I am staying home today because Child of Mine is sick. Since I am not going in to the job that pays my bills, I will work on my goals, that often fall off when I come home too tired and dose off. Plus, “Mommy School” is open today; child will be fully engaged. We have plenty of exciting projects the whole day. Child continues to build his math tables, especially with multiplication.
I would have loved to work today; I love to end my week amidst the energies of our young learners. They energize me and keep me in overdose vibration until the beginning of another week. But when duty calls, I oblige. First things first, parent; a single parent, moreover!
Just the other day on my ride to work, I was thinking to myself how Modern-Day Parenting has changed. I am reliant on the goodness of neighbors, instead of family, to help in my parental responsibilities! My neighbors kindly help me take my child to the bus stop in the morning, when I leave for work early, then walk him back from the bus at the end of day.
True, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but it is not the same village experience I grew up around. Biological Family, was the most immediate “Village,” without second thought or feeling of inconvenience. True, neighbors, friends and even strangers, have always been a part of “The Village”. Although today, they might be the first point of support in raising our children. Story of my life!
I grew up in the care of my grandmother, my cousins aunts, uncles and siblings. In fact from the age of two, my mother dropped me off to live with my grandmother, to ease her responsibilities, taking care of five other school-going children, plus a teaching career. I returned to my family home about four or five years of age, ready to start pre-primary.
Throughout my childhood, our families including my uncles and aunts dropped off their children at our grandmother’s home during the school holiday, and returned to pick us up close to start of the next school term. Nobody asked for my grandmother’s consent, it was a given! That’s what grandparents are for -to take care of all their children’s children, without questioning. It was a joyous time –grandparents indulge their all grandchildren!
On the plus side, all of us children helped around the house with chores: washing dishes, laundry, cleaning outside and inside the house, gardening, harvesting, fetching wood, water, harvesting, cooking, and any chore requested. Being among the youngest grandchildren, my work assignments were simpler. I must say, I do not remember doing much [perhaps fetching water], playing and sitting around grandma. Particularly because she died when I was about six or seven years of age. Thereon, we all spent our long school holidays at my aunt [my mom’s elder sister] who was an Officer-in-Charge of prisons in one of the large district within Uganda. Plenty of fond memories, playing till dark, swimming in the lake all day everyday, and blissful enjoyment of each other, as siblings from multiple families.
Growing up, it was my turn to help raise my older siblings’ children, as was expected of family. I did not feel obliged, but the expected normality of growing up family. It goes without saying that older siblings help out raising their young ones, and young ones in turn help their older siblings by raising their children.
Some of my nieces and nephews lived with us, and were left in my care while their mothers were away or occupied. Others lived further from us with their families, where I commuted to help my siblings. One of my nieces was born shortly before I completed primary/middle school. Immediately thereafter, I commuted everyday to my sister’s home to help out with the new baby. I washed the baby’s clothes and hung them to dry, cleaned the house, washed the dishes, made lunch, dishes again, ironed the dry laundry, and prepared dinner for the family before heading back home. This went on until the end of my middle school vacation, and time to start secondary/junior high school. I was not even a teenager, but I took on the responsibilities expected of me as part of family.
Looking back, it is not the same, for our children. Migration, has also added another layer to family relations and redefined family bonds, commitment and child upbringing. Some of us have moved in different directions, across seas, and oceans. The new family bonds are not necessarily built on blood but friendships or shared residence communities.
While my mother embraced all her grandchildren with the same zeal as her mother, I’ve learned that is not universal. Other grandparents may show preferential treatment for some grandchildren not others. If they reach out, it is most likely out of pity.
My desire and determination to have my child connect with his family, and share the love that family offers has been a mixed bag, fading into oblivion. Family is not offered without conditions. Very often, even amidst family, it is easier to rely on neighbors and friends for support. I am thankful for the kindness of social relations, willing to step in and give a hand. Thankful for the modern-day parents, who are helping to raise the child together. The “Village” is still pertinent to modern-day parenting; it is a different kind of village.