On Tuesday, when I brought my daughter Lucy to her art class, Jennifer had the purple stamp pad already set up at the spot where we always sit. Jennifer knows Lucy will want purple. After all, she’s the kid in class with a purple shirt and purple pants. Earlier in the day she had a purple barrette in her hair, but it had come out.
On Thursday, my mother, Lucy’s grandmother, will be in New York City rather than her hometown outside of Philadelphia to spend the day with my kid. On Saturday night, my mother in law, aka Nanna, visiting from Maine, will watch Lucy so my wife and I can go to a friend’s book release party.
Lucy is lucky. When we had a child care void recently, my brother-in-law filled in for the morning. When he had to head out for an appointment, my aunt, who lives right across the street, took over for the rest of the day—on next to no notice.
My father-in-law lives in the building just next to ours. He and Lucy’s third grandmother (yes, she has three) help out all the time.
On a recent family vacation, when I was too tired one day, it was Lucy’s uncle who took her in the pool. He also spent much of the week teaching Lucy a new game he created called “Tickles or Kisses.” Lucy quickly learned she could pick both.
My wife and I adore our child and want to give her nothing short of the world. We can’t do it ourselves.
Lucy’s babysitter is the best when it comes to teaching new words. The doormen in our building teach Lucy to give high fives. Whalid in swim class taught Lucy to blow bubbles in the water. The neighbor across the hall taught Lucy how to ring a doorbell. Numerous strangers in the neighborhood have patiently taught Lucy the proper way to approach a dog, test to see if it is friendly, and then pet gently. Remmy, a little girl in Lucy’s art class, taught my daughter how to stick her hands directly into the paint and create something beautiful without a brush.
Marcus at the Kids Club is teaching Lucy how to do a somersault safely. At the playground on Monday two little girls a few years older than Lucy who we had never met before invited her to dig in the dirt and build a nest out of sticks on the ground.
Lucy isn’t even two years old yet. In September, she’ll start pre-school. Teachers will start to help her learn so much more. I suspect she’ll learn about coloring, about bunnies (the school has a pet bunny), about sharing, about numbers and letters. I suspect she’ll learn about things I can’t even imagine. All in a safe nurturing environment. Because Lucy is so lucky. Her mother and I are so lucky. Lucky that we can raise her in a community with support—with people who care about us and our daughter. Lucky because with all of the good fortune we enjoy, we still couldn’t do this on our own. We’re lucky because we don’t have to. No one should.
Share your stories with Melissa. Are you raising a child with the help of family, friends, and your community? Are you a part of that extended network for someone else’s child? What does caring for children look like in your world? Email MHPmail@msnbc.com or send a tweet to@mhpshow using the hashtag #caringforchildren.