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Minds Wide Open: The Importance of Non-Parental Adults in Kids' Lives

As relatively new members of Cohousing ABQ, I thought it would be fun to learn some cold, hard facts about this warm, fuzzy group of people we’ll soon be calling neighbors.

We sent out a survey and learned that our kids will grow up with defacto aunts and uncles who hail from 9 countries, speak 15 languages, play 17 instruments, have degrees in 45 different subjects — from midwifery to aerospace engineering — and countless hobbies and passions that they are excited to share.

As a relatively new father, I find myself thinking back to my own childhood for guidance on what I want (or don’t want!) for my own children. Something that stands out is how important my parents’ friends were, in ways my parents themselves couldn’t be. Even though they were and are wonderful parents!

When I was 7 years old, their friend Bill had no telephone at his house across the valley from us. So one day he said, “I wonder if we could communicate with each other across the valley by blinking our flashlights in a certain way.” Did he end up teaching me the magic of saying “hello” in Morse Code? Well, yes. But more so, I think, he taught me the joy of answering the question, “I wonder if we could ______?”

Starting a cohousing community seems to be a process full of such questions. The thing I’m most curious about, though, is: what questions will our new extended family members teach our kids to ask? Knowing the incredible diversity of life experiences, knowledge, skill, and wisdom held by the group, I’m excited to learn the answer.


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