Years ago, when I first heard the proverb that it takes a village to raise a child, I didn't agree. I leaned more toward it takes a "family" to raise a child - parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. - not a village of people you aren't related to.
I've since changed my mind, thanks to my adult daughters, Kacee and Karah.
Nowadays, as I'm watching my 6- and 3-year-old granddaughters, Tilleigh and Evie, grow up, I am seeing firsthand the importance of letting a village help raise a child.
Our "village" starts with Kacee, a single parent and, thankfully, because my husband, Hank, and I live next door, we are always there to help her out with the girls. Hardly a day goes by that we don't spend time with our granddaughters.
The matriarch of our village is my 84-year-old mother, Evelyn. She spends a lot of time with the girls, too. She baby-sits Evie (her namesake) several times a week and, now that school is out, Tilleigh will be with her a lot. Mother's influence on the girls is priceless.
The girls love their doting aunt, Karah, who lives nearby. And they're close to their uncles, Kevin and Matt, who live in Chattanooga, as well as their Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Kit in California, and Uncle Trevor in Knoxville.
It's also my daughters' friends in the village who play a huge role in my granddaughters' lives.
Just last week, my daughters' friend Justin (as well as Karah), took Tilleigh rock climbing. Justin's wife, Eve, is also a good friend to my girls, as is their 6-year-old daughter, Bella, one of Tilleigh and Evie's best friends who is a rock climber.
And there's Phillip and Jen and daughter Perrin, who have been incredible friends to my daughters and grandchildren, as well as to me and my husband.
Tim and Berry and their children, Graham and Bennett, are around so much they've become family.
Bo and Tami and their children, Zoe, Emma and Shiloh, are important people in our lives. Our families have spent many nights around a campfire or eating dinner or celebrating birthdays together.
Sisters Emily and Robin, who have been best friends of my daughters' since elementary school, are like my own daughters. They even call me "Mom." Emily's children, Gates and Parks, are like brothers to my granddaughters.
Denny and Stacy and their children, Lance and Lilly, have been incredible friends to my daughters and granddaughters. Stacy keeps Evie clothed in Lily's hand-me-downs.
Renee, along with her husband, Brad, and their girls, Guinevere and Eowyn, are playing a key role in our village. Renee made sure Evie was clothed at birth, thanks to Eowyn's hand-me-downs, and I especially like that Renee is the meteorologist in our village. She is especially tuned into tornado threats by keeping Kacee up to date on the latest severe-weather forecasts. Renee is our alarm system. Seriously, that's important.
All these adults, for the most part, are extreme athletes, a passion they share and are passing down to the children. Almost every one of the children are either competitive swimmers, kayakers, rock climbers, hikers, runners or cyclists. We've even got some actresses and twirlers in the bunch.
And, like their parents, each one has a passion for the outdoors. The influence these parents are having collectively on this group of children is phenomenal. It's rare that any of these kids would choose to stay indoors to watch TV or play video games over doing something outdoors.
Each one of these people -- and also my granddaughters' incredible teachers at day care and kindergarten -- from the youngest to the oldest, play an important role in our incredible village, a village that is raising a group of wonderful and happy children.
I'm incredibly thankful that this village is helping to raise my granddaughters. I totally get it now.
Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396.