Guest blog by Jess Caire
I recently spent a week with my sissy and her new born babe. I am possibly the proudest sister in the world right now — I feel truly privileged that she allowed me into the sanctity of those newborn fog days. All I wanted to do was support her and give her the things I longed for in those sleep deprived, emotionally tumultuous early days of parenthood with your first baby.
I’m so far removed from that haze now — but watching my sis and her huz navigate it was a reminder of the importance of having a solid support network. Little May, so vulnerable, so tiny, trusts the world into which she was born so much. May has so much love around her, you can feel it when you walk into their house, in the way they look after each other, the way they look after her and love her so instinctively — like they’ve been doing it for a life time. All this love and happiness got me thinking about the world around me, and the world May, my kids, and your kids are growing up in. You hear all the time that it takes a village – and I don’t know about you, but I feel like we live in a society that is doing anything but building villages.
When did we lose this? Is it not our obligation as humans, as caretakers of the next generation to actively build, maintain, and seek out a village? A haven full of diverse people who literally want to love, support and protect the family (in whatever unit it presents) as they navigate parenthood and life?
I like to believe that a baby shows us the best in humans, we goo and gah — we bathe in the purity of that little life, we hope and dream about the possibilities for this sweet human, and we offer advice (some no longer relevant or quite often inappropriate). In the early days we shower the parents with gifts, food and offers of support and then somewhere along the way that fades out… we retreat to our own lives and assume that the parents have it under control. That little baby grows into a toddler, a school kid, a big kid, a teenager and an adult, and each stage requires the same support as they get when they are born — they still need a village, and so do the parents. They need a multitude of people around them championing them, supporting them, guiding them, and catching them when they stumble, as they inevitably will. The parents need people to look to when times are hard, because parenting and doing life can be just that. After all, when we become parents, there is quite literally no guide (noted, loads of books) and we need relatable, tangible, touchable humans to lean on and learn from.
When I looked at May, who is blissfully unaware of the goings on around her, I wondered when in our journey do we decide (unconsciously I believe) as humans that we stop needing a village — and in the absence of a village, how can we possibly raise empathetic, kind, global citizens? When did we decide to forget that we were all that little baby full of hope and sweetness and decide not to rally around someone with the sense of community and kindness?
Some of us are fortunate enough to have villages, but it’s getting harder in a world that seems so intent on disconnecting us to actively build and nurture these essential to thrive communities — how can we survive in the absence of a village? Is this why we may have over looked the importance of human connection, the impact of a smile, a hug, a friendly ‘are you ok?’. It’s a fundamental human need to connect with other humans. Maybe if we did that more, we’d all feel much less alone in this fast paced world that preys on our fears and intolerances rather than fostering our empathy and kindness? Even your grumpy bus driver Graham* was a baby once… (I know Graham doesn’t really sound like a baby name, right? Man names for babies are a whole other blog!) … deep down under that gruff exterior, he is a human who needs kindness, connectedness and compassion — just like you and me.
I promised May that I would make the world a better place, by being a better human, and to actively contribute to the village around her that will protect and love her. Part of that means asking those around me to consider what they add to their village? Not just their family, but the wider community. Did you look up today and engage with the world around you (I write this as a permanent reminder to myself)? Did you smile at a stranger? Did you ask the Mum (or Dad) struggling with 17 bags and a toddler onto the plane if they needed a hand? Did you slow down and let someone in front of you in the traffic? Did you ask the parents what you could do to help them raise their newborn in a world that, at times, seems so incredibly doomed you may wonder what’s the point? But there is a point: we all need a village of babies, children, teenagers, adults (especially adults), and to live in a society that nurtures and protects each other BUT it takes a conscious decision to actively participate.
If you want a world of tolerance, acceptance and hope, YOU (and me) must help build that village. It’s a bit like moaning about the political party in power when you didn’t vote. Babes like May and her newborn buddies, your kids, my kids, the kids who have no other place to go, the nanna who lives alone, the single parent struggling, all of us collectively are relying on it. After all, we must be the change we want to see.
*Apologies to all the bus drivers called Graham for my stereotype– I’ve based this on zero research, and more out of my immature fascination with man names for babies!