Gathering Our Medicine
NATURALLY GROWING THE VILLAGE
Traditionally children were shielded by a village of relationships (Cajete, 1994). A child’s first relationships were with their parents and immediate family members. The child was kept close in this circle of relationships for the first few years of their life. As the child grew the parents and grandparents would strategically introduce the child to the other adults that would be providing care for and teaching them. This is still the most natural way to build a village of relationships for our youth (Cajete, 1994).
All mammals have protective attachment instincts to resist interaction with strangers (shyness) as well as to resist coercion by those to whom they are not attached (counter-will) (Panksepp, 2012) (De Waal, 2009). Those instincts must be honoured and not labelled as problematic. We must learn to work with nature with the patience of a gardener as we develop the dance of relationship with a youth.
It is our job to introduce new adults to our youth. As Dr. G.A. Neufeld says, “attachments beget attachments”. We most naturally will develop a relationship with a new person that has an existing relationship with someone we are already connected to. To force our youth to accept direction from a stranger can evoke a resistance to that person and counter-will instincts that can cause things to seem as if they are going in reverse
We often assume our role with youth is enough for them to be receptive to us, but youth do not care about our job titles. They are relational and the magic of relationship happens when we honour the protective instincts present in all of us. Working through existing relationships to help our child form new relationships is the most indirect and natural way to expand the village. In other words, we need to become good matchmakers with those other adults to whom our child needs to be connected to.
This may include teachers, mentors, coaches, counsellors, and extended family members. We as adults must seize the lead when building a village to wrap around our child.
When our youth sees us in good relationship with other adults it leads to the natural development of a relationship between the child and other potential caregivers protecting them from falling into the wounding world of peer culture.
The circle represents the village of caregivers surrounding, providing for and leading our youth. Rituals where introductions are made are gentle and can be used in many different contexts.