It Takes a Village to Raise a Child
The power of community in children’s upbringing.
If you have been following MAN’s blogs for a while (and I hope you have!), you will remember that I’ve been referencing Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey recently. This is the third and last post completing the trilogy referencing Homer’s work. In this post, I’ll share my thoughts on the importance of young men having a community while growing up.
(You can catch up on the previous posts here: How mentoring changed me and The idea of male vulnerability is so so so ancient)
Here’s a refresher of some relevant bits of Homer’s story: Menelaus, king of Sparta, wages war against Troy. Odysseus joins Menelaus, leaving his son Telemachus in the care of his wife, Penelope, his good friend Mentor and the swineherd.
And I’ll pause here for reflection — I find Odysseus’ choice bizarre. Clearly, as the king of the island of Ithaca, Odysseus could have made a different choice. It makes sense to leave his son with his mother, but why not leave Telemachus with a scholar, a fearless warrior or a famous public speaker to prepare him to become the future king? Instead, Odysseus chooses a close friend, Mentor, who almost fails to support his son, and he also chooses a swineherd. Perhaps this was normal in 8th century Greek culture, but I believe there are a few hidden themes we can draw from this story.
A boy needs more than just his immediate family
Typically, the current Western view of family dynamics is for a couple to solely raise their children, maybe with the help of grandparents, but without much of the community’s support. This puts a lot of pressure on couples because they need to wear many hats that could and should be eased with the community’s help.
This brings home for me the beautiful African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child”. Meaning that an entire community must provide for and interact positively with children to experience and grow in a safe and healthy environment. There is a similar saying in the Native American culture as well.
Wouldn’t it be great if we had the same sense of community here in Britain? The community’s shape looks somewhat different in a town compared to a city (and compared to…