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How I Learned to Embrace My ‘Village’ to Become a Better Parent

How I Learned to Embrace My ‘Village’ to Become a Better Parent


Why I am thankful for all the parenting advice I got along the way—from friends, family, and strangers alike.
 

Prior to being a mother I thought I knew all there was to know about raising a child. I promised myself that when I had children, my kids would never watch TV, stay up too late, eat junk food, scream in the supermarket, be fresh, or throw sand in the sandbox. I was so judgmental I didn’t even realize I was being so—until I had my first child.

As a mom, I’ve learned I don’t have all the answers, and there is no one right way to raise a child. I recognize that sometimes you can do everything right and your 2-year-old may still flop on the ground and pound his feet in a full-blown, screaming tantrum in the check-out line. I admit what I now profess to know only came about with the help of so many—mothers, friends, even strangers, who, in short, helped me be less judgmental of myself and of others.

I realize now the wisdom of “It takes a village…” and am thankful for all the women who helped me along the way. When my older son was going through a difficult time and I would start a sentence by saying, “Why can’t he just… (fill in the blank: eat like other children, go to mommy-and-me classes without crying, etc.),” they would say, “Because he’s just himself.” This is a mantra from the Village I continue to carry with me today.

Now that I’ve opened this Village door, I can see just how many people have played a positive, non-judgmental role. When my younger son decided getting up at 3:50am was a totally acceptable time to start his day, my family and friends would call with suggestions, encouragement, and empathy (and the occasional Cosmo when things got really rough!). They reminded me, too, that just as I can’t take credit for all of my kids’ successes (as much as I would like to!), I also can’t take the blame for all the things they sometimes do wrong. “Don’t make this about you and your parenting,” they would say. “Just help them through it." 

The Village cannot be a parochial or provincial place. On that note, I want to acknowledge all the strangers who have helped me out in airports, restaurants, and grocery stores over the years when I was having a hard time with my boys. I promise you and them that I will pay it forward. I will not give you a mean look when your child is screaming, I will not tell you I can’t understand why your child can’t happily share because mine always does. I will not look at my watch when I see your child is up past what I consider to be an acceptable bedtime. I will remember that I, too, have been there. I will remind myself what I have learned from so many others along the way.

I will help you, offer you a hand and listen; I will not judge you. I am part of your Village, too.


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Author: Heather Ouida is the co-founder of Mommybites, a site that offers nanny boards, online parenting education, and other services. She lives in New York City with her husband, two sons, and her pet turtle Squirtle. This essay first appeared on Mommybites.com. See More

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