Saturday, January 4, 2014

Parenting and New Years in the Cote d'Ivoire

Sheila and I feted the New Year at the house of a Colombian-French couple with a bunch of ex-pats.  It was a fun party.  A bit of an older crowd, but that didn't stop most of them from splashing into the swimming pool at midnight for champagne toasts and general merriness.  Salsa dancing was promised, but never materialized, although we left at 1:30am, so perhaps we just didn't stick around for long enough.

Most striking was the laissez-faire attitude of the ex-pat parents.  We came with Diego and Sophie and their one-and-a-half year old daughter Emilie, who was pulled from her bed, bundled off to the party, and then deposited in the back yard in a portable crib covered with a malaria bed net.  Next to the bed net-covered crib of another sleeping baby.  And these were just the sleeping kids.  Any child above three was allowed to stay awake and frolic around playing soccer or video games into the wee hours of the night.  Sheila and I couldn't help but admire this attitude.  We first thought it was a French thing, but a visiting Frenchwoman assured us that it was an ex-pat thing, that it would be unusual in France as well.  I suppose it makes sense.  The type of parents who are casual/selfish enough to drag their kids along to Africa so that they can continue their adventurous pre-child lifestyle are the type of parents who would drag their kids to parties so that they can maintain their pre-child social life.

I don't yet have strong impressions about Ivorian parenting, but the dynamics around age are interesting.  There is a much clearer hierarchy among the ages here, and society just seems to operate on the basic assumption that youths will obey their elders.  When our car broke down on the side of the road on the way home from the village festival, it broke down next to a roadside concrete shop where a handful of teens were working.  My friend Hilaire ordered them to push the car back and forth a few times while we tried to get it started.  At ultimate frisbee, there are often a couple of kids hanging around hoping to play.  If we're short of players, we might invite them to join us, but they are ordered off the field immediately upon the arrival of more senior players.  

No comments:

Post a Comment