’s attending a Hawaiian luau my Dad created in our living room as a surprise on a weeknight while my mom worked. It’s summer day upon summer day at the beach with my mom, modeling seaweed and splashing in the waves. My fundamental knowledge, determination, love of baked goods, dance and music, delight in surprises, understanding of how men should treat women, and love of the ocean were all things I learned from my village. There were countless others who made impressions upon me as well, but it would take a 100 pages to tell their stories.
Now I have an amazing group of family and friends surrounding my own little boy, dancing with him, singing with him, hugging and kissing him, teaching him how to cook, how to build, how to read. He is full of joy and smiles and squeals and screams in delight constantly. It is because of the love oozing from every corner of his world and all of the people who are taking the time to help raise him that he is this way. I wish all children had that.
So whether you are a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, friend, neighbor, babysitter, teacher or stranger being kind, remember that you are making tiny imprints on tiny minds that will leave an amazing and lasting legacy on the person they become.