I’m raising a spicy, quick-witted, bubbly 13-year-old girl by myself, and it is an adventure. I’ve been a writer for almost a decade now but I’ve gotta tell ya, I’ve done almost as much intuiting and digging and researching since my daughter hit her tweens as I’ve done for my professional work.
I follow-up with teachers to make sure she’s doing what she’s supposed to be doing in school, I insist on talking to other parents before she goes to sleepovers, and yep, I’m not ashamed to admit I rifle through her pockets and check her texts just to see if there are any holes in her story. I trust her but c’mon: she’s 13. And I’d be a fool to expect to get the whole truth and nothing but the whole truth every single day from a 13-year-old. Unless they’re making them more forthcoming than they were when I was that age, I think it’s just precaution. I’d rather do that than damage control.
On several occasions, I’ve been glad I did not just for her safety, but that of some of her friends. One of her besties was having issues at home a few months ago and was planning to run away as soon as school let out for the summer, plotting—unbeknownst to me until I discovered it for myself—to make my house her little fugitive bunker. That plan was thwarted thanks to some investigative checking. Her mom called to thank me.
I told her there was no need. I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a child. Since our kids are close, I am therefore a part of her village and she is a part of mine. We have to look out for each other. I’m a big believer in that. (I should mention, though, that if circumstances were different and I seriously thought that child was in any kind of danger or if she really was living in a toxic household, I would’ve taken her in, no hesitation.)
I rely heavily on my village, more now than I did even when Girl Child was younger. Life was simpler pre-Facebook, pre-Twitter, pre-Tumblr, pre-cell phone and texting, and certainly pre-house key privileges. Heck, pre-tweens in general. This raising children thing, in my book, is ostensibly a two-person job, so since I’m doing it on the solo, it’s a blessing to have family and friends acting as extra sets of eyes and ears. They make sure Girl Child is safe, upstanding, and not doing anything that would make her a social media phenomenon.
The collective is made up of my mom, aunts, uncle, and cousins, of course, folks who raised me and are happy to continue the tradition of passing the Harris Family Code of Ethics on to my mini-me. It’s my circle of six good girlfriends who’ve watched Miss Thing grow up and know her almost as well as any blood relative does. It’s several folks at our church, who pray over her and aren’t afraid to check her out of love when she’s out of line. It’s educators who have taken more than a passing interest in my daughter—including her first and second grade teachers, who still check in on her to this day. It’s my best friend, who is also Teen Girl’s godmother, and her family, who are my family away from family here in D.C. It’s even my ex-boyfriend, who’s known my child since she was in Pull-Ups and is her go-to father figure even though we are Splitsville, population two.
Everyone has a special way of protecting her and pouring into her life. Some are good with math homework (because Lord knows I’m not), others listen to her vent about boys, but they all sow some kind of special element into her her-ness. And they, like me, are quick to call if they suspect something is wrong or they’ve seen or heard something that might compromise her safety.
So shout out to my village. I randomly watched a few members of it in action the other day and realized how blessed I am to have so many people who care.
Do you have a health support network—a “village”—that looks out for your kids?
Image via johnnysam/Flickr