Thursday, July 3, 2008

It takes a village (district) to raise a child

Though we don't know each other, I loved FishMuscle's blog entry on the evening concert at Wesleyan -- I understand he was the one in the yellow shirt, and maybe some of those kids running under the trees were his, mixed with mine.

For me, between raising four kids and my work surrounded by families at Kidcity Children's Museum, I'm always thinking about how we (the collective we) are doing as parents and what kind of people we are raising, and how they are someday going to feel about the job we've done --

Out in the world of commentary, there's a current notion about Parenting that we (parents) are paying too much attention to our kids, creating self-centered little monsters, and a sort of "Kindergarchy", where our culture has come to glorify youth instead of adulthood, and no one wants to be a grown-up anymore. Parents today -- the thinking goes -- are hostages in a cycle of doing way too much for their kids, and the family revolves around the interests of the kids instead of the adults.

We certainly seem to be bucking this trend in downtown Middletown. For the neighborhood parents that I know, life is not a whirl of driving from soccer practice to dance class. Instead, I'd say that engaging in the community is sort of the neighborhood sport for the grown-ups and the kids tag along more often than not. In some ways, our (grown-up) involvement in the community is purely selfish -- it's fun to be part of something larger than yourself. There's no doubt that it sometimes takes time away from your own family's needs. Sometimes, downtown families decide that their kids just won't get to do an activity if it takes too much of the family's time (meaning that it's outside the center core.)

But it's also true that our kids are having a great experience by growing up here -- the kids in our neighborhood have a manageable amount of independence -- they are out and about, and it's not just that they can walk to programs like Oddfellows that other folks have to drive to -- it's that they have a way to satisfy the human urge to be out in public, just strolling or stopping at the library, or meeting on a corner. And they also have a manageable amount of responsibility too -- all of our kids have logged plenty of hours at City Hall meetings, while the debate-of-the-week rages on. Not that it's all work -- we gather for fun at least as often as we gather to rouse the rabble.

I hope that by raising kids in the downtown, my spouse and I are showing them the value of being involved in a community, and of the responsibility we all have to create the change we want to see in our lives. But if somehow they aren't picking all that up, at least I know we are all having a lot of fun living here, and that none of us lack for good friends.

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