Family and Community

Column Day. Today I talk about how raising kids often takes more than a family effort. It helps if you have the support of a larger community–extended family, friends and neighbours. You can read it here.

One of the things I appreciate about the community we have, particularly within our church, is that it covers a pretty wide mix of ages and backgrounds. It’s not perfect — I don’t think any community is — but it often does feel like a large family.

We can call on advice from wise parents who have already raised great kids (who are now great young adults). There are a few families with boys a bit older than ours who have our kids over to play–and our boys just love those times of hanging out with “the big kids.”

There’s a whole slew of families with kids the same age as ours, with whom we can commiserate and swap ideas or books or even clothes. And there’s a group of teens and young adults who make excellent babysitters. They’re often eager to help out in other ways too.

Case in point, we’re in the middle of a big renovation at our rental property, and last night three 18- to 20-year-olds spent hours ripping up old carpet and underlay for us, just for the heck of it.

Well, not really for the heck of it. We used to live in that house, back when we were youth leaders (with fewer kids). Community is a reciprocal thing, and these are young adults we’ve spent some time with over the years.  As he was working, one young guy talked about the memories he had of barbecues and sleepovers we hosted in that house.

It was another reminder for me that building community is a little bit like investing. It’s not easy or foolproof.  Lots of times you wonder if you’re putting your stock in the right places, and sometimes it feels like you lose a whole lot before you gain. But the payoff is worth it. You feed a goofy teenager enough hamburgers and one day he’s renovating your house.

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