Clinton says "it takes a village to raise a child." The Washington Post calls it "the closest thing we've ever had to a Hillary Clinton political manifesto."
May I offer that Hillary is exactly half right?
Start with the easy half. Hillary is right, of course. It does take a village to raise a child. The village metaphor is about shared responsibility: Everyone has a role to play, and there's a place for everyone. Parents play a part, obviously, as does the neighbor who helps with babysitting and the older parent with tips for toilet training. The teacher plays a formal role, along with the doctor who gives her shots and the researcher who invents the vaccines. Shared systems create public schools, public playgrounds and the emergency room for when she ages into sports injuries.
That's the village. Those and more. All of them are involved in raising a child. True enough. Thank you, Hillary.
But that's only half the story. The inverse is also true. It takes a child to make a village.
Nothing brings people together like a child. After a few years of parenting, I didn't have my old friends anymore. Schedules had changed, and so had addresses. But I had PTA meetings. I had carpools. I had questions about pediatricians, dentists and plumbers. Whom did I ask? The ones with whom I had coffee while we were waiting for the kids, or ice cream after they were finished.
Who were my running partners? People with similar schedules. Who were they? You guessed it.
Our village grew up around our children. They pulled us together and turned us into a community.
It starts early. That neighbor will offer tips on toilet training whether you want them or not. Strangers will make sure the pregnant woman isn't drinking or smoking. The pregnant tummy is treated like public property, available for all to touch. Of course it's annoying. "Leave me alone!" But everyone else on the train is being left alone. The pregnant tummy turns it into a village. Suddenly, we're all in it together.
In my new novel, my poor little runaway girl has to survive on her own. How can she do it? Some readers even question the plausibility.
But she has a secret weapon. She has a child. Of course being a single teenaged mom isn't easy and I don't try to make it so. But people want to help that child (some people, anyway). Bed space is found. Kindness is exchanged. Individual needs become community wealth building.
Having handful of friends helps to raise that child. And as they join together with that in mind, they inadvertently become a village. That's the second half of Hillary's well-worn expression. It takes a child to make a village.