Saturday, 17 May 2014

Black and White Playtime

Black and White Playtime

I often spend whole afternoons in the local park with Tiana. The play area is fenced in and so far Tiana has yet to master how to open the gate! So I take a blanket, a good book and enough food and drink to last us all day and just relax while Tiana tires herself out.

But, I do like to people watch and I have observed a lot about the differences in parenting between the French and the Africans from this park.

Now, in France around 4 o'clock everyone has a snack called "le goĆ»ter" and is a sweet snack, cakes, crepes, pain au chocolats, milk or juice and is bascially to give everyone a sugar hit and tied you over til dinnertime which is around 8 o'clock (children eat at the same time as the parents in France). So in the park around this time all the parents will have bags of goodies and it's always wise to take extra as the children whether their yours or not swarm around you for the goodies, and you can't risk being labeled the one parent who doesn't bring enough food! 

However, here's where the differences start to become apparent. After the gouter the French kids will generally stay for another half an hour to an hour maximum. You'll hear dozens of mothers saying come on we have to go get the bread, you need a bath; dinner then bed, you've got school in the morning. All these children are always accompagnied by an adult. 

The African children on the other hand, don't leave until around half seven. Either when the mothers are finished chatting or when the mothers arrive from nowhere and say it's time to leave, because African children are generally looked after by their older siblings and cousins. It is perfectly normal for children as young as 10 or 11 to be out with the little kids without adult supervision, and believe it or not the little kids listen to the older ones. The respect your elders concept is still very much a part of African education. You have no business talking back to someone older than you, whether they are a year older or 20 years older. 

Africans don't have the same concept of time as Europeans. In fact, they don't seem to understand the concept of time keeping. Everything is done slowly and in the most chilled out way, that sometimes I fear my partner will fall asleep if he goes any slower! 

If the African mothers are present, they won't get involved in any of the kids' quarreling. They put up their hands and tell them to sort it out themselves. But they will shout at any kid, whether their own or not if they see them doing anything naughty. The French parents will intervene in their children's squabbles but won't dare say anything to anyone else's child, even if that child is the devil incarnate!

Now where do I stand? I seem to be more to the African side. I'll put other children in their place, but Tiana knows it's useless coming to me to whinge about the other kids. We stay til half seven or until Badara comes to meet us if he's been to see friends in the town and we meander home rather than rushing to get the day over and done with.

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