Creating a village

They say “it takes a village to raise a child….. “
What does that mean? People interpret this in various ways, here’s my own understanding…

1) Raising children is tough, don’t try go it all alone!
– Ask for help…offer help!

In olden days big joint families or clans were the norm. In our modern world, most of us no longer live in joint families, we live in smaller family units (‘nuclear families’*). Subconsciously, we are always in the process of creating our own communities (or so called clans) around us; we are creating our own ‘village’.

When I moved back to the Netherlands from overseas, it was time for me to create my own new village; I was to raise a child. ‘Centering Pregnancy’, a method blown over across the Atlantic, helped me in this process. As new mums-to-be, linked only by this mutual new phase that we were embarking on; together we got involved in understanding what it means to raise a child and together we learned. The idea behind Centering Pregnancy (CP) maternal care service is:

Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.

Talking about our concerns and interests in a very down-to-earth manner, I became aware that CP tried to provide a social network for pregnant women. Unconsciously we were creating our village, which proved vital and heart warming in the months to follow. I remember how fascinating it was to stop for a moment and think about what it is that I would like to pass on to my child, which aspects of my own TCK (Third Culture Kid) childhood did I cherish, and which I didn’t? It’s a subject I am not sure I would have given any further thought had I not been probed during these meet-ups.

The village we created helped us navigate through the early stages of motherhood. Realizing and understanding that we weren’t alone in our anxieties, feelings of despair and uncertainties; it made each of us a stronger mother. We guided each other through difficult times, but also revelled in the small joys of early motherhood. Together.

If you want to go fast (get the job done quick), go alone. If you want to go far (stay sane & do good), go together.

adapted ‘African’ proverb

2) The raising of a child (its wellbeing) belongs to the community
– it is a joint responsibility

I read, on internet, that the original ‘African’ proverb above, is from Burkina Faso and actually reads:
“Alone a youth runs fast, with an elder slow, but together they go far.”
I love the way the elder is added in this proverb. Making use of knowledge and experience of elders is an important part of ‘using the village to raise a child’, in my opinion. We don’t need to agree with all that elders say, but listen, respond & learn.

Discussing the topic of raising a child to be a joint responsibility of communities; made me remember my parents allowing an acquaintance’s son to stay in our home, while he was struggling to make a living in the big city and needed a place to stay. We took him in and provided him with much needed mental support. In return he bestowed us with musical performances; meanwhile unconsciously developing one of his undervalued talents.

3) Raising an open-minded child, aware of our diverse world
– interaction with diverse set of people & understanding there are different ways of looking & tackling the same problem

As you’ve read in my previous blogs, for me, having a community is an essential part of my life. A community of like-minded people is where one feels at ease and at home, but in order to be open-minded citizens, we need to interact with a diverse set of people. As a TCK, who’s lived and travelled in different countries, I know that there is more than one way of looking at the world and there are different ways of interacting with others. There is not one truth nor one right way of doing things.

If you want to raise an open-minded child, then he/she too must be exposed to different perspectives, in other words to different ‘villages’. Children who (are able to) interact with a variety of people become sensitive to different interpretations of the world around. This is nicely demonstrated in research conducted by the University of Chicago, as quoted below. They point out that “exposure to other languages could enhance children’s ability to understand other points of view”. Same holds true for children exposed to different subcultures, opinions and ways of living.

Researchers were left with two conclusions: either bilingual kids are telepathic, or exposure to another language gives children a better understanding of others’ perspectives.

Link to article ‘Being Bilingual Has Yet Another Advantage’ – By Eliza Castile, June 3, 2015..

Empathy is a trait one can easily learn as a child, but is way tougher as an adult.

[note: I wanted to use ‘nuclear family’ here, as that’s what was used in my youth. However I looked up the definition and ‘nuclear family’ seems to apply only to a family consisting of a father, mother & children- which I didn’t consider appropriate for this blogpost, nor for the definition of a family unit in our modern society.]

Published by shakti

Author of Colours of a Cultural Chameleon. Kindle & paperback available on Amazon

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