Our kids are teenagers now but I remember the toddler years well and I still live through them by proxy as many of my friends have children in the 0-5 age range. I remember the feeling of so wanting to do my best and yet never being quite sure as they lay prostrate on the floor of Tesco mid-tantrum whether I was really cutting it as a mum. I remember the endless ‘why’ questions and the marathon that was getting from wake up time to bedtime and trying to make sure that we got through it with laughter as well as tears. I remember being overwhelmed with love and delight in my kids and at times overwhelmed with frustration and responsibility and loneliness.
I also remember how precious it was to share the journey with other mums. To catch each other’s eyes above the screaming child and smile with shared sympathy and understanding. To glean pearls of wisdom from more experienced parents when I’d run out of wisdom of my own and just to know that there were other mums out there who would play team tag with me so that when the tiredness threatened to overtake me there was someone to stand in the gap and then I could return the favour. I absolutely loved my kids as toddlers (and still love them as teenagers!) and what contributed to being able to take joy and delight in them was the blessing of raising them in a tight community of friends at a similar life stage.
That sense of community can be harder to find these days. Community is a hard thing to define - we feel the lack of it when we don’t have it but it’s not so easy to say what it is. We feel the need for it without being able to precisely pinpoint what it is we feel the need for. Its more than just living in physical proximity to one another, its about our lives becoming connected and interdependent and friendships and relationships being made and sustained. Community to me is a bit like a net that forms around us and keeps us in place. For that sort of community to grow we need a space to be together and support each other. This space needs to be a physical space but also an emotional space to be able to stop and take the time to be able to reach out and connect with one another. In this space we can learn from each other and learn together how to navigate the roller-coaster ride of parenthood and life.
We really hope that the leisure centre reused as a community club could provide that physical and emotional space for families to be built up and encouraged and supported by each other. There is an African saying that it takes a whole village to raise a child. My hope for this venture is that we will create such a village.
By Jo Lee