A year or two ago I came across this article in my news feed that changed my reality, and the other day it came through again. It was called “Why Are American Kids So Spoiled?”
It starts off with a story of an anthropologist who visits the Matsigenka tribe in the Amazon. He said he had decided to accompany a local family on a leaf-gathering expedition. As they were preparing to leave a member of another family asked to come along on this 5 day trip. She didn’t have a reason to go and no clear role so she filled in and figured it out on her own. She swept twice a day, helped stack the leaves for transport, fished, cleaned, and cooked all without being asked to do it and without ever asking for anything in return. The anthropologist from California was surprised by all this because this girl was only 6 years old!
He goes on to talk about the child training, differences between their culture and ours in the US, bringing in examples of children not regularly doing chores and when they do fighting with their parents about it and still often not doing them. An 8 year old being forced to by by his father to bathe himself. Another 8 year old making her parents get her silverware because there was none on the table. A younger boy demanding his dad to untie and put his shoes on him.
He then goes on to essentially ask, “Why are the children serving their parents in the Matsigenka tribe but here the parents are serving their children?” That was when I realized that I was serving MY child. My intentions were good; I wanted to be a “good” mommy. But I lost site of what that meant. After reading a few articles, including another one called “Desire to Please Prarents Motivates Kids at School” that compares our culture to what you see in China (focusing more on the teenage years).
This was when I realized that my job, in order to be the “good mommy” I wanted to be, was not to serve HER every beck and call, but instead to train her how to do those things on her own, teach her how to be self reliant. So she learned not only how to put on her own coat and shoes but that she was expected to do it; she learned how to put on her seat belt and take it off; how to clean her own room; carry her own books, bags, and other stuff; how to clear her own plates, etc. She was also given her own role in our house and since its made a big difference. Before I was teaching her that the world will serve her as an adult and now I am hoping I am teaching her how to be able to learn and do things on her own, that she is indeed capable of.
Now of course there is that transition time. Babies indeed do need you to care for them because they are babies and without you they would die. It can be so hard sometimes to realize (at least for me) when the time comes and I know I will struggle with this as McKenna and our next baby girl are to those points in life. With Bailie I realized way too late that I was still doing things for her that she could easily do herself, simply because she wanted me to do it so she wouldn’t have to. So when and how will I know? I guess time will tell since these tiny humans don’t come with hand books, but I think I need to study other cultures a lot more before that time comes because whatever it is they do they’re doing it right.
Now whether you’re reading this from here in the US or in another country with a different culture. I would love to hear your thoughts!