A global village to raise a child

I ‘VE spent the past two days with family and friends, and I’ve found myself repeating an old African proverb in my own mind: “It takes a village to raise a child.”

Perhaps the conscious part of me was thinking how beneficial it is for our children to be around other adults. And the sub-conscious part of me was probing the possibility that many adults need the same thing.

Yesterday, at a lunch with a group of our friends and their young kids, one of my mates remarked how he felt more at ease after seeing other children throwing periodic tantrums. It made him feel his own child was more normal than he sometimes thought, like he wasn’t demon possessed.

I laughed. It was funny because it was so familiar.

At some point, my kids have gone through a stage when they have become fixated with something, and no amount of psycho-babble schmurble will distract them.

If your child is hooked on tractors, for example, and you happen to park near one, you’re not gonna see the surrounding area without a screamo match.

If your child is into balls and lights, shopping malls at Christmas time are best avoided.

In my own case, it just turns out that my 2-year-old son has discovered the joy of drums well before his time. It’s a problem. We go to a funeral in a church, and there in the front of the church is a drum kit. “Drums!” he exclaims, arm outstretched, finger very singularly directed. It’s like he just cannot fathom why no one is sitting there playing the darn things. And in the absence of any right-minded rock ‘n roller in the building, he is more than happy to oblige. Problem is his parents are a bit more socially-savvy than he is, but how you explain “there’s a time and a place” to a 2-year-old is beyond me.

Cue tantrum.

How you deal with a tantrum has been the subject of boundless literature. I have curbed a number of tantrums with distraction and bribery, but the most effective was in the middle of a shopping mall by out-tantrumming the offspring myself.

It resulted in a complete role-reversal between a 2-year-old child and 30-year-old parent… much to the perplexity of onlookers. I have a fond memory of that.


But as a parent you always wonder whether you’re doing the right thing. As a child, you have all the answers.

If parenting exposes theĀ innate, awkward human questions in us, isn’t it a reflection of ourselves? Perhaps the African proverb was referring to the child in all of us… perhaps we all need a village.

And what kind of village you find yourself in is important. It’s important to venture outside of that village and see how other villages live, to notice the community. Why do communities live the way they do? Why do communities thrive? Why do communities just survive?

I’ve been thinking about my own life and what I know. And under an African sun I’ve also been wondering all the while – if the world we live in is indeed a global village, then our children need to benefit from it.

And so do we.

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