Sunday, February 27, 2011

No hovering...anywhere

I have yet to see a mother in Africa hovering over her children. There probably are some, but I haven't seen them.

I talked to a woman the other day and when I asked her about the ages of her children at home, she said that they were 2 and 3.

I said, "Who stays with them?"

She said, "Oh, they are old enough to manage."


I'm hoping they manage with other siblings or cousins.

That tends to be the model around here. If a girl is 4 1/2 or 5, they are old enough to start caring for younger children.

I watch a mother every Sunday leave her 5 month old with a young girl. This week, the girl looked to be about 6. The baby was naked and wrapped in a beach towel on the young girl's back.

The mother went off to get water at the bore hole. When the young girl wanted to climb a tree with the rest of the kids, another girl, who looked a bit younger, took the infant.

Think about how we operate in America with our newborn babies. We spend so much time with them, we know their habits and their cries. This newborn boy is with a different girl every time I see him. They don't know his cries and habits.

Maybe this is why African children are so tough. They grow up without this constant care from one person, and they learn to adapt and not be so whiny, like some of us probably were as children. But please know that I am aware that some mothers do spend more time with their children. This was just the instance I saw today.

At the church service (this was at the ORA base - where some orphans and foster children come to church) we attended this last Sunday, I watched this one boy for about 30 minutes do things that would have had any mother hovering, but there was no one around to take care of him.

He entered church after having peed in his pink shorts, and it was still running down his leg.

He went and sat on a drum that one of the boys was beating, getting the drum a little wet.

Then, he wanted to hold the Bible story book, and he set the spine of the book right onto his wet shorts. When the Bible study teacher took it from him, she didn't even seem to care or notice that it was a bit damp.

When we went outside to play afterward, I saw him standing with his shorts pulled down just enough to let his private parts hang out, and he was peeing down the front of his shorts...again, and down his leg, with his hand getting terribly wet.

THEN, he went and picked up a small mango off the ground to eat. He picked it up with the dry hand, but then it slipped to the ground, and he grabbed it a second time with his wet hand, and he bit into the mango.

THEN, with part of the mango innards exposed, he thought of a better idea. He would take it with him while he played.

He pried open his small, wet pocket on these little-girl shorts and stuffed it in before he ran off to swing and play in the dirt.

I'm sure you can figure I was cringing, but I was also sad.

There was no one to change his shorts.
There was no one to wash his hands.
There was no one to clean off his mango.
There was no one to teach him about the sanitary way to take care of food.

Sadly, all I did was tell him in Lugbara (as I saw the urine running down his hand, shorts, and leg), "You need to wash your hands." The water tank is dry because it is dry season, so I didn't even know where to tell him to go to wash his hands. I guess I was hoping he knew.

My children and your children are blessed to have parents who take the time to raise them not only in the admonition of the Lord, but also in the healthier ways of the world.

We Americans could probably hover a little less and teach a little more independence to our children, but I know if we are over-doing it, it's because we love them and worry about them.

A lesson for us all is that we should trust the Lord to take care of our children. That's what I'm praying for that boy I saw today.


LoveforAfrica said...

I was just thinking about this same thing as a mother just kinda of threw her sleeping baby at me during church so she could go handle the offering. How you handle children here is SO different than in America!

Nancy said...

I observed the same sort of "fend for yourself, like I did" mentality while there. I think we all tend to do what was modeled for us. Many of the 20 somethings in Uganda received no parenting themselves. But I did get to see a new little orphan loved on and cared for by many of the older kids at the orphanage in Mityana.
I am sure the parenting you are modeling is beneficial to those you encounter.