06, June 2003
BRINGING UP A CHILD IN THE DIAPORA
M. M. Afrah
the joy of freedom, peace, democracy and starting a new life
in our adopted countries. Good schools and books for the kids,
welfare checks, food stamps and Medicare for many of us, free
of the hail of bullets and kidnappings in the old Mogadishu
one very significant fixation, a prime on kids' health.
if one of our ancestors has arrived in a caravan of camels,
sheep and goats in a modern North American or West European
city. Imagine again our ancestor being raised on Soya formula
and baby food from plastic bottles, instead of mother's milk-and
then being bundled off to a kindgarten after his/her first
imagine our imaginary ancestor growing up in a modern chemically-saturated
home and school, and also spending much of his/her waking
time in front of a TV or video games, nourished with French
fries, hamburger, pizza and soda pop.
research into the health hazard children routinely face indicates
that the chances are slim for any child today to grow up healthy
and with a fully functioning brain. No wonder many of them
are joining the fast growing obese population in North America.
Daddy too became what is termed as potato coach glued to the
family's Television set.
And as a teenager he starts wearing ear-rings and oversized,
tent-like pants and a huge chain around his neck. He is probably
on drugs. Ask him why he is the way he is and his reply is
usually: "It is the cool thing, man!"
ago, before many of us criss-crossed the Continents, I would
never believed the words of a veteran Somali seaman "The
children born abroad would lose their cultural identities
and there's nothing you can do about it." Within fifteen
years those words became reality. Worse, parent abuse is rampant
and many of these teens of both sexes talk back to their parents
in abusive languages and even use violence, unheard of in
the old country.
a young Somali mother I met in a grocery store complained
to me that her 15-year-old son would not listen to her any
more and frequently calls her: Hey you! (in English) instead
of Hooyo (mother) "and poof he goes, God knows where,
with his like-minded friends who share similar disregard for
basic hygiene and similar fascination for buggy pants and
ear-rings. Most week days he skips school, using a feigned
illness as an excuse", she lamented.
When I told her that there are child psychologists and the
books they had written about how to cope with delinquent children
like her Kahin (he now changed his name to Cohen), she expressed
remarks like these: "Let me tell you, I am brought up
very nicely and my parents never heard psychology or pediatrician.
I got my psychology from my hard working mother and father.
I feel certain that education and pampering our children with
luxuries does not always give them common sense. In fact it
spoils them beyond imagination" she said and pushed her
grocery cart nervously.
possible? Can parents protect their children? You bet they
can. The good news is that this predicament is within the
realm of the possible. Let's start with the fetal exposure
of environmental toxicants and the standard grossly nutrient-deficient
North American diet. Almost everyone in North America now
agree that violent movies, promiscuous sex, video games and
the ghastly TV commercials are the number one enemies that
could have impact on our teenagers of both sexes.
WITH A DIFFICULT CHILD
are questions over how to punish a difficult child. Many Somali
families in the Diaspora whose new circumstances left them
how to cope with their offspring born in North America and
Western Europe. They should not spank them, for spanking a
child in the West is a criminal offence (it is called child
abuse), instead they should arrange for them anger managing
consultants or family psychotherapist. If that fails to work
then these delinquent children should be carted away to an
approved school, where they are given US Marine-like drill.
It had worked for many parents. And certainly it will work
for you too.
middle-aged mother of four said it is an outgrowth of the
close-woven family fabric that she knew as a child.
"Certainly the Somali woman of today doesn't do everything
the way mama or grandma used to do. But in the recess of her
mind is the thought that if grandmother could bring up model
children in the dirt-poor of Hodan or Wardhigley quarters,
then grandmother's method are likely to be better than the
pediatrician who claims to be specialist in behaviour problem,"
she said calmly.
weapons at grandmother's disposal were smooth talk and a smile
of joy. She was also all ears to listen to the child's side
of any story without interrupted or ridiculing him. She avoided
the daily battle over food and ensured that her child gets
the nutrients he or she needed. She had succeeded in many
cases, except those few devils who qualified as Mooryaan during
the brutal clan wars.
and hard work our youth could qualify in the fields of science
and technology, literature, music, sports and other national
and international accomplishments. They did it before (that's
before we have been uprooted from our land) and they can do
it now. However getting there would be a problem, such as
between trying to improve their school grades and times for
training. But this should not prevent them from competing
with other youths in the international spotlight, as the old
saying goes: "Where there is will there is a way."