We have all heard the old addage, it takes a village to raise a child, but how many of us can say that our children have experienced this in their everyday life?
For the last four years, my children and I have been living this life. I must say that I truly love it. When we return to Canada we tend to go through some reverse culture shock each time.
We live in a small village in the country with local people. Most of the people in our village are what would be considered lower middle class in the western world. They live very modestly and share what they have.
My son is five years old. He walks to the store down the street on his own to buy himself a treat daily. The first time he ever did this walk alone was just before his fifth birthday. I remember that day vividly. He begged me to let him walk to the store. He kept saying he wanted money to go to the store. All his little friends go to the store for their parents. He wanted to be able to do what they do. I wrote a little note of what I wanted and sent him on his way. I stood on the side of the road in front of our house watching. A little further down the road a neighbour woman asked where he was going. He pointed to the store. She watched from the road and told him to watch for cars. Before he got to the store, another neighbour how is a motor taxi driver, stopped him and asked him where he was going. Made sure he had money and checked the note and reminded him of what he needed to get. He went into the store and got what he was supposed to get and came out so happy. Everybody on the street was cheering for him and telling how big he was now. It was such an amazing thing to see my little boy so happy for such a little thing as going to the store on his own.
In the western world I could never send a four year old child to the store on his own. However it’s very different here. My son has very few words because of a severe speech delay. Juana, the woman at the store is so very patient with him. He tells her what he wants or at least tries to. If she doesn’t understand she brings him behind the counter and lets him show her what he wants. I can’t imagine any staff at the local 7-11 in the western world taking this time with a child.
Everyone in the neighbourhood watches out for all the children. We went for a walk around the village one day. We had only been in the village for less than a few weeks. We had never left our street before. I wanted to see more of the village so we went on a walking adventure. Everywhere we went, everyone knew my son’s name. They all came to greet him and talk to him. I was shocked that so many knew who he was. He had never left our street yet people on the other side of the village new this child! They even knew the baby.
Living in a village like this, is a wonderful thing for my son. You see my son has some very severe developmental delays. His speech is very limited. He has balance issues. He isn’t as fast and agile as the other kids. He prefers to play on his own. He is a very special little boy, who lives in his own little world. Living in this village allows him to live his childhood as a normal child. He can do that because others in our neighbourhood love him and help to keep an eye out for him.
He is often visiting one Grandma or Grandpa or another. He calls all elderly people Mama and Papa. He has numerous here. He visits them all and they all love and cherish him. They let him help them in kitchen, hold him in their laps. Let him watch television with them. Feed him little treats. He gives them love and unconditional friendship and he gets the same in return. For some of these elderly people, he is the highlight of their day.
He plays with the other kids in the neighbourhood to the best of his ability and no one notices that he is different. If they do, they don’t say anything. They just simply allow him to tag along. The older kids in the neighbourhood often come and ask to take him and his baby brother to the store or to the park with them.
This child of mine flits up and down the street, with a stick between his legs, riding his horse and making stops along the way to visit and chat with everyone. His flapping hands and stuttering doesn’t seem to bother anyone. They just love him as he is.
This is exactly what my son needs for his education. He needs to know that the world is a good place and that people are genuinely good and caring for the most part. He is very innocent and I don’t want to change that anytime soon. He learns so much from each person in the community. He has learned so many words from everyone that spends time with him. He knows how to count from spending time with the older kids and women in the neighbourhood. He knows about tools for spending time with some of the men fixing their cars in the village. He is always investigating everything going on in the street. No one ever tells him to go away. This is the best education for my son!
We will be leaving for our native country of Canada soon. I know that my son will enjoy being in Canada with all the conveniences and activities that we do while we are there. However he will very much miss his independence that he has here. He will miss all his loving Grandparents and other Mothers and fathers. He will very much miss the village that has helped to raise him for the past four years.