When are other people's children our responsibility?
This topic has been plaguing me for some time now. I have always been the type that firmly believed that in most instances, other people's kids are just that and you need to keep opinions and advice to
yourself unless solicited. Now I still believe this to an extent, but my theory is evolving.
Perhaps it is because my children are getting older and have different needs.
Of course when you have a 2 month old in the dead of summer in Southern California and ol' Edna at the supermarket feels it necessary to scold you for not having socks on your child, you tend to get a little annoyed. I hated getting those types of comments with both kids. It felt insulting. I'm sure that I was overreacting and taking things too personal, but it's just how I felt. And feelings after all, are hardly reflective of reality. But now my children are getting older and when a stranger greets them cheerfully at the store, I am starting to expect them to say hello politely and respectfully. It doesn't bother me in the slightest when the gentleman in front of me in line turns and tells Kaelyn she had better talk nicely to her mother if she is sassing off. Wow, I have come a long way in a short time! I am starting to realize that raising kids is so much more of a job than I once thought and that while it may not be necessary to have a village help raise them,
it certainly cannot hurt.
Perhaps I am realizing this more as I have so many other children of all ages in my life. All of my friends' children, our cousin's children and our neighbor's children; they have all been placed in our lives for a reason. I am not saying that I feel responsible to lecture and scold every time they slip up or talk rudely to their mom. Not at all, I am just starting to feel that it is my responsibility to watch my own actions and responses to things; to remember that in some way my family and I are an influence on all of these children in our lives, and that makes them our responsibility, even in just a small part.
I was recently at a family friends' home and all of the extended family children were there. One child in particular, about nine or ten, tends to be the "loner" for lack of a better term. This child has definitely not had a consistent and stable home life and you can see that they are starting to act out and resent their home situation. Fortunately the extended family, this child's aunts and cousins and grandparents, have a much different situation. They all do have stability and love, support and family, blessings both financial and intangible. The family's frustration with this particular "problem child" was painfully obvious, and I imagine, didn't help the child's apparent feelings of distance and loneliness. I was shocked and saddened to see the lack of love and patience that this family showed this child. I could see an emptiness, an aching, a childlike longing to be a part of something, yet at the same time, giving up on life, happiness, people. I talked to the child for a little while and the response to the positive attention I was giving was overwhelming. I left feeling sad and burdened for this child and all the children that come into my life. I hoped that I had left an imprint on this child's heart. Hoping that this child would not give up on life and more importantly that this child's family would not give up on them.
So this incident brought about all these thoughts just whirling in my mind and has made my heart heavy with this responsibility. How can I make sure to be the best influence on even the littlest life that crosses my path, even just a passing glance?
I think that we can maintain this responsibility in so many different ways. Being supportive of other mothers and fathers in our lives is a huge one. Being helpful and understanding and trying not to judge other family's situations can really mean so much to people. It is easier to just raise our noses and think that we would never do that or my kids have never had that problem, etc. but how does that help our children? What does that teach them? We are all here together, trying to do the best we can. What an amazing lesson it would be for our children to see our communities banded together, trying to raise our children with love and respect in a united effort?
Of course I know that we aren't living in a storybook where everyone has good intentions and ends happily, but we can all look out for the children in our lives and protect them even in the smallest of ways. We never know how one little moment could affect someones life. Wouldn't it be nice to know that for the most part, in whatever circle you are a part of, people are genuinely caring for and looking out for our little ones? It has to start somewhere. :)