I just wrote an article – one that has been brewing and growing in my mind for years – on the things I love most about raising my children in Kenya (here's the post). It’s featured on one of my favorite sites in the whole world wide web – Inculture Parent. It wasn’t easy to make this list succinct and of course it’s incomplete. As is often the case, once something is presented for public view, you realize all the things you forgot. There are two things I would add.
Having my parenting assumptions challenged and seeing them through a new lens. Sometimes this is disorienting, but it is always illuminating. Parenting is done differently here, it’s at once more strict and more free-range. Sometimes affection is not as obvious, but it comes at children from more corners. I love that I can open my eyes and see these differences, and notice things about my own culture that I would never realize had I stayed put. And I love the realization that children can thrive in so many vastly different settings not least of all because it puts my parenting failings in proper perspective.
360 or more days of sunshine a year. This, I hesitated to add because it’s not necessarily unique to Kenya or even Africa, but truly it is one of my favorite things about raising kids here. Literally, every day has sunshine and warmth. Even in the rainy seasons the rains don’t start until the late afternoon or evening, so children can run around all day. In my three years here I remember only a handful of overcast or rainy daytimes.
Why is this so important?
When I had an inconsolable newborn, screaming and fussing despite my exhaustively creative efforts, someone suggested opening the door to expose the child to some fresh air. I’m not sure if it was the shock of the temperature change or the distraction of the chirping birds and flicker leaves, but he quieted down almost magically. That technique worked nearly every time after that.
It made me think that babies and children, really humans, are probably more at peace, more soothed by being outside in the world. Being outside is a calm kind of stimulation, not the acid trip flurry of distraction that child-centered places, like gymaborees and the like, assume children want. The distraction is in the birds, and clouds and wandering cows and visiting neighbors and especially impromptu playmates who are also drawn outdoors. And this weather permits that every day.
There is no cabin fever, no short days of winter where the sun descends a few hours after lunch and your mood becomes dark and cold like the outdoors, no Season Affective Disorder in a place with no seasons.
|Bored? Go outside.|
So, those are the two items I left off my list. What would be on your list? What do you love about where you are bringing up your kids?