I used to watch the show Dharma and Greg regularly, or at least the re-runs. Like Seinfeld and The Ofice, it is another show that I didn't really catch the charms of until well-past the time the originals aired.
This post isn't really about the show, just a particular clip, but a little bit of background is in order so that it makes sense. Dharma and Greg is about a couple (coincidentally named Dharma and Greg) who pass each other on the street one day after both have just fallen out of very serious and deeply unsatisfying relationships. Greg is highly attracted to Dharma (and honestly, Jenna Elfman with the 90's haircut? who can blame the guy) and she senses some kind of cosmic connection-love-at-first-sight with him. He lets her pass by, but she tracks him down at his office. He is completely smitten, takes the rest of the day off and they spend the next 24 hours together, culminating in a wedding. This takes us to halfway through the first episode.
The gimmick in the show is what happens when two people who really don't know each other at all get married. Dharma's parents are hippies--not WERE hippies--are hippies. Greg's parents, on the other hand, are from one of the richest society families in San Fransisco. And while Dharma and Greg are not as extreme as mums and daddies, there is a lot of argument (and eventually give and take) about how things are "supposed" to be done, emphasizing that no marriage is made up of perfect people who have it all figured out.
During the second season Dharma and Greg decide to adopt a baby. Or rather, Dharma spontaneously tells the checkout girl at the market that she can live with them until the baby comes, delivers the baby at their apartment, then agrees to adopt the baby after the single teenage mother has a complete emotional breakdown. Greg is told about each AFTER it happens, and Dharma is a little bit confused about what his beef is.
So that is the background. When the baby moves in, any prior differences pale in comparison to their differences in parenting. Dharma's mother reminds her daughter that Dharma basically grew up in a commune because "it takes a village." When her mother and father show up to help, they bring a whole entourage of people with them--a spiritual advisor/storyteller, a feminist with a cooler full of breastmilk, an African shaman with a drum--you get the drill. The funniest clip in the episode is here, when we meet the village and see the way they take over the lives of this young couple. Ironically enough, though Greg doesn't understand the village concept and its importance to his mother-in-law, he himself had a nanny, a cook, a maid and various tutors. Later there was boarding school and lessons. Not Dharma's village, but a village nevertheless.
In a comment some time back Genjunky said "not that it takes a village . . . " when talking about raising kids. I think she means that we can't abdicate our responsibilities as parents to the community. We can't think that church or school or the government or whatever will parent for us. Yet, I'm not entirely convinced that it doesn't take a village.
Now, I'm not talking about a Dharma-style village here. But to some degree don't we all have stake in one another's welfare? For example, some of my earnest commitment to the young women in our ward right now is the idea that some day my boys will need scoutmasters who take their callings seriously. Yet, every minute I spend with those girls, is time spent away from my own family; which, I must admit is sometimes very frustrating. As a teacher I sometimes found myself spending a lot of extra time and energy on students, just trying to teach them basic skills that, in my mind, should have been taught at home. Also frustrating.
In Mr. Obama's health care speech this week he finished by quoting a letter from the late Senator Kennedy. Mr. Kennedy's letter makes it clear that he believed that making sure all Americans had access to health care was a litmus test of the American character. I think that Kennedy was saying that it takes a village.
I'm not sure. But I do know this: My brother and sister each had new babies in the past month. It is still a while to go before I see them, and I feel sad that I may not get to see them grow up. As my friends get older, we seem to have a much harder time connecting with one another in meaningful ways because we are so busy. I remember my peer groups in Texas and Utah (where we, incidentally, lived at "The Village") who were so close to one another. I had a ready list of women to call if we needed something, anything. I have a couple of friends here like that, but our ward is geographically spread out and there is very little spontaneous hanging out or stopping by. My parents and in-laws are wonderful people whom I wish had more regular interaction with my kids. Plantboy is headed to the temple tonight on his own because it is too hard to find a babysitter for a big chunk of the day so that we can go together. And while our local school is wonderful, there are no children younger than middle school on our entire street.
I don't want somebody else to raise my kids, of course not. But for all that we love about our current location I don't know if there is enough of a support system for us to raise our kids here--particularly though their turbulent teenage years. Maybe it doesn't take a village, but I'm not sure I'm strong enough without one.