Nobody ever warns new parents about how remote parenthood can be. The isolation component only exists if you buy into the much heard notion that when child-rearing begins, your life is over. And while it’s true that a part of your person is forever changed and parts of your former self must be exchanged to make room for new life, most would agree that the resulting transformation is growth gone exponential.
Marvel or madness?
Parental networking can be as simple as scoping out a local family resource centre (if there is one) or making a conscious effort to play where others can find you. Parks must be a saving grace for any parent or child caregiver who’s in dire need of an out from the home-front, a contained and safe area, some fresh air, or basic socialization. As much as there may be a preference for the convenience of having a home-based play centre, there is something refreshing about going to a random or regular playground and never knowing who you will meet there. Whether the new parent ends up in a breast-feeding support group, play-group, baby yoga, a local Saturday morning market, sports event, or birthday party, the results of getting out and relating to others are essential for happy parenting experiences (and, subsequently, happy babies). People learn – to their surprise – that most unfavorable child behaviors are common, and the insecurities that follow parenthood are all part of the process.
Random finds around the bay
Something particularly exciting about raising a family in a small town is the fact that people have a natural, courteous tendency of referring you to others. People will even go so far as arranging for you to meet the only other young family on your street, who may also have children, to ensure your isolation is not perpetual. Some go so far as hooking you up with recycled gear or clothes, and others outright invite you in.
Being new and obviously ready to have a baby, everywhere I go people ask questions, share stories and offer surprising help to ease the load. From meals and baked goods delivered by neighbors, to other parents offering to drop off homework for your sick child or steal someone away for a play-date, parents look out for each other. This comes from a fear of what we all know parenting can be: solitary and hard as hell.
There is only so much company the kids can provide us, after all, before you start to lose sight of your adult self. The key to an enriched parenting experience is to make time not only for the babies but also for all those important adults in your life. It seems that those who have become bitter or resentful in their parenthood have forgotten the number one rule: keep your friends and make some new ones along the way.
Unpackaged and unplanned fun
There are so many highlights to having to make your own fun with children in places where most activities are parent-directed and formal groups are limited.
Just the other morning, my sister-in-law and I found ourselves headed out with three children, mid-morning, on one of the most beautiful summer days to hit Newfoundland in late September. Not quite sure where we were headed, the children very determinedly took charge, demanded their various modes of transportation (bike, wagon, and plasma car), strapped on their helmets and went zooming down our windy, quiet little road. What was intended as a short jaunt outside ended up in us collecting snails, meeting a new little friend on the side of the road, and finally frolicking on a rocky beach just past the government wharf. There we were, totally ill-prepared: no water bottles, no snacks, no sun-tan lotion and three children knees deep, stripped off naked, wading in the freezing Atlantic playing with pebbles, driftwood, live crabs, and seaweed.
While the children had the time of their lives, a neighboring four-year-old friend passed by riding with his father on a quad, dressed in matching lumberjack navy coveralls and gloves, on his way to help cut and stack wood. Soon enough, the little guy had abandoned his initial mission with dad and ended up joining us at the beach along with his sister and mother: soaking wet, and full of sand.
It was not until we got in the door, almost three hours later, that the value of our little adventure sank in. Following our beach excursion, we then had to trudge up the road with wet and parched children, carrying most of our transportation on our backs (as well as our kids). As quick as one child pitched a helmet to the ground, the other would refuse to walk or took off without us. Getting home felt next to impossible as each new incline arose before us. Once in the door and after devouring a cold watermelon, it was clear that the challenge had been worth every thirst quenching bite.
My point being: the rearing of children in a rural setting, whether it be north of sixty, or now below the treeline, all seems to point to the same formula. Parenting with company plus minimal materialism equals a self-fulfillment that is unique to the home you choose for your family. Raising children in any setting, for that matter, can encompass many of the same factors. Whether you rear up your baby in the competitive city or in the idyllic countryside, children grow when they’re loved and have fun when there’s not too much pressure.
Prescribed or imagined
My experience around the bay is what is working for us – hence the fourth child – but it really depends on the type of parenting experience people want. Many desire the textbook version, and live according to the instructions laid out for them. Some rely on Google so heavily that they’ve given themselves a complex about not being adequate parents. Others hold fast to the use of traditional methods and prefer to let nature take its course. One thing about living in an area that is not overburdened with extracurricular activities (or traffic) is that it requires some genuine effort and involvement to really become a part of what is around you. If you desire something that is not available, you can start it yourself. As inconvenient as that may sound to our oversaturated lives, it is empowering at the same time to know that you can facilitate as much for your own kids as anyone who is willing to get paid to do it. Word!
The worthwhile things are hard to predetermine or put a price on, after all. People need not fear parenthood, but ought to lay it out in a way that complements personal interests and provides opportunities for the children. Finding people who are like-minded – or not! – in their parenting approach is humbling. And learning to accept the fact that it is largely trial and error should be reassuring. All parents have a lot to learn, but living through it is the only real way to learn how it can be done.