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In many parts of Africa, it is not uncommon to see a seven year old tending a fire, or walking along the road barefoot – with a baby wrapped up on her back, or a basin of water on her head. In the U.S. or Europe, we might worry that such a child (or the baby) could be injured, or at the very least, might be missing out on what we have come to define as ‘childhood.’ Yet these young children have an intent, focused expression on their faces. They carry themselves with a kind of seriousness and pride. They seem to know what they’re doing, and march along the road with a sense of purpose.
Who knows what is really going inside these children’s minds?
Perhaps we are too quick to judge their lives from our own perspectives. There may be much that many of them are missing – clean water, healthy foods, adequate healthcare, and decent schools, for example. But perhaps some of our children are missing out on something too.
Where there are schools, many of these children walk miles each day to get there, wearing uniforms with ties or skirts yet barefoot under the hot sun. Some walk side by side, absorbed in conversation. Others skip and dance all the way. Or they play – without toys, or with ones they’ve made themselves: a soccer ball made out of mounds of plastic bags taped together, an old bicycle wheel rim pushed along the dirt road with a stick, a makeshift kite patched together from bits of paper and string.
None of the resourcefulness and determination that they learn from hardship makes decent water, food, healthcare and education that so many of these children lack any less essential. Yet in the strengths that can be seen where children are materially deprived but have a clear sense of their role in their own survival and that of their families and communities, there may be a lesson for us about the experiences we can give our children.
The content of these blogs are not intended to constitute or to take the place of medical or psychiatric evaluation, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a question about your child’s health or well-being, consult your child’s health-care provider. Before starting any treatment or new program, consult your pediatrician about your own child’s health, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. These blogs are not substitutes for the advice give by your child’s pediatrician. They should not be used as an alternative to appropriate medical care. The author has strived to ensure that the information presented is accurate up to the time of posting. However, in light of ongoing research and the constant flow of information it is possible that new findings may invalidate information presented here.