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Depending on the village!!

June 22, 2014

As a disabled parent, I realize that there are times when I need assistance, specifically in raising my child. surely, I might be able to go without this assistance, but at what expense to both myself and the child. We, as disabled parents walk a fine line. . There is a spectrum of responses to assistance.
first, there are the “uber independent ” who believe that they need no assistance at all in raising their children. I applaud these parents for being resourceful enough to find solutions to difficult challenges faced because of their disability. I commend their determination. However, there is a bit of pride and superiority that seems to accompany this determination and resourcefulness. Often the one who requests help is chastized for not being “independent enough.” And, there is an underlying notion that anyone who does depend on others for assistance is either unskilled, lazy or both.
Then, there are the assistance seekers. Often those who request someone’s help are quite aware of their limitations. they acknowledge that others might be able to perform a duty or handle a task better than they can. Humility is never a bad thing. However, many times, I do find these assistance seekers suffering from a case of learned helplessness. This type of learned helplessness and able-bodied superiority is frequently reflected in the children, as well. The children are not able to trust the parents because the parents can’t trust themselves. and, when there is learned helplessness, the helper’s fears of a one-sided relationship of burden has come to pass.

sometimes it is difficult for the disabled parent to foster an environment of interdependence, pride and humility at the same time. Honestly, many parents depend on others to help them. The difference is that if the one needing help does not exploit the situation, the helpers find it less of a burden because intrinsically, the helpers know that they might be able to count on the receiver for assistance, if they were to request. This reciprocation is rarely found in able-bodied / disabled parental interactions.

I use to believe and revel in the concept that “it takes a village to raise a child.” And, ideally, I do believe this. But, I wonder if anyone or most people understand the implications of that “village” raising your child. Here are some positive and negative points to ponder.

***PROS:
1. your child receives an entire network of people who love and care for him/her. This network might give the child more financial, educational, social and spiritual opportunities than he/she would have had if the parents didn’t consent to the village raising process.
2. While the parents might (or might not depending upon the culture) have the final say in the decisions made for the child, the village plays an important role in making and carrying out said decisions. They assume a bit of responsibility sometimes in the absence of the parents and sometimes in conjunction with the parents. This eleviates the parents of being the sole responsible caretakers for the child/children.
3. The child receives a variety of people to interact with and whom they can learn from when forming ethics, values and self esteem, etc.
4. Even only children can understand and reep the benefits of sibling-like interactions. the village is usually responsible for more than one child, thus, not only is there a network of adults, but children, also. It is comparable to having a plethora of cousins at your disposal whenever necessary, yet, the child remains an only child in their own household, so also reeps the rewards of being a singlet for their parents most of the time.
5. the village is strengthened by each person’s participation. Thus, each individual is able to give of their time, talents and resources to help others. Recognizing individual strengths helps each person achieve their highest potential, all while strengthening the village.

***CONS:
1. Many times those in the village who Claim to have shared values, might stray a bit too far in either direction for your comfort. If you are someone who likes control and wants your child to learn a set value system, this could be problematic.
2. It is more likely that your child will also encounter some situations that you might want them to avoid for quite some time.
3. while you, as a parent, might enjoy the shared responsibility, you might also be indirectly required to take on a bit of unwanted responsibility. This might come in the form of care, finances or time.
4. Decisions about the child takes on a more egalitarian approach. Therefore, consensus is much more important than individual opinions.
5. the children might grow to be more active members of the village, yet the parents (especially if they are disabled) might still be marginalized without a true communal purpose other than a vessel of charity.
6. the parents (especially if they are disabled) might experience a shift in power so that they are no longer the primary (or even a secondary) decision maker in the child’s life. It is easy for someone to inadvertently or even intensionally override your decisions and even parenting style.

In order for the village to actually support both the parent and the child, key concepts needs to be understood.

1. Roles and responsibilities should be clearly defined. This will help the village not to feel as if you are pawning your child and the parent to not feel undermined by the collectiveness of the village.
2. Always Respect the parental structure. There needs to be respect for the parents in such a way that “they” are the sole decision maker. The children need to understand that although the village “assists” in raising them, their parents are the primary caregivers.
3. Every financial or significant opportunity should be discussed with the parent before presenting it to the child. Aspects such as “consequences (intended and unintended) both to the family structure and the child and repayment of an opportunity should be considered and evaluated.
4. Every member of the village should be an equal participant. The strength of the village lies in its people. Each member should find ways to contribute and everyone should feel comfortable accepting these contributions. community living should be reciprocal.

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