Category "Creating Community"
June 10, 2007
Challenge of Parenting in Community
I think that there is an enormous tension between parenting and communities. Parents need communities and the interpersonal or financial resources that they represent (ECFE, church, civic groups, school programs, support group, etc.), but at the same time it is extremely difficult to join communities that understand and want to commit to you and your kids. Communities have to have some kind of vested interest otherwise their interest will seem superficial and agenda-driven. Something along the lines of, "I'm interested in helping out with [some parental support function] because I want to learn about how to help kids to grow and develop" is a set up for failure. The reason is that this kind of idealism does not consider the challenges of whatever support has been offered, instead this kind of support is a tentative commitment which seems to involve meeting the need of the supporter in learning about a process. It could be with your kid or a kid in a textbook, either way the supporter may not be prepared to make the kinds of sacrifices required to REALLY support the parenting process. A vested community knows that commitment to kids and their parents involves challenging and exhausting interactions. Every experience with kids look different. A simple trip to the grocery store is a now the journey of Odysseus! A conversation at a party now becomes one part genuine interest in what the other adult wants to talk about and one part keeping-an-eye-on-the-kid. Parties are no longer exciting and refreshing, because they leave parents frustrated socially and disillusioned from trying to do too much at once.
I think the only way that communities can offer the kinds of support and resources that parents really need is to think like a parent and to have nearly the level of commitment that a parent has.