Today is the Global Day of Parents, a day to appreciate parents in all shapes and sizes across the world for their commitment to their children. Today we celebrate the diverse ways parents can help nurture their children and give them a happy, fulfilling and productive life.
Parents play such an important role in so much of Adara’s work, whether it be the mothers and father who come into the maternity ward at Kiwoko Hospital in Uganda to welcome a new member of their family, or the parents in Humla working hard to make sure their children attend school and receive the education that they missed out on when they were younger.
To celebrate today, we asked four of our Adara family to share their thoughts on the challenges and joys of parenting in different places across the world.
PARENTING IN THE REMOTE HIMALAYAS
ANGJUK LAMA – ADARA’S NEPAL PROGRAMME MANAGER, HUMLA
Since people in Humla rely on subsistence base farming to survive, they are very busy, with farm to tilt, cattle to rare and goats to herd. Their villages and farms are generally located in slightly lower altitude, but over summer, some family members take their cattle and yaks to higher altitude, moving from one place to another for grazing purpose. They call this ‘summer camp’. So, some family members live a nomadic life over summer to take care of those cattle. Grazing cattle, milking them and making dairy products are their day to day works, and sometimes, they miss out on the day to day parenting of their children. When a mother has young baby, she tends to go to summer camp with her baby, as the weather and environment are more suitable for young kids and they can consume nutritious dairy products. So the kids have better appetite, are less likely to get sick and are healthier overall.
Once they become older then the kids have to stay in the main village so that they can attend school and learn other life skills like fetching water, collecting cooking wood, ploughing the fields and so on. They are taught how to cook food, weave clothes, do field works and grind flour. In Humla, parenting is different towards boys and girls. It is thought that girls are likely to sooner or later be married and be with a family. It would be disgrace and shame for the family if their daughter did not know all those life skills, whereas it’s not so big deal for the boys not to have those skills.
Kids are taught to be hard working, disciplined, humble and respectful. Scolding and spanking is quite common in parenting kids. Parents are often away from the home; mothers are working in field or after cattle all day long and fathers are travelling a lot doing trade. Thus, kids are often taken care of by their grannies, grandpas, older siblings or other family members. So a big part of the kids’ parenting is done by family members other than their parents. The nice thing about this is that kids are equally close with their grandparents, uncles and aunts. When they are young, kids are also often taken with their mothers, wherever they go.
TAKING A RIDE ON THE PARENTING ROLLERCOASTER
EMIKO RODARTE – ADARA’S US OFFICE MANAGER, SEATTLE
I met my stepson just one month shy of his 5th birthday. He was adorable and looked just like the little boy from Jerry Maguire. Little did I know then that he would become one of my greatest inspirations. Cody was born with myelomeningocele, a severe form of spina bifida – a spinal cord birth defect. From birth, Cody has been afflicted with conditions associated to spina bifida, including paralysis of his legs, scoliosis, hydrocephalus, and Arnold Chiari malformation.
Cody’s mother and my husband separated when Cody was 2 years old. Both remarried and had additional children, so he has always been surrounded by an entourage of two families. We four parents may not have always seen eye to eye, but we’ve spent sporting events, birthdays, graduations, and one whirlwind vacation as a giant family because we believed that it was not about our relationships with each other, but rather our love for Cody.
His father and I have taken great rides on the parenting rollercoaster. We’ve laughed and cried with him. We’ve disciplined and challenged him when we’ve been pushed to our limits. We’ve watched him fall in love…and out. We’ve followed him through countless surgeries and hospital visits. We have let him fail to teach him to get back up again. And we continue to see him triumph adversity with inner strength and a quick-witted sense of humor.
Cody is 21 now, a loving son and big brother, a man with a compassionate soul, a force to be reckoned with. It gives me pause to realize that it’s our children that reveal the best and worst in us, and yet give us the reason and capacity to become the best version of ourselves that we can possibly be.
THE IMPORTANT ROLE FOR FATHERS TO PLAY IN AFRICA
DANIEL KABUGO – ADARA’S UGANDA PROGRAMME MANAGER, UGANDA
I am a father of four kids, and being a parent is 24 hour job. Each kid is so different and all have unique personalities. Parenting is very different in an African setting where we typically have more than 5 kids. Sadly, many fathers have left the role of parenting just to the mothers, meaning mothers sometimes have triple roles to play! I believe that each couple needs to work as team to support one another in raising up children. Kids need their father’s voice, which is less seen in our culture.
JOINING A FAMILY – THE JOYS OF BEING A STEP PARENT
MARIANNE JAGO-BASSINGTHWAITE – ADARA’S IMPACT DIRECTOR, SYDNEY
When I married my husband five years ago, I joined a tight little family unit: Ed and his seven year old son, Jeremy, who lived with us every second week. Step-parenting can be a really tough gig: you love this child as though they were your own, but you are not their parent. In my stepson’s case, his Mum is very devoted to him, so the challenge was to work out our unique relationship, so that he would trust me if I had to be bad cop, and share his world with me in a way that felt safe to him. I worked out pretty quickly that the best way to love him was to make sure he was in a good routine – at school on time, in bed on time, having dinner on time, to help keep his world on an even keel. His Dad did most of the emotional support work at first. I watched a lot of his favourite movies with him, and listened while he chattered away. Jeremy lived inside his imagination (less so now that he’s nearly 13) and it was a really interesting place to share. Sometimes it was really hard – he never said “you’re not my Mummy” but I am sure he felt it (I did!). Sometimes I didn’t know how to handle difficult situations, so I would just tell him I wasn’t sure what to do. We would generate options, and usually work it out. After a while he came to trust me, and sometimes would tell me things he didn’t want to tell his Dad (at least not directly). He is a really good kid and easy to love. We see him just on the holidays now, when his soccer schedule allows. I see my influence in small ways, like that he wants to end sexism in sport when he grows up! I feel really lucky that he is part of my world, and love him to bits.