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Parenting in Community: You need other parents

“If, as a parent, you feel as though you can’t do it alone, that’s because you were never meant to.”

BrainRules

In Baby Brain Rules, developmental molecular biologist John Medina argues for the power of parenting in communities – for children, parents, and their communities. What are some of those benefits?

  1. You need wisdom from other parents.
    Emily, a mother of three young children, lamented to me about her eldest, “I tell my seven year old daughter to get dressed for school. Then I dress myself and my five- and three-year old. And when I come back, she’s still standing there with one leg in her pants!” I could empathize with the difficulty of morning routines, and shared how making a physical checklist for our eldest daughter had made a tremendous difference. Emily looked at the checklist hanging in the bathroom, and walked out with another tool in her parenting toolbox – one that I had learned from another wise parent.
  2. You need help from others.
    It isn’t just wisdom that we need. We need help. I have a friend, Laura, who is a doula and mother of a preschooler. Given the nature of her work, she can’t plan her hours too precisely. So we swap. I’m on call to take her son when she needs it; and on many occasions she has taken my daughter (who is the same age as her son) so that I can have a meeting. We depend on each other . . . and our kids get more time to play together.
  3. You are made for relationship.
    I recently bumped into Jessica, the mother of a two-month old, at the playground. I asked how the transition was going to being a mother of two children. She answered, “I just breastfeed and do laundry all day.” That can be a pretty accurate snapshot. Parenting young children can be isolating. Your schedule revolves around the sleep, feeding and care of your children – and cleaning up after them; your relationships with other adults can suffer.
    But you don’t just need other parents for wisdom and help; you were made for relationship. When my eldest daughter was about 3, I formed a book club with two other young dads. We tackled a book that I had long wanted to read (Augustine’s City of God) while our little ones played together on the living room floor. That weekly interaction not only kept us sane; it nurtured ongoing friendships.
  4. Your children learn from your relationships with others.
    Most days, our girls ask us, “Who is coming for dinner?” Why? We so often have friends join us for dinner that our kids have come to regard it as the normal state of affairs. Our children calibrate themselves for relationship by the ways we repeatedly interact with others. Children adopt our patterns of speech, our mannerisms, and our habits of relationship.  Not only do we need wisdom, help and friendship; our children need us to show them how to be friends.

Question: How have you pursued relationships with other parents in the midst of all of your responsibilities? How have you overcome obstacles?

About Graham Scharf

My name is Graham Scharf. I am a father of two delightful daughters, the husband of a developmental pediatrician, a NYC Teaching Fellow alumnus, co-founder of Tumblon.com and author of The Apprenticeship of Being Human.
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