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Weekend Life

Tales From The Motherhood: Community strengthened through investment in neighborhood youth

When one of my neighbors went out of town this week and asked if my daughter could help care for her dog, a surge of warm gratitude flooded my body.

It meant that she considered my daughter a capable, trustworthy person, reliable enough to be responsible for her beloved pet.

It’s not the first time she’s asked Holly to do this, nor is she the only neighbor to have made such a request of my daughter.

A few have asked her to pet sit on a regular basis. It’s kind of become her thing.

She’s become very comfortable with caring for others’ animals and even has a sense of competence she didn’t have before, a sense of pride.

The thing is, though, this awareness that she is “able” didn’t just develop in a vacuum. Without our neighbors – the ones who took risks, one at a time, and believed that Holly could manage whatever the job might entail, she might not have these skills or know this thing about herself.

Before she could, they had to make an investment in the possibility that she could do it. That’s no small thing.

Yeah, sure, these requests, whether they involve petsitting or lawn mowing or baby-sitting or snow-shoveling or whatever, involve real work for my children – and me, if I’m honest (you know how it is, you inevitably put your kids’ jobs on your own to-do list, to make sure they get done) – but, really, these requests are huge gifts. Huge. Because raising kids to feel good about themselves as competent, capable, responsible members of society isn’t something parents can do all by themselves. Nope, we need others to help make this happen.

Maybe it’s asking them to collect the mail while they’re on vacation, feeding their birds, watering their gardens or even helping to carry their groceries.

My neighbors may think that my kids are doing them favors by pitching in, but the favor is mutual.

Perhaps unwittingly, they’ve partnered with me in holding my kids’ hands as they take their first tentative steps on that big, steep path toward adulthood, where knowing how to make choices and follow through on commitments will yield huge returns both seen and unseen. And it began right here in our neighborhood.

For now, Holly’s a capable pet-sitter, who has, for two years, also been a capable volunteer at an animal shelter who imagines that she will one day become a veterinarian.

She may change her mind – you know how it is, when we learn of and become excited about other careers, or suddenly other priorities show up – but for now, my girl has a dream. And I have my neighbors to thank for that.

• Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her husband, Todd, and their two children, Noah and Holly. Contact her at

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