Originally published in the February 2017 edition of 605 Magazine.
If there is one thing being a parent has taught me so far — in my measly almost six years of experience — it is this: Just as we cannot create a human on our own, we cannot raise, let alone prosper, a human on our own. No parent, single or married, can wholly shoulder the tremendous honor and responsibility of helping shape a life. No way. We need some major reinforcements. We need sage advice from those that have been there, raised that. We need friends and family to help love our child. Sometimes we need teams of medical professionals to care for our child. Other times we just need someone to bring us a (or several) glazed donut(s) and watch us, without judgment, as we eat our feelings.
But moral of this story, parents and future parents? As trite as it sounds, we can’t do it alone.
I’ve been thinking about this truth lately, and I was reminded of a time a few years ago when I saw in action the validity of this “it takes a village” mindset.
My husband and I were relatively new to the Sioux Falls scene and we randomly saw an advertisement for the Sioux Empire Home Show. Trapped by the frigid temps and with nothing really else to do, we packed up our young daughter and off we went to look at things that we couldn’t buy nor knew nothing about. But, regardless, we were out of the house in February: VICTORY.
When we arrived at the convention center, we purchased tickets and we were given a plastic bag, which we learned later was for all the samples, trinkets, candy, etc. you can collect at the various booths along the way. A goody bag, if you will. Our daughter, probably around three-years-old at the time, was riding face-forward in her stroller and really perked up when she saw there was potential for candy consumption.
As we walked through the giant conventional hall, we were overwhelmed and in awe of all things home this “Home Show” boasted. Not knowing quite where to start, we went with a crowd favorite and where all roads should start and end: The concession stand. We bought some sort of unhealthy carb and gave it to our daughter in hopes of distracting her from the fact that she would be bored out of her mind in approximately seven seconds. Content for now with her carb, we pushed her in the stroller as my husband and I delightfully wandered the aisles of the show.
At one point, we stopped to look at kitchen sinks. As we were talking and admiring, out of the corner of my eye I saw a man looking at us and waving from across the aisle a little way down. I waved a casual wave back, and looked away.
Sidenote confession: I am horrific at remembering names and faces. Horrific. My husband, however, is the exact opposite. He never forgets a face or a name and we would be hard pressed to go anywhere without him recognizing someone.
So, as I saw this man out the corner of my eye and he really seemed to know us as he was waving and smiling a little more frantically now, I began to silently panic. Who is he? I have no idea who he is. Have I forgotten that I met him? Mayday! Mayday! He’s closing in on us!
Trying not to make eye contact with the man, I sharply nudged my husband. “Jon, do you know this guy?” I said between clenched teeth. My husband looked up and surprised at how fast he was coming at us, said “No, do you?”
Breathless, the man arrived at our scene and before I could get out my best awkward “Hello!?” greeting, he pointed at my daughter sitting in the front of the stroller while we were standing behind her. “Your daughter ... Your daughter put a plastic bag over her head!”
SO not what I was expecting.
I ran to the front of the stroller and there she was, our three-year-old giggling … With a plastic bag over her head. Panicked, I ripped the bag off her head and she burst into laughter. I sighed a big sigh of relief, hugged her obnoxiously, and begin to tell her the danger of plastic bags. “Oh no! You could suffocate, honey! We cannot put plastic bags over our heads! Where did you get this plastic bag?!” She pointed to a table near her where there were other Goody Bags like the one we were carrying around. I sighed. We were standing two-feet away. We had maybe looked away for mere seconds, but in that timeframe she had grabbed a bag, and put it over her head as a joke. You know those warnings explicitly written on plastic bags to KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN? Yes, those warnings are apparently for us.
I’m pretty sure our “Parents of the Year” trophy was revoked that day.
I stood up and profusely thanked the man. He laughed and said, “Don’t worry! I have kids, too. Can you believe the stuff they do?” He was a stranger. He didn’t have to notice my daughter. He didn’t have to come running down the huge aisle to warn us. But he did. He was part of our village that day.
As parents, we can do our most very best. We can be the most vigilant parent on earth. We can hover until we can hover no more. But, at some point along the way, we will need help. Sometimes it will come in the form of a stranger running down an aisle to warn idiot parents their child has a bag on their head, or it may come as advice, it may come as someone simply listening, or, help may come, again, in the form of a gifted glazed donut. But most times, I’m realizing, help comes when we realize we as parents can’t do it all and just ask for help. Recognizing that we simply, for the sake of our children, cannot make this journey alone.