I once walked into a public place on a hot and sunny day, carrying my Tendai (4 months). He is rocking a T. shirt and shorts, no hat, no socks and no jersey! The moment I enter the room, I can see and feel the stares from the elderly mothers! I know what they are thinking and what's coming, so I put on my serious "don't talk to me" face. But it's all in vain since when was a motherly African woman dissuaded by a mere look? So in a manner typical of our mothers, one of them walks over to me and loads me with a series of questions, where is the mother? Why did not you put socks and a hat on him? And where is his little blanket (covering)? Thankfully, she caught me on one of my spiritual days! So I engaged her about the heat and how irritable kids get when they are hot and sweaty. And she closes it off with, what a lovely baby? Boy or girl? What's his name? How old is he? Please keep these little ones warm. "It's good you are spending time with the baby; please keep it up." Funnily, I walked away smiling and with a sense of appreciation for my culture once more. Why would a stranger walk up to me and question my parenting decisions? Simple, in Africa, we believe "it takes the whole village to raise a child." And in our culture, the older generation must instruct and guide the younger generation in the various ways of life. It is both a duty and an obligation. As always, there are valuable lessons to remember for the sake of harmony.
1. You cannot explain African culture apart from communal living. It affects & influences everything we do and believe. We do life together, and one of our famous sayings is "it takes the whole village to raise a child."
2. The young generation must learn humbly and heed the counsel from the older generation. We may disagree, and we may have google and "baby centre." But they have the experience; you are a testimony of their parenting abilities. As much as they are some progressive ways of doing things, we must appreciate that those who have gone before us can teach us a lot.
3. The older generation must be gracious, humble and tactful in their imparting of knowledge. For good or bad, our generation is becoming more progressive, innovative and individualistic by the year and have bought into the illusion of self-sufficiency. That said, you cannot impose advice just because that's how you did things. Further, the older generation must equally learn what they can from the younger generation.
4. We must be tolerant and not impose our thoughts on every situation. It's okay for one child to be wrapped up in 4 or 5 layers of clothes and another child to be wrapped up in 2. Remember, each of those parents loves their children and are not entirely ignorant. Respect, grace and kindness must inform our interactions.
5. Christians need to remember the exhortation of the older teaching, the younger in the local church context and ongoing discipleship relationships. Let's not avoid these relationships despite the craziness of the culture. We must instead pursue relationships that are informed by scripture and motivated by love.