A World of Kinfolk

The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit.  No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child.  He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born.” ~ Pearl S. Buck

You’ve probably heard the proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” and while the concept sparks controversy whenever it is brought up in governmental considerations – the Democrats being in favor of supporting societal social systems that nurture children and the Republicans generally preferring to leave the responsibility in the hands of family – it is safe to say that it is extremely challenging to for two parents (and perhaps even more so for single parents) to provide a well-balanced nest in which children can grow and mature on a well-rounded basis.

For starters, children benefit from relating to fellow human beings in all age groups. Children who do not have the opportunity to relate to grandparents or other representatives of generations older than that of their parents, for instance are at a significant disadvantage. They miss an important part of the thread that weaves through the body of humanity by way of its historical lineage. They lose an important piece of the puzzle that will help them understand their parent’s generation as they get older.

Some of the most interesting stories I heard as a child were shared on the knee or in the front of the canoe of one of my grandparents or while listening to the conversation over a game of cribbage while I was sitting with the children in the living room.

I recall one that my grandmother told us recently about a car trip she took from West Point, NY to Birmingham, Alabama in the late 20s on one of the few roads (dirt, of course) that connected the two locations. She said that they came across five or so other cars the entire trip and when they did meet up with another, they picnicked together and drove with one another until the one of them made their destination. A far cry from a similar trip in our era!

I have had relatively few similar experiences of spaciousness and solitude in my lifetime, perhaps due to the fact that we have more than 3 times the number of people on earth now than in 1927. Our population grew from 2 billion to 7 billion in 90 years. And we think rabbits are bad! One particular trip that I’ve made a few times of the last few years involves a long drive inland from Kelowna, British Columbia. On that trip, especially in winter, you might only come across 10 or 15 cars during a 2 1/2 hour drive. There are no radio stations, just silence. It is blissful and challengingly unfamiliar at the same time!

Anyone who advocates socialization for children understands the value of the “village” or the larger community. Learning to interact with peers is a vital component to any child’s process of maturation. You may know someone who grew up solely in the company of adults. At risk of stereotyping, they tend to exhibit certain peculiarities common to their demographic and while they may often exhibit a precocious ability for communicating with adults, they often lack social skills necessary to effectively deal with their peers.

Ours is such a mobile society that exposing children to all age groups strictly within the blood relations can be impractical if not impossible, so substitutes are often called on to fill the gap. Again, the village comes in handy. While I do not necessarily advocate creating government programs to provide such support, I do wish that more people understood the value of this basic principle and did something to apply it in their living.

I watched a family at the beach this weekend whose nanny busily occupied herself with the children while the father was off golfing (by his attire) and the mother was completely disconnected though within earshot. The same pattern played out for three days and while I certainly do not know the factors involved and I am always mindful that looks can be and are more often than not deceiving, it appeared as though those three children were missing out on an important interaction with their parents at a critical age.

A nanny’s input, like any other non-parental participant in a child’s upbringing (e.g. uncle, aunt, grandparents, godparents, teachers, pastors, coaches, scout leaders, etc.), can be either valuable and constructive or worthless and destructive depending on how it is incorporated. The same could be said for parental involvement (and looking at it, it could just as well be that those three children are better off for their current setup).

If you are a parent you hold the future of our world in your hands. Likewise, if you are not a parent but a person interested in bettering our world in the days to come, look to be of service by providing an aspect of the “village” that only you can provide.

6 thoughts on “A World of Kinfolk

  1. Mark Miller

    Interesting post. I definitely want to look at how to maximize the opportunities my immediate family has with available extended family and friends.

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  2. Isabelle Kearney

    Children do need to understand and experience diversity in relationships and experiences and an extended family nucleus has the potential to be a very rich and nurturing environment. When this is available, I feel that it helps to develop more compassion, openness and understanding in a child, preparing them for a balanced view of the larger world ahead of them.

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  4. Kai Newell

    No matter what role may be available to us, making the most of the opportunity by being conscious of what aspect of the village we are providing can make the pivotal difference in a life or lives. Being conscious of the unique roles others can play and providing a point of integration for their contribution can maximize the village available to us in the short and long term.

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  5. McJ

    Having family around you while raising children is a double edged sword. While it’s can be helpful and even at times a “life saver” there can also be the element of isolation from other valuable views on the world. A variety of ages can help to alleviate that but most of all a diversity of experience and interests.
    Wonderful subject, for parents and the “village”.

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