Google+ Authentic Parenting: African Kid in a White Men's World

Monday, February 28, 2011

African Kid in a White Men's World

This post has been written as a submission to the Blogging Carnival on Bilingualism, this month's edition is hosted by Verbosity Leads to Unclear, Inarticulate Things.

Image: Beineke library
My child is an African child. She has lived in Africa all her life, except for brief holidays. She has mostly African friends, she has been breasfed and worn on my back and in a wrap. She speaks French with an African accent. She is a community child, where a variety of adults are her caregivers, and that's normal to her. She shares... and thinks that's really normal. She goes to people and expects them to interact with her. She loves babies and will stop right in her track to give them a cuddle and talk to them. She eats anything anytime, preferably picked of the bush or tree. She's used to running around freely with a pack of other kids of various ages and hardly any adult supervision. She lives mainly outdoors.
We never realized how much of an African child she was until we came here for this period of almost four months that we'll be spending here.

Suddenly my daughter seems out of place and people don't understand her. Not only her language, but most ardently her behavior. People don't get what's going on with this little white child who seeks contact with others immediately, who runs around naked all day, who is on edge because there are too many people, too much noise and nobody seems to look after her but her mommy. Nobody gets why she is so connected and still sleeps with her parents and 'still' nurses at almost three years old...
It's not written on her face that she is in fact a little African child and she thinks and acts as a little African child would do.
She carries her dolls on her back and her stuff on her head. She dances the Makuka and seeks Zemblé behind closed doors.
It causes a lot of confusion.

She struggles to adapt to what is expected of her here. I didn't know how much she tried until she had our Ivorian driver on the phone and suddenly she was speaking with an accent again... I realized how much of the accent she had lost over the months here, how much she was trying to conform... How difficult it must be for her.



  1. I belive children adapt and learn easier and faster than adults. I think she will do fine. She probably is not as aware of it as you are.

  2. No indeed, she is not aware of it at all. To her, her behavior and mentality just is... and if people have issues with it she'll just try harder. Luckily, we'll be back in AFrica soon enough.

  3. Wow...thanks for sharing this perspective. Great examples of the cultural differences. This experience would make a remarkable children's picture book, I think!

  4. Hi Sarah, thanks for commenting! What do you mean with the picture book? I do have great pics and loads of them, or did you mean a children's book?

  5. I do mean a book that other parents would read to their children! I can picture a book in two parts: one about her life in Africa, one about her visit to Belgium.

  6. That could be cool... now I'm waiting for you to tell me you're a publisher ;-)

  7. Alas, no! But surely one of your many readers would know what steps you could take next....

    And there's always self-publishing....

    I'd buy the book!

  8. Ha! Yes! I so agree, a very good picture book.

    It must be so odd for her. Like falling down the rabbit hole. Lewis Caroll was clearly taken to some very far flung places in his youth perhaps?

  9. Hey, Solnushka, you might be onto something! It is very similar... and it's mindboggling how much she adapts without losing her authenticity, we can really learn a lot from our kids


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