Parents' Presence Makes the Difference
by Elizabeth Foss
When I first heard the title "It Takes a Village," it conjured up an
image of tree-lined streets of neatly kept houses where bicycles and
basketball hoops shouted that children lived there. Back doors were
always open for children who gathered with their friends in the
kitchen to drink lemonade and chat with mom. I imagined fathers
playing catch with their sons and daughters and neighboring children
being invited to join them. I imagined neighbors reminding the child
next door to put on his helmet as he takes off on his bike. My
village was one were individual families cared about those children
whose lives touched theirs and who lived in such a way that they
conveyed to those children that they were of great importance. Of
course, that isn't exactly what Hillary Clinton has envisioned. But
what if it were?
My vision has nothing to do with programs and institutions and
everything to do with committed individuals creating family-centered
cultures. In his book, , best-selling
author Stephen R. Covey suggests "adopting" the friends of your
children. He writes:
"For instance, we adopted several of (our sons') football teammates.
We videotaped all of the games and invited everyone to our home after
each game to see those films. This helped create a kind of
"Individual champions are often part of championship teams. That's
why we invest so much in the teams and clubs, schools and classes our
children belong to. When family, friends, school and church are all
aligned, it makes a powerful training system. Any time something gets
out of alignment, when there's a problem with a peer, for example we
just adopt the peer. It's better than getting them to drop the peer."
Covey's suggestion is simple. He and his wife prevent most problems
by their interest and their physical presence in their children's
lives. The problems that do crop up don't necessitate the
intervention of social workers, guidance counselors and government
programs. They simply call for additional parental supervision and
concern. His idea is proactive and demanding. It demands involvement
on the part of the parents. It demands that children live up to their
potential within the culture of the family. They are not allowed to
run free from one institution to another. Instead, they are centered
at home and they are accountable to mom and dad.
I have seen this idea at work. The Little League program in my town
is one of the most well-run organizations I have ever encountered.
Everyone , groundskeeper, concession worker, coach, umpire and
director is a volunteer. They are concerned parents who give a
tremendous amount of time and energy to their children, and to their
neighbor's children. And it's not all about fun and games. There are
real lessons learned on ball fields everyday. These children are
building character, learning about such things as fortitude,
perseverance, cooperation and humility.
My neighbor assures me that Scouting is much the same. Parents
volunteer at all levels to create an environment where children learn
much about how to live. They sacrifice weekends to sleep in buggy
tents on soggy sleeping bags, but they are weekends spent with their
children and their children's peers. They are present, and that's
Volunteers to be the adult leader for Scouts, sports, and clubs is
important. Those organizations are entirely driven by parents of the
children they serve. Volunteering in schools is vital. School-aged
children spend the majority of their waking hours becoming lost in
the crowd. Parents know the history and the present of their
children. They also have the keenest interest in the future.
Involvement is not only the formal commitments, though. It is also
the daily willingness to let our homes and hearts be open to a child
who is not our own.
When I change my perspective and "adopt" my children's friends, then
the child who always wants a snack when she comes to play with my son
isn't nearly the nuisance that she was when she was "someone else's
kid." It is a fairly easy change in perspective. These peers, who
spend so much time with our children, are going to be part of our
family simply because their influence on our children will be felt.
It makes sense to include them, to pull up a chair at the dinner
table occasionally, and make them one of the gang.
Foss is a freelance writer living in the Springfield area.
This article appeared in the June 20, 1996 issue of "The Arlington
Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the
Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-
0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.
Copyright (c) 1996 EWTN