We need the village. We do.

Monday evening I was at parent-teacher conferences. My youngest son is a senior in high school and is currently involved in a large solo art project in a nearby community.  He is painting a mural on an outdoor wall at a business.  It is large – nearly 40 feet long.  But, it is October in Wisconsin during what has turned out to be a very wet and somewhat cool fall season.  The art teacher had texted me late last week to make sure I was planning to come to conferences. She’s already hatching a plan for his next project.

This project, as well as his last – a commissioned portrait of a Federal Judge – involved him speaking with the persons involved at the business such as the owner and with the Judge, himself. The conversations involved what the projects would entail as well as timelines, materials, and compensations, if applicable. These negotiations have been part of a maturing process for my son.

Kids today don’t always converse as well as they should. With texting, there is less opportunity to practice. The phone never rings and if it does, they don’t answer it. Email and text seem preferred by this generation of students. But, as the judge is from a generation twice removed from my son (he is in his 70’s), his preferred method of communication is a telephone. So, our home phone (still a landline) rang and our son had to answer. After all, the judge was calling to speak to him! Over a period of 2-3 weeks, these phone calls occurred. The judge’s desires were explored and our son had to figure out if he could create the portrait according to those desires.  Some of the desires pushed Ben’s creative envelop – like adding the courthouse building in the background of the 3 x 4-foot portrait.

Similarly, he has to negotiate with the business owners where he is currently painting a mural. At first, the conversations exploring the possibility of the mural included his art teacher at the high school. Then, as he evaluated the suggested wall, he wanted to change to the opposite wall on the building to avoid obstacles like two air conditioning units and a gutter.  He felt it was going to be hard to incorporate those into the mural. The owner approved the change in the wall.  Next, as the surface was evaluated, my son needed to discuss the advantages of using spray paint vs. exterior paint with a brush, as was originally planned. He had his reasons, including a stucco-like surface that would be hard to handle with a brush for small detail work. He researched the paint, where to get it and presented his case.  Finally, there was a negotiation of the mural itself.  This didn’t take long, but ideas were created, presented, rejected, and accepted. It was a process.

All of this took verbal communication and maturity. All of it was borne of a need to discuss with others what their desires were and determine whether his skill could fulfill their desires.

So, as I spoke with his art teacher at conferences, I told her how much I believed in needing the village for our children to grow into active, invested community members. We, as parents, can instill values, provide guidance and consequences, but in a vacuum none of that matters. It is within the village of support through fellow community members that true growth occurs, turning our adolescents into successful contributing members of society.

Yes! We need the village to raise our children. We do.



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