Children and community

I love children.  I love babies.  I love youth.

I’ve always been observant of the cultural differences in the value given to children and their place in community.

Where I come from children are part of the community and we are all responsible for loving them, protecting them, caring for them, educating them.  Where I come from (and I’m talking culture, not just geography) it’s okay to talk to a kid you don’t know or make funny faces at the baby in front of you at the checkout line.  You aren’t seen as a threat or a weirdo; just part of community.  And it’s so different from when I experience in Anglo culture.  I hate to resort to a problematic cliche like “it takes a village to raise a child,” but, well, it fits.  It’s okay to be affectionate with kids where I’m from: hugs and kisses are generously offered.  Kids are welcome at parties, no weird separation of adults and kids, no weird tiptoeing and hiding the beers, no perception of children as a burden.  Birthday parties for kids include the adults and are often loud in the best ways with music, drinking, dancing, dominoes, laughter.  And when the kids konk out the adults keep partying.  It’s normal to see a puppy pile of little ones on a designated bed or couch and anyone and everyone checks on them while festivities continue.  The idea of a party for children where adults aren’t welcome, or where they aren’t having a good time but are just hovering over the kids awkwardly is foreign.   Weddings, graduation parties, family bbqs, funerals, life events are all attended by community and community includes kids.  Kids are incorporated into activities and they are just another blessed fact of life.

Once a child enters into the mix the community shifts to welcome them, there are more eyes to watch them, more hands to guide them, more hearts to love them and keep them safe.  If a child is hurt, anyone of us will scoop him up.  If she is unsafe, any one of us will rush to rescue.  If he is bubbling with joy, every heart will smile.  As a member of the community, we all participate in their life.

Interactions with children has always been an area of culture shock for me, especially the walls put up around them that seem to say it’s not okay to love them if they aren’t yours.

I got to do some kitchen table organizing with friends recently and it warmed my heart to be there with three amazing, powerful, fierce women and two of their kids.  See, when women of color get together and there’s  kids in the mix there’s a dynamic that is usually different from anglo culture to me.  There’s a sense of community and freedom and an invitation to love.

As we plotted with a toddler and a three year old around, we were conscious of the kids and comfortable.  We were all at liberty to offer guidance, all entitled to a hug and a kiss, or a bop with a spiderman toy.  It gives me joy to work with a baby on my lap playing with my phone and chuckling his wizened toddler laugh.  It gives me joy to see the whirlwind of three year old energy playing with a butterfly net and a spderman figure around us, or belly laughing when Tita Thea ignores the fact that he’s pretending not to hear her goodbyes and scoops him up for a wiggly squishy hug.  All this while strategizing, planning, sharing dreams, anger, frustration, good food.  Kids weren’t a nuisance or a distraction.  They were part of the process.  They were part of the reason for doing the work.

I love the ways in which women of color so often come to community, how brown babies are passed around to be adored, and how we all care for them.  I love the easy ways in which we embrace their energy and the lack of apologies, no need to justify their presence.

I once taught an adult education course in Washington Heights.  The course was all Latinos and it was held on Saturdays for about 5 hours in a church.  The participants were motivated and invested.  When childcare was an issue I’d teach history with a baby on my lap drooling during our heated discussions.  There were older children who would come as well and they were always given a job, whether it be a five year old erasing the board, or a seven year old talking about something they had learned in school.  And in this learning community, everyone was valuable, the baby with his babas as much as the 60 year old woman sitting attentively in the front.

When I taught a Graduate course that was held on Saturdays I also had a child student, his parents were both there to learn English and the son would play in the halls, wander back in, hang out with me while the class worked, listen to their presentations, draw pictures on the board.  It was never a disruption, and we all accepted and welcomed him into our class.  Come to think of it, every class I’ve taught has been visited by little ones, some more than others, but always welcome.

One day soon(ish) I’ll have my own brown babies and I know they will have so many tios and tias to fuss over them; and primas and primos and to play with;  padrinos and madrinas to spoil them.  Comadres and compadres for me to turn to.  I know that my babies will have a place in community, a community to love them, see them, keep them safe because, well, that’s just how we roll.  And in the meantime, I feel fortunate to have beautiful babies who bless me.

Advertisements

1 Comment »

  1. […] guerrilla mama medicine {July 8, 2008}   what do we do with kids in our culture? this is a great post from border land academic: children and community […]


{ RSS feed for comments on this post} · { TrackBack URI }

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: