Thursday, 20 December 2012

No Parent is an Island

I'm going to say something fairly controversial here, but stick with me friends - I believe that there is a reason it takes two people to make a baby. That reason is because children need two parents. Controversial, I know, when millions of parents around the world, either through choice or misfortune or situation are parenting single-handedly. Hell, I'm one of them. I didn't choose to fly solo, my co-pilot jumped ship with the blonde sitting in 36D and he took my parachute with him. 

There are parents in blended families, and multi-generational families and adopted families and two mommy/two daddy families, or mommy and daddy and their poly-amorous lover families all doing amazing jobs in whatever situation they raise their children in. But at the heart of it, it took two parties to make those children - even if one of those parties was a doctor in a lab coat, a turkey baster and a cooler bag full of swimmers, or a seemingly loving husband looking for the emergency exit. 

Before you go casting me off as a pro-marriage/ 50's throwback/ traitor to my kind/ RWNJ remember, I come from a family so blended we're practically a collage of disfunctionality (I am the eldest of six kids, yet officially I am an only child). I had a child out of wedlock and now I'm doing this whole single-parenting thing. I never said a child needs their biological father and mother, in a wedded situation, or that children raised in anything other than a nuclear family are lacking anything. What I mean to say is no parent is an island. Mom cannot live of parenting alone. It takes a village...

One of the best dynamics (admittedly one of the only ones that worked) of the relationship with my son's father, was how different we both were. What we both bought to the genepool and the family tree. Perhaps it was that other platitude of 'opposites attract', perhaps it was our mutually receptive pheromones hooking up to (pro)create our evolution-proof offspring. We completed each other (for a while anyway). So when it came to parenting, our kid got our differing years of experience, strengths and interests. There is a reason my 3yo can write his own name and there is a reason he can perform a three quarter turn headspin - that is what his father and I brought to the parenting table. While I love to read to my kid, explore the world with him, think up elaborate play situations to foster a love of the written word and expand his vocabulary, his father rough-houses, teaches him to throw punches and cartwheel, and creates wild imaginative scenarios as they play. In many ways we couldn't be more different - but together, as a parenting unit our son gets the best (and sometimes, unfortunately, the worst) bits of both of us. 

Likewise, parenting as part of a team means that in those desperate moments, where your arms have not been free all day, the tantrums seem to have no end and there is sick-up in your hair, there is someone there to hand the baby to while you grasp a moment of sanity. Or to vent to, to offer support or words of guidance or to back you up. Parenting is not meant to be a one-woman expedition into the wild unknown. Previous generations parented with their mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters around to share and support, often daddy wasn't in the picture at all. We are the first generation to live in an age where parenting is a skill, where your success and failure is measured in your kids behaviour or their school reports or the lifestyles they choose to live as young adults. This is the first time we're expected to parent in isolation, with only childless 'gurus', sleep experts and the media to co-parent with us. 

I am very fortunate that while my ex is less able to be a part of our son's life (through distance, work schedules and the constraints of visitation) there are other people helping me man this flight. Thank goodness for all those aunts and uncles and grandparents and extended family. There are my little brothers, who play with Vin is ways I couldn't have dreamed up. There are my parents who step in, in those moments I think I'm going to break. My best friend who is like my own personal cheering squad and a constant source of inspiration as a parent. My grandparents, married nearly 50 years and examples of unconditional love. Yes, there is a village raising this child. There is a village raising this mama too.