So one thing I have learned to do through exploring our new lifestyle habits is to let go of some of the cultural norms. This has included the two-car, McMansion lifestyle and rejecting society’s self-imposed success timeline (ie you should be working now, moving out now, married now, having kids now). But for some reason, it never occurred to me to apply the same concept to raising baby. That is, until I watched the delightfully adorable documentary “Babies.”
“Babies” follows several different children from birth to their first birthday from around the world. and what is “normal” in one society certainly isn’t in another. I think the best juxtaposition was when African child Ponijao is shown laying in, playing in and eating dirt, and then the film flashes to American baby, Hattie, whose father is vacuuming the rug, and then proceeds to lint roll Hattie on both sides. It’s quite comical to see these two polar opposites side by side like that.
Another big difference among the children was the amount of baby gear, and sometimes regimented baby classes that the American and Japanese children were put through, while Bayar, a Mongolian child, and Ponijao had very few, if any toys and were left to their own devices much of the time. Bayar, whose family lived a nomadic lifestyle, was often surrounded by farm animals. The film showed a rooster walking around him as an infant. This really didn’t concern me much until when the little guy was walking he got surrounded by a small herd of goats who thought nothing of stepping on him. That was the only time during the whole film I thought – “Yikes!”
Baby output was handled entirely differently as well. Bayar’s and Ponijao’s mothers used the let it fly method – as both boys were naked waist down most of the time. Hattie and Mari were both diapered. Surprisingly technology played even more of a role in Japanese baby’s life Mari, than even Hattie’s.
I did notice that most of the parents, especially the international ones, let their children cry and figure things out on their own rather then scoop them up and soothe them – a common practice in Western cultures. I also noticed that raising children in Mongolia and Africa was more of a community affair. There it truly took “a village.”
But perhaps most importantly, all children, regardless of their culture or parents turned out happy and healthy as the film illustrates showing them all a few years later. I think the moral of all this is that there is no right or wrong way to raise children, and parents need to cut themselves some slack more often. A little dirt, tumble and crying never hurt anyone.
All children need is love, and these kids certainly had that.