The pressure is on to get your family in shape for going back to school. One of the best things you can do now is to secure your village. Raising a child requires one, for sure.
One of the hardest questions I had to fill out on all of those dreaded parent forms was my emergency contact—other than my husband. I wanted to write in my girls’ grandmothers, but they did not drive and could not get to the kids. I could put down an uncle, but they were often tied up with work.
So, I went to my go to sister-in-law, Yvette. I was afraid she wouldn’t answer her cell phone, but I asked her if I could use her name. I also used my best friend, Kathy. Another friend, Toni, was the default work-at-home mom, and more times than I can count, she was my go-to to pick up the kids or even give them a ride in the morning when I needed her to. With trepidation, I also signed up my mother. I figured she would find a way to get in touch and get someone to get my kids.
When 9-11 happened, my husband and I were at work. I could not get away and my husband was in Washington, D.C. He could not get away either. Toni was the closest person to them. I called her and she secured the girls until their dad could get them. Over the years, Toni, Kathy, my mother and Yvette all came to the rescue one way or another when I needed them.
Coincidentally or not, Grace just remind me of how much she loved when Toni —Aunt Toni— picked her up because Toni was so fun and crazy. She would do the unexpected. Have snacks for the girls. Roll down her window and talk to people at stop lights. Sing in the car and just be the fun mom that I could not, because I was working. I always knew the girls were in good hands, because Toni loved her kids so and she loved me. I knew she would take care of Grace and Paige like her own.
Getting to know other school parents was helpful, too. I learned who I could count on and who I couldn’t. I made mental note of who had offered rides if they were needed and who lived in my area or would pass through on their way home.
As a TV journalist, I was also faced with figuring what to do in the event of a snowstorm that I needed to cover. While everyone else had a snow day, I did not. Once my husband had to drive me to work. We couldn’t leave the kids at home alone and didn’t want to risk their lives driving through a storm and possibly getting stuck. Graciously, my good friend Yvonne opened up her home until their father could get back to them. I was grateful to have her and her husband in the village.
There were so many lovely parents who helped me in a pinch that I can’t name them all. But I say thank you. Thank you for not leaving my children behind. For helping me.
We can’t take these people in the village for granted. We must thank them—not just when they do it—but remember them when they least expect it. Show them some love with a note, an unexpected gift or invitation, an out-of-the-blue show of gratitude.
At the same time, I want to remind you to do your part in the village. Offer to be the default parent. Really let people know you are available, be reliable and treat the kids who are part of your village like your own. It’s OK to ask for help, just be sure to give the same. Good luck!