I was raised by a village and I will be more than okay
I was not raised by a mother and a father.
My story started off with both of those things, however. There was also aunties and uncles, a collection of older cousins and four doting grandparents. We had a white picket fence (literally), a dog, and we lived in the right zone for me to go to the local girls catholic high school. Mum stayed home, dad worked and our life was a picture of stereotypical domestic bliss.
My parents divorced I was three, and therefore, I was too young to have any lasting memories of a time where my life resembled the idyllic childhood lead by the children in an Enid Blyton book.
But you see, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
My parents divorce may have felt like a huge stuff up to them at the time. As they muddled their way through divorce proceedings, there is no doubt in my mind that they both questioned how they got themselves into this mess in the first place, and how they were going to get themselves, and me, out relatively unscathed. Their divorce was not a bad thing though; it gave me something that I am incredibly grateful for to this very day.
It gave me a village.
And a village is the best thing a person can have.
When their only daughter got thrust into the not so glamorous world of being a working single mum, my grandparents picked up a lot of the child care she was no longer able to do. Being their only grandchild, I was ushered to the theatre, to fairs and shows and to Yum-Cha when I really should have been learning my times tables at school. To this day, I am aghast when someone attends the theatre in jeans. There are some forms of etiquette that can only be taught by older generations.
Emma, Mum’s friend, also became part of my village. She and her three kids, Meg, Lewis and Evie, were often called upon on weekends and school holidays to look after me. We would bake and make costumes and play make believe and I would come along to Christmas celebrations, birthdays and Sunday lunches with their family. To this day, I try to pop in to see Meg’s (my) grandma for a cup of tea when I am free.
Mum’s boyfriend for the past ten years, Geoff, is part of this big crazy village too. When they first started dating I was in kinder, and even during times when they were seeing other people, he was my emergency pick up call when I fell ill at school. He remembered every birthday and Christmas, came to every dance concert and proudly took about 13,485 photos of me when I graduated primary school.
On a recent, whirlwind trip to Queensland to attend a conference, I got picked up at the airport by Chris and Nick. They, along-side being some of my favourite people of all time, are also my Mum’s, ex-boyfriend’s parents. I spent a good chunk of my formative years curled up with a book on their day bed and trying desperately to re-create a scrumptious salmon pasta dish that Chris cooked for me one evening. To this day, those memories are some of my most treasured.
There is the dance teacher who drove me to and from every class, and picked me up from school when I was having a bad day. The teacher who always said ‘cool bananas’ which has now become part of my vernacular. The friend of Mum’s who we called urgently one night when I couldn’t get my eyeliner off after a big show. An aunt who had to teach me how to drive in Melbourne and a dear friend who recently had to answer an urgent text from me about how to eat oysters.
As I have gotten older (apparently I am considered an adult now) and moved out of home, I have continued to build my own village. A village full of wonderful people who love, nurture and support me.
Recently, the Marriage Equality survey has brought into question the rights of children to have, and to be raised by, a mother and a father.
The argument goes that is in the best interests of all children to be raised by a mother and a father in a house with a dog and a white picket fence that falls in the zone of a good private school. Like how my life began.
I disagree with this premise. There would be nothing wrong with my life if this had happened, but because it didn’t, my life, the experiences I have had and the people I know are so much broader and more diverse. I wouldn’t give this up for a white picket fence. Ever.
Children need parents- but more than that, they need a parent (or parents, or grandparents, or carers) who will give them a village to learn from and draw upon in times of need.
I promise you, any child with a village like mine will be more than okay.