Wednesday, July 05, 2006

It Takes a Village

It's becoming more and more clear to me that the whole "it takes a village" thing isn't utter crap. Remember the village metaphors that were so big in the 90s? I don't recall the precise quote, but it went something like: "It takes a whole village of idiots to make sure your child is miserable and maladjusted, just like the rest of us." It's so heartwarming and so true, all at the same time!

Before Denver Mom and I had Chunk, I always assumed the quote ("It takes a village to raise a child") was a gentle nudge for the village to step up and get involved. It was a reminder to the village that it takes more than just parents to raise a child, and that everyone, at varying levels, should be responsible for the guidance and protection a child needs as they grow. Now that we have Chunk, I'm seeing the saying as more of a threat. It's not a reminder for the village, it's a warning for the parents.

We had a recent snafu with some babysitting. The situation, like so many others, was born of good intentions, but resulted in our nineteen month old boy not getting much nap time under his belt, when he desperately needed some sleep. The next day, Chunk went off to day care, where the "sleep" written on his daily report is actually just time spent on his mat, and so, our poor son went two days without a nap. Different kids respond differently to these kinds of situations, but in Chunk's case, he responded a lot like Mount St. Helens after a bad day at the DMV.

As parents, we try. We clearly outlined our expectations to the person watching Chunk on Sunday. We have had numerous conversations with the day care about how concerned we are about Chunk not getting any sleep while he's there. And yet, what seems like a simple thing gets trampled under the weight of other concerns, desires, and realities, none of which have anything to do with our son's wellbeing.

The fallout was terrible. Even after getting a decent nap yesterday afternoon, Chunk was out of control most of the day, bordering on tears and tantrums the entire time. Despite many threats of bodily harm, whispered when Chunk was out of earshot, Denver Mom and I were understanding and supportive, doing what we could to comfort him. Then, obviously not learning our lesson, decided that the best thing to do with a cranky, sleep-deprived child was to take him to a family barbecue, keeping him out way past his usual bedtime.

Yeah. I don't know what we were thinking either.

Considering his mood the entire day and his lack of rest, Chunk did great and was having a good time showing off for the assorted adults who found his every garbled word and spastic gesture completely enthralling. He was transformed, from the cranky kid who cried at us all day, to a graceful, charming social butterfly and life of the party.

I was on the patio, sitting next to my wife, while Chunk was in the other room with some family. Clearly, fate stepped in, because I somehow overheard one of our family members explaining to Chunk that he'd be filling up on strawberries in no time. Chunk is allergic to strawberries, to the point that if he gets strawberry juice on his skin, it swells up in large, blotchy pink sores.

So, I leapt from my chair and rushed into the other room, shouting like an idiot the entire way. We were lucky. None of them had made it into his mouth.

These are people we know and trust. These are people that, whether due to interest or payment, want what is best for our son, and yet the level of risk for him feels so overwhelming. Missing a couple of naps is hard on him and hard on us. Eating a food that makes him sick is dangerous and potentially catastrophic.

It takes a village. It takes a village to endanger your child's health and happiness.

Every parent has faced this and survived. Most children survive it too. I know that we will get through it, but I can't shake the feeling that I can't leave my son with anyone. It's a strange sensation, especially considering that he's been in day care for well over a year now, but there it is.

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