It is hard not to subscribe to the notion of taking a "village" to raise a child. We, like most families, rely on family, babysitters, teachers, friends, neighbours and the church to raise our child. We certainly don't do it alone.
But does the village include random interlopers? Is everyone we come across part of the village?
Let me explain.
It was circa 2008 and Sydney was having a bad bout of what she called "a sparkle in her bum". This meant that going to the bathroom was painful and so she did not want to do it. Husband and I gamely abandoned all other leisure activities, like laundry and personal hygiene, to manage the situation (convince her to pee and poo and clean up when it didn't happen appropriately) and comfort her (she was not her happy little self).
One of the things we tried was to have her sit in a lovely warm tub of bubbles as this helped relax certain muscles, even when she demonstrated iron resolve not to relax them or let her body do its job. Well, she cottoned on to our ploy and soon realized that the lovely big tub full of fluffy bubbles was really her enemy not her friend as the job usually did the trick.
So it became a Mommy/Daddy vs. Sydney cage match of wit and will. On one particular wintry evening, Sydney was not going down without a fight. She screamed. You know that really horrifying scream, when the worst thing happens, the thing you fear most. (Like a Republican learning Todd Akin is about to defend his views on abortion on national TV.)
I think Sydney may have a future in screaming voice overs for movies. Even I wondered if we had accidentally severed a foot. In the midst of the screaming, Jackson will come to the defence of his sister and start with "Mommy, I don't think Sydney wants a bath right now." and escalate to "PULLLEASE MOMMY, CAN SHE HAVE A BATH ANOTHER NIGHT???"
Finally in the midst of the mayhem, the door bell rings. We try to ignore it as the only people who ring our doorbell when we are doing anything important are the kids trying to sell chocolate bars to support their hockey team/ band programme / trip to Europe. Or the ones who want to save our souls, the Jehovah Witnesses.
The person at the door will not stop, so Husband goes to have some unChristian words with the JW's as they are the ones that keep ringing.
He comes back aghast. A young woman heard Sydney screaming on the sidewalk (through all closed windows and doors) and is expressing her concern. Husband sheepishly/stridently told her we were trying to get our daughter into the bath and she left satisfied. I half expected the police, social services and a priest on our doorstep to stage a parental invention, but that didn't happen.
I never really knew whether to be comforted or offended by this. A little of both. It is nice to know someone would take the step to come to the aid of a child being forced into a bubble bath. But at the same time, I like to think that we can face some of the hard parenting days without a panel of judges.
Fast forward to the summer of 2012. The kids and I were staying at my Dad's condo for a few days. In the evening, Finnegan needed a walk and we all needed some fresh air. Dad's place is right by a small river and has a lovely path. Perfect place for a walk.
The kids have their own ideas, and they like to dig out medium sized rocks and throw them into the river. It amuses them for long periods of time as they use a stick to dig out the rocks and then throw them as far as they can. It is not exactly hard core cardio, but they are in the fresh air and not connected to anything with a USB hub, so I am happy to oblige this form of entertainment. It's a throw back to the days even before the Mattel and Fisher Price of my youth. When children's toys were sticks and rocks.
The only problem with this endeavor is that I have a dog who thinks every rock thrown is a ball for her to chase into the river. And she considers it a crime against Canine that I do not let her swim in the river anyway. So it's constantly Mommy vs. Doggy tug of war, one that I tired of after 4 straight nights.
So on this particular night, I thought I would keep walking the dog along the path and just walk forward and back past the rock-throwing site so I was not too terribly far out of sight. The thing about my kids, is they are very obedient about Mommy's safety rules. So I secured their acknowledgement of the imaginary line they were not to cross (15 feet from the river). I told them I would be nearby.
This was a bit of a leap for me. Jackson is at the age where some kids might babysit. He is going into middle school. Sydney is ever the rule follower so I was comfortable. This particular path was just busy enough to not be deserted but not so busy to be a mob. So I decided to walk and let them have their fun. But my heart was beating a little fast.
As we walked, the Caribbean man slowed down so I walked around him. I felt him staring at me, which I thought unusual because a slightly tubby middle aged woman walking dog is as ubiquitous as you get in these parts. I kept walking and noticed that the couple was still standing in the path I had had pass them. They were in ernest conversation. I felt that they were staring at me, but then thought I must be paranoid. Or delusional. So I walked a bit more.
After I turned around to walk back, I saw them still standing there but they had turned around and now were staring at my kids. Finnegan and I trotted back to get in ear shot and as we neared, the men approached my kids and started talking to them.
I arrived on the scene, breathless from the 50 meter jog, and the Caribbean man said with relief to me "there you are. I thought these kids were left here with no parents." He was clearly genuinely concerned and then comforted that I had not gone too far.
So, I guess, whether I want it or not, a few interloping villagers will be looking out for the interests of my kids. And others.
And I am okay with that.