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Susan Stiffelman Headshot

Thank you, Mrs. Robinson, for Settling in at the White House

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Tremors of joy-- and relief -moved through me when Barack Obama was elected President, so much so that the night he won, I booked flights to DC for the inauguration (largely at the pull of my politically enlightened teenage son) before I had a clue about the crazy costs of tickets or hotels.

My delight in the Obama family taking up residence in the White House took yet another leap when I discovered that the new First Lady would be helped in looking after her children not by a nanny, but by their grandma.

How cool is that? Way cool.

It really does take a village to raise a child. We are, at heart, tribal creatures, meant to bring our kids up in the midst of aunties and poppas and neighboring kids who wander in and out of our "hut." Children are supposed to move fluidly through generations, hearing the first waaaa of a baby being born in the yurt next door, or witnessing the wailing grief of a neighbor at the loss of their beloved.

Kids thrive when they are guided--and disciplined--by cherished grannies and respected uncles. The notion that two parents (or just as commonly today, one) are equipped to do all of the physical and emotional heavy lifting that comes with bringing up a child is insane. We see proof in chronically exhausted parents feeling disconnected from their kids, and in youngsters whose primary "guidance" comes from friends at school, TV and cyberspace.

As simple as a child's needs appear to be--Feed, Clean, Wipe, Put to Bed, Wake Up, Put in Car, Pick Up, Get Homework Done, Drive Places--it is exhausting to be "on", all of the time, no matter how much you love your children or how dedicated you are to being there for them.

Everybody wins when kids are raised by extended family. Whether we create that by aligning with close friends or neighbors, or by inviting our mother-in-law to share the adventure, it's vital that we recognize that the era of raising kids in a shrunken nuclear family isn't in their--or our--best interest. It isn't working. We aren't meant to raise kids in isolation.

Thank you President and Ms. Obama--and especially, Mrs. Robinson--for reminding us that it really does take a village to raise a child. Thank you for helping parents remember that it's true that we do really get by better-- with a little help from our friends...or from Grandma.

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