Raising children, as anyone who's been crazy or ordinary enough to try it will attest, can be awesomely, amazingly difficult work. Rewarding, yes, and worth it, yes, but also, at times, trying in ways that are almost impossible to articulate. Which is why seeking the company and support of other parents is often so important to those of us in the trenches, to those of us who may feel isolated by long days and long nights of diapers and worry, to those of us who may fear -- especially during the longest days and longest nights -- that we are the only ones who feel what we feel.
Community is a big part of being human. Most people, including most parents, enjoy feeling that they're part of something bigger than themselves, that they're encompassed by a network that extends beyond the limits of the household. But how does one, and particularly one who spends so much of his or her time working for pint-sized, demanding, sticky employers, go about seeking out a community? The easiest way, quite literally, is to start in the community to which one already belongs. In other words, the easiest way is to get out there and get to know the neighbors.
The moms and dads of your neighborhood, whether or not they share your parenting philosophies, religious beliefs or political ideals, are excellent resources for a variety of reasons, as you are an excellent resource to them. For starters, of course, there's the matter of proximity. If you need help, say, starting your car, or if you need someone to stay with your older child at the busstop while you change the baby's explosive diaper, who's the most logical person to call? Why, your neighbor, who, if you're lucky, is no more than a few doors away. Another good reason to befriend your neighbor, aside from the fact that, well, it's just neighborly? Even if you don't have a ton in common, and even if, under other circumstances, you wouldn't necessarily be the best of friends, you do share a 'hood and very probably a school with your neighbor, and chances are, especially if your kids are about the same ages as your neighbor's, that you'll be seeing a lot more of each other as the years progress.
Be a good neighbor by checking out the folks who live nearby. Learn the names and ages of their children, and make an effort to get involved in community-sponsored activities. By being a good neighbor, you'll learn more about the benefits (and down-sides) of living in your community, and you'll open yourself to greater social and civic opportunities. Another bonus? No need to panic if you run out of sugar mid-way through your coveted cookie recipe. There will always be someone, right up the street, to fill your half-empty cup. And then later, when those delicious cookies are baked to perfection, that same someone will still be there, right up the street, to accept your sweet, delicious thank-you.
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