Community, resentment, and connecting the dots

Stumbling across The BadAssMama Chronicles site yesterday got me thinking. In particular, this post about resenting changes hit home, and I started connecting the dots between some things that have been swirling around in my head lately.  Community, and how it works (or not) in today’s society.  Resentment and frustration (mine particularly) and what’s been causing it.  More things that came to me in the shower this morning, and I hope come back before I’m done writing.  I’m not the only one who thinks best in the shower, am I? 

BadAssMama talks about sometimes resenting the changes in her life as a result of having kids.  It’s not about resenting them, as she clearly loves them and can’t imagine life any other way.  But she admits, and I do too, that sometimes I resent the changes in my life.  It’s way better than it used to be, those first few years were pretty brutal and I had a very sketchy support network, really almost nothing in my community.  It sucked.  Your life gets turned upside down, and finding your way to the surface can take a long time.  The surface isn’t where it used to be, and probably never will be again. 

I’ve blathered about taking Alone Time countless times before, and it’s what kept me more or less sane.  Still is, to be honest.  Maybe that’s why the shower is the best place to think?!  It’s almost alone, unless the cats barge in to use the litter box, or the boys have a fight right outside the door.  I find myself standing there a lot longer than necessary, just enjoying the hot water and nothingness.  Taking time alone goes a long way towards cancellling out any creeping resentments, because it’s really all I miss about the pre-kid years.  It really is.  I used to really crave travel, but that’s faded some, as we have more and more freedom in what we can do with our boys now that they’re getting a bit older.  Sponetenaity comes back as they have more tolerance for things, and it’s awesome. 

I commented on a friend’s FB page the other day, in response to something about robots and the future of merchandizing, bemoaning the lack of real face:face connections.  Real conversations.  Shared spaces.  Understood glances.  I noted the irony of the fact that I was connecting with him via FaceBook, which is honestly the only way I’m likely to ever connect with him unless we happen to wander near each other’s homes for some other reason.  Friends, but not the kind where I’ll plan a trip to see him.  I love the fact that I can in some fashion keep up with hundreds of friends, but it’s deceptive in many ways.  I have more people to compare myself (and my parenting) to.  I have more implied-but-no-less-real responsibilities to share my time and care and concerns, because the more I’m aware of the more I’m responsible for.  I see a painful status and I ignore it?  Can’t really do that.  So I see more, care more, and yet I honestly talk less.  The connections are real, but not always as meaningful as time spent together.  It’s just not the same.

I’m not a luddite, though I have avoided smartphones to date, but I do think it’s made parenting harder.  Sure I can find more communities, and more like-minded parents, but that’s not always the best thing is it?  Variety is sometimes good, and makes me think.  I also think that “it takes a village to raise a child” is still true, but that virtual villages have some obvious limitations.  I can’t see you.  I can’t watch expressions flit across your face.  I can’t ask you to watch my kids for a few minutes, and skype-sitting isn’t going to work!  I do love virtual connections, and have some great friends as a result, including ones I’ve still never met face-to-face! 

I have a real village here in the city, and it’s something that I hope I can find elsewhere when we leave.  The way playground dynamics work here is a good example of what I mean … almost everyone keeps an eye out for each other’s kids, there are lots of friends made and met, and a very real sense that we’re all in this together.  All ages, all genders, all races, just doing the parenting thing. 

Speaking of all ages, I think there’s something beautiful in having a multi-generational household too.  I didn’t grow up with that, but we did have a pretty continual stream of company, including family.  Other voices, other cultures, adding layers to the interactions I was comfortable with.  In the 8.5 years we’ve been here, we’ve had people living with us for about 7 of them.  Different ages, different languages, and as I write Fynn is perched at the kitchen table playing an online game with our new housemate from Japan.  While I sometimes resent the loss of privacy, it’s more than paid back with the delights of new people and perspectives.  It’s as close as I’m likely to get to multi-generational living.  My folks wanted my grandma to come live with them, but it didn’t end up happening.  It was after I left home, but I think would have been good for all concerned.  It keeps the old young, adds eyes and hands, and gets the young thinking.  Idealistic?  Perhaps, but I think the idea has a lot going for it.  Many challenges too, of course, but I like the idea. 

I grew up free-range, according to today’s standards, coming home to the “supper!” call at 6pm from wherever I was on the street.  Neighbor’s houses, bike riding, fence hopping, I was probably often tagging after my siblings, but we trusted each other, and the parents did too as far as I could tell.  I had some boundaries at age 6, but not as many as most kids do now.  Doors were open, and we felt free to use them.  I try to keep that sense of a larger community in front of my boys, wanting them to have as much room to explore and as many types of interactions as I think they can handle.  I’m the mama chasing them out of the nest, even though the heart-strings get stronger with every passing year. 

Resentment?  Free-ranging?  Living with others?  Do weigh in … if you made it this far!