The Gift of Community
Over the weekend, I attended one of the most lovely and tender weddings ever. If I’ve been to your wedding and you are offended, I am truly sorry; this really was that special. Plus, I’ve known the bride since she was an angel in heaven, so, you have to give me that. At that wedding, I had the joy of revisiting my past community, circa 1997-1999. It wasn’t any community, though. It was a very special and timely one. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I came back home from the wedding, and as is usually the case, an idea began percolating for my blog and (this is a bit of news) what might turn into an idea for a parenting book! What popped out is the importance of community for our kids, particularly in the teen and tween years. Whether we provide community through church, a neighborhood, athletic organization, or an extended family (I’m lucky enough to be a part of several of these!), our children establish deep ties and long roots that help them feel connected and plugged in. Likewise, they can go to someone in the community, other than their parents, when something arises and talking to Mom and Dad is too weird, awkward, or downright awful.
So, back to my wedding. As I said, this bride, oh, this bride…she was breathtaking. I told her right before the wedding that I could hardly believe she was getting married. Shouldn’t she still be playing with Barbies under her stairwell closet with my son?
And so it set off a domino effect of memories of each of these children. The oldest brother of the bride babysat my never-sit-down-play-with-me, toddler. The oldest brother is now married, has a lovely daughter, with one on the way. He’s gentle, kind, handsome and reminded me that he helped me fill in my daughter’s baby book because I didn’t know which bands were cool due to my only playing Barnie tunes at the time (btw, it was Third Eye Blind.)
Then there’s the second oldest brother, also married and a father to two little ones, who will never age because he’s got a sweet baby face. That’s okay, it matches the sweetness in his heart. My memory of him: at around age 10, he saw my daughter with her silk blankie clutched in one hand, and thumb in her mouth. So, he spent his own money at a church fundraiser to buy her another one like it.
At the reception, we were seated with another part of our 97-99 community. They had children who were a bit closer to my kids’ age. The oldest couldn’t be there, but what I recall is his lovely giant smile and that he was always eager to push someone on a swing and greeted my husband and I with eye contact and a hug (the ability to greet adults with eye contact is something that seems to be lost, I fear, in many children……sorry, it’s sipnshare, not sipnpreach, but I can do that, too.)
Their daughter, a few years older than my son, beautiful…a bit old for him, but hey, I love a good arranged marriage (KIDDING…sort of ) had to be reminded of a train ride that our three families took to see Santa Claus. I jogged her memory, adding the details of a breakfast, the slow train ride in North Bend, then sitting on Santa’s lap. I told her how Marina, my daughter, looked wide-eyed with horror at sitting on Santa’s lap (it was the beginning of her fear of Santa.) Something clicked and this girl broke into laughter: Yes, why do parents teach us to fear strangers and then plop them on a strangers lap? Scary! Something to that effect…
It was only a matter of time until we got to the youngest son of our 97-99 community seated at our table. For me and many others, this is the best story, which, by the way, was told multiple times throughout the night and both my son and this great, amazing, handsome, funny, and well-humored kid, will never, ever forget because it will now not only be told on the Internet, but the photo is linked. I got permission. Don’t think me too crass. Here it goes: The two boys were roughly two 1/2 or 3 years old. It was summer. It was time for potty training. My philosophy on potty training is this: take off their diaper they don’t have the safety net. That’s it. Both my kids trained without any stress in less than a week at a very young age. Maybe I should write that book! Anyway, the two of them were running around together, al fresco, then whirled into the house, hopped up into the father’s brown chair and, “Wait, wait, wait,” cried out the mommies. It was the cutest photo-op ever. Well, that photo was plastered in both of their fathers’ offices. Both fathers work for the same company but in two different states. We have company picnics and Christmas parties. You get the picture. These two boys will never live this down. It will probably be told at their weddings, bless their heart.
But this really is the whole point of community. People you love and who love you hold a little piece of you inside their hearts and vice versa. None of us tell that story to humiliate them…well…no, really, we tell it because we love them and we’ve watched each of these wonderful, funny, goofy, brace-filled mouths, temper-throwing, slamming the door, ‘I-don’t-wan’t-you-to-hug-me-in-public-anymore’, rap-blasting, Third Eye Blind-loving, getting married at 20 (!) kids turn into amazing young adults who are now forming their own families and sense of community. If we can offer our teens/tweens anything, it is the gift of community. True community, where rich storytelling abides, confidences are held, and a person can be him or herself. Accepted. Loved. Held.
As I write this, thinking of this new married couple who are on their honeymoon, probably drunk on the bliss of new marriage, I send them a prayer of well-wishes as they begin their new community. I want to remind that little girl,who in actuality is now a young lady, that she can always dip her toe into her old 97-99 community pond, knowing that we are here with a hug, encouragement, and always a memory and story.