By Rhonda Ramsey,
P.O.V. Contributing Writer
According to the old African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child. The family, the teachers, the community --- the "village". What exactly does this mean?
Explanation from afriprov.org:
“This Igbo and Yoruba (Nigeria) proverb exists in different forms in many African languages. The basic meaning is that child upbringing is a communal effort. The responsibility for raising a child is shared with the larger family (sometimes called the extended family). Everyone in the family participates especially the older children, aunts and uncles, grandparents and even cousins. It is not unusual for African children to stay for long periods with their grandparents or aunts or uncles. Even the wider community gets involved such as neighbors and friends. Children are considered a blessing from God for the whole community. This communal responsibility in raising children is also seen in the Sukuma (Tanzania) proverb "One knee does not bring up a child" and in the Swahili (East and Central Africa) proverb "One hand does not nurse a child."
“In general this Nigerian proverb conveys the African worldview that emphasizes the values of family relationships, parental care, self-sacrificing concern for others, sharing, and even hospitality. This is very close to the Biblical worldview as seen in scripture texts related to unity and cooperation (Ecclesiastes 4:9,12) and a mother's self-sacrificing love (Isaiah 49:15-16).
“The multiple uses of this Nigerian proverb show the timeliness and relevancy of African proverbs in today's world. In 1996 Hillary Clinton, the wife of the President of the United States, published a book on children and family values entitled "It Takes a Village" based on this proverb. That same year Maryknoll Father Don Sybertz and I published the first edition of our book "Towards An African Narrative Theology" (now available from Paulines Publications Africa, Nairobi, Kenya and Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York, USA). In Chapter Three on ‘Community'’ we used this Nigerian proverb and many other African proverbs and sayings on the values of community, unity, cooperation and sharing. In Dallas, Texas there was a controversy over four security guards that whipped some kids who broke into a mall. The parents of the kids said that the guards had no right to discipline their kids, but the guards said that they did what they did because ‘the village raises the children.’
“The Anglican Archbishop John Sentamu of York, England at a consultation in Swanwick, England in September, 2005 stated: "As It takes a whole village to raise a child so it takes the whole global village to eradicate poverty. It starts with each of us personally.”
When I read this, my only thought was wow. My husband is in the military, and we have never had the opportunity to be right around the corner from family. We rarely felt as though we were surrounded by people who deeply cared for us and loved our children.
After reading about how children are blessings to be shared, I could not agree more. And I am quite sad to think of how much my children and our family have missed. I read another great article about parenting from phdinparenting.com, and wanted to share a piece of what I found:
"Share the responsibility...
That said, I also don't think the entire burden of raising my children needs to fall on my shoulders or my husband's shoulders. In our case, we have been very lucky to be able to have my mother as a regular and trusted presence in our children's lives since the time they were born. We live out in the country and until recently didn't realize that we had other people nearby with children. I think if we had lived in the city, closer to friends, we would have tried to forge a closer and more consistent relationship between our children and our friends, to create opportunities for trade-offs (I'll watch your kids today if you watch mine tomorrow). I think it is important for parents to have help and to have breaks. Just as it is important to create a strong attachment with your child, I think it is important to your own mental health as a parent to encourage a strong attachment between your child and at least a handful of other trusted adults."
So what do children need? And what about parents and guardians? The more I ponder a child's need to be enveloped in love, I think of how important it is for adults to keep a healthy balance. Caring for a child is one of the most rewarding things a person can do -- it is also one of the most exhausting things we will ever do. How do you create a healthy balance if everything falls on your shoulders, and you have no one to consistently lean on? Do you have a warm network of people who want the best for you, and for your children? Do you think children who are raised by one or two parents with little to no input or help are missing out?
What comes to your mind when you hear the beautiful African Proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child."?