Ever since I became a mother, I have found our modern, mainstream way of parenting could leave me feeling like there must be a better way. I have often wondered if a tribal or extended family situation is the more natural way of being. It can be so difficult for one parent to be responsible for the children all day: no-one to pass a crying baby to, no-one to watch the new baby while you have a shower, catch up on sleep, or just eat your food or drink a cup of tea while it's still hot! Or what about those days when your kids just play up all day and you feel like you can't stand it anymore? I am extremely grateful for the company and help of lovely friends and family, but often you just need someone in the moment. It's always great to go out to see friends and let the kids play, but you can't always do that: sometimes, the fact is, you just need to cook dinner, do housework or get some jobs done at home.
When I watch my children play with a group of kids of mixed ages, I really love how it just works. The big ones look after the little ones, lead the games and sort out any scuffles. Everyone just seems to find their place. They never get bored and they rarely fight. It feels right for children to play like this. It feels like the natural way for humans to be, not little families all boxed up in individual houses with big fences all around. I recently watched a documentary about the main slum in Mumbai; even though the people there were very poor, they were rich in community. I just love the idea of that freedom for children, playing, exploring, running around - I've always wanted to say to my kids in the morning, "Righto, here's your lunch, off you go and be home by dark. Have fun!" (And not just to get rid of them!)
I'm really glad our kids seem to be forming a lovely neighbourhood gang around our block. Regular afternoons are now spent riding bikes around the cul-de-sac, climbing trees, throwing grass in the duck pond and running up and down the football field singing loudly, all while us parents have a nice chat. Of course they are little now and need our supervision, but it won't be too long till they're off on adventures on their own. How exciting!