|Kindergartners from Ilsan, South Korea; photo by their former teacher, Charlotte Hammond|
As a private school teacher, I often remind my students that there is a world beyond the ivy-walls. I want them to see culture, think globally, and learn from other civilizations. However, sometimes I need a taste of my own medicine. I had a truly a-ha moment a few weeks ago, and it's been on my mind since.
A colleague of mine did a Habitat for Humanity project in Cambodia, and she was showing us all a slide show of her adventures there. The family she was building for had many small children and babies, and because she was there a few weeks, she had a first hand look at the family dynamics. First thing she noted, as she showed a photo of a grinning adorable little girl, was that none of the babies wore diapers! Can you even imagine? They spend most of the day outside, and she said, "they went without diapers and were the happiest little babies." Interesting! Then, she showed us an image of the grandmother, under a shelter, with many small babies around her. She explained that the grandmother took care of all the babies while the parents worked, and even after they came home. I always feel a sense of guilt that I chose (with Eric) to have a baby and now my mother (and sister) are taking care of him while I work...but, it really does take a village, and this is (duh) not a new phenomenon. Historically speaking, maternal grandmothers have stuck around because it was their job to care for the new generation. The grandmother in Cambodia was more than happy to help raise her grandchildren, and she felt it was her right and duty to help raise them.
But, the a-ha moment came when she showed a photo of the finished house. It was two rooms. And, living in that house would be the parents, grandparents, and all the children and babies. It quickly dawned on me that in their culture, the thought of children getting their own room would be a truly preposterous concept! Of course the children slept with their parents, they didn't have room for the babies to have a decorated, Pinterest-y nursery. They would think that we, American parents, are off our rockers for pushing a baby into their own bed, and their own room. Further, I bet that these Cambodian parents didn't feel the need to label their bed a "family bed," it was simply the space where they all slept!
Sometimes, we get so caught up in our Mommy-Blog, Pinterest, Google Search, Book Buying...and we forget that there are parents in this world who don't have the options we do. While of course we have to remember that the baby is in bed with us, as parents, I can guarantee you that these Cambodian parents didn't sit down and Google, "benefits of family bed," or "dangers of family bed." That's just their way of life, and it works for them because it has to. We, as an American Parent Culture, tend to over-think, over-analyze, and over-do every little thing when it comes to parenting. Which is why I wrote my post on my parenting style and released the chains inside my head about being a strict, organized parent. Because my life isn't strict and organized....why should I drive myself crazy worrying about every detail when it comes to my parenting? Is my son safe, happy, educated, and loved? Check to all of those boxes. We're told that children need boundaries, rules, limits...and yes, as a seasoned teacher, I can attest to that, but at the same time, those boundaries and rules have to work within our family, and for us, as parents, as well.
By seeing these gorgeous happy Cambodian children, it really brought me back to reality. We live in huge world, and there are parents all over the place who parent in a totally different manner than we do in America. For example, did you know some Chinese parents potty-train their kids at 6 months? We would think that was insane in America, and they would think we were crazy for spending so much money and space on diapers. I want my son to see the world from a global point-of-view, but that means I have to change my POV, as well. It's time to pop that parenting-in-America-bubble and learn from my global counter-parts.
I've done some reading on parenting-globally, and recommend these books: How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm by Mei-Ling Hopgood, Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman, and French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon
|Photo by Charlotte Hammond|