Sunday, September 30, 2007

Kids - American vs Zambian

I went with Henry to the Minor Emergency Center so he could get on antibiotics too - as we are headed to Amarillo. We sat in the waiting room and the only things to read were a Kids Directory and a Kids magazine that were both mainly advertisements. There were ads for Princess Birthday parties where everyone could dress up, several companies that offered the blowup activities, special schools beginning for infants (more sophisticated day care), gymnastics, ballet (Russian style - looked like a famous instructor), gymnastic birthday parties, gymnastic classes, bowling birthday parties, drop in babysitting (so parents can have a night out), photography ads, etc. There were lots of bright eyed, happy looking American children.

I suspect some of those birthday party packages could easily cost $200. A Zambian teacher makes about $250.00 per month. In the villages, Zambian babies are ALWAYS with their mothers usually carried on her back - no strollers or car carriers. Sometimes big sister or grandma will be carrying the baby, but since mom has the food, moms are never far away.

A Zambian child lives a much simpler life - no gymnastics, few televisions (most people in the villages do not have electricity) and school may be a long walk (miles!) Toys are fewer and much simpler. Life and death are very real to Zambian children - there are many orphans. But Zambian children seem happy.

Visual and mental stimulation are important in child development, but after seeing the myriad of ads (and remembering all the activities my children participated in), I could not help but wonder if American children are too stimulated and too driven by parents who are only wanting the best for their child and trying very hard to provide that "best".

Could it be that we are overdoing it? Spending time around the orphaned toddlers, their most important need was to be hugged and cuddled. Perhaps American children need more quality time with their families and fewer hectic runs to yet another activity.

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