The ancient African proverb, "It takes a village to raise a child", is no less true today than it has been in times past. Parents, grandparents, siblings and other family members are helpful in the care and nurture of the child, of course. However if he is to fulfill his potential and become the physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally healthy, mature person he was meant to be, the contributions of other members of the community are absolutely essential.
While the child is still in the womb, an obstetrician or family doctor will keep track of his growth and development. Recently, some parents have chosen to use of the services of midwives. The pharmacist dispenses necessary vitamin and mineral supplements to his mother, to insure the baby receives the necessary nourishment. Often parents attend prenatal classes taught by a nurse or other health care professional. These sessions provide helpful tips for a safe and serene pregnancy and teach the parents what to expect during the delivery of their child.
In developed countries, most babies are born in hospitals. The skills of many people combine to make the baby's entrance into the world as safe and comfortable as possible. The doctor, the nurses, the anaesthetist, the cleaning staff, the dietitians and kitchen workers all have rolls to play. When mother and child leave the hospital, the baby should already have a good start on a healthy and normal infancy.
The older the child becomes, the more community members become involved in his life. He'll soon meet not only extended family members but neighbors around his home. Each one has something to contribute to his store of knowledge and experiences. The family next door may let him pat their puppy. The lady down the street makes good apple sauce! His baby-sitter knows lots of games he likes.
Then, there are the essential helpers: the firemen. policemen, and paramedics. In a crisis situation, these community members may be essential to a child's very survival. They perform duties his parents are not trained or equipped to do.
Other helpers he meets who make significant contributions to the quality of his life are his pastor, the pediatrician, the dentist, the mailman, the grocer, and the nursery school teacher. During the preschool years, he is beginning to learn social skills through interaction with other children at the playground or at the homes of his parents' friends.
Once the child reaches kindergarten age , his interactions with the community increase significantly. He spends a large part of each weekday with his school community: the teachers, the principal, the caretakers, the librarian, the school nurse and the other children. They all have something to offer to his ever-increasing store of knowledge and experience. It is normal that his focus gradually extends away from his home, and his neighborhood to encompass the wider world.
The school years pass quickly, as the child encounters more community members and learns and grows through his association with each one. Brownie or Cub leaders, music teachers, Sunday School teachers, sports instructors, leaders at summer camp, these and others have knowledge to share and new experiences to offer.
Sometimes parents feel melancholy and long for their child's early days when they seemed to be the centre of his universe, but as we have seen, the community has been involved in his life since before birth. No parents are capable or intelligent enough to raise a child by themselves. All parents need the assistance of the community, just as their parents did when they were children.
When you come to think of it, it's not really such a bad way for a child to grow up. After all, we turned out alright, didn't we?