If you already have children you’re probably expecting to find some ridiculously hyperbolic tip at which you’ll roll your eyes and think how much YOU didn’t need this “one thing” at all. If you don’t yet have a baby or are expecting, you’re probably reading so you can file this “tip” away with the volumes of others you have doubtlessly received. If you have no interest in these sorts of tips, you’re probably just a great friend who feels obligated to give it a read. Hi Mac!
When our first baby, Mary Grace, was about six weeks old, we dropped her off at her Nana’s house and went on our first post-baby date. What did we do with this coveted time away from our all-consuming new little bundle of joy? Given that we had barely slept and were living in a perpetual, poop-tinted Groundhog Day, we needed desperately to just feel like people again– people that still had rich lives outside of parenthood. So, naturally, we went to a documentary at the local theater entitled—wait for it—“BABIES”. Pathetic. This is something akin to a skidrow inmate using his last wish to book a tour of Alcatraz…
The documentary follows four babies – one each from Namibia, Tokyo, Mongolia, and San Francisco–from their first day of life through their first birthday. It. Was. Fascinating. In one of the first scenes, the little boy from Mongolia is brought home from the hospital in the arms of his mother, who is riding on the back of her husband’s motorcycle. Their other son, who looks to be about 18 months old – is perched on the front of the motorcycle in dad’s lap. So, slightly different from our American way of bringing home baby. The film highlights the vast differences in external conditions that babies experience around the globe. The little girl from Namibia, Ponijao, especially captured our hearts. She had a smile that went on for days and a personality that wouldn’t quit. The conditions in Namibia and Mongolia were both stark contrasts to the American way of raising babies. Ponijao wore no diaper – a soiled rear was wiped onto mom’s knee—which was then scraped clean with a dried corn cob. Ponijao played in the dirt, chewed on rocks and bones, and generally was free to roam about as she pleased. Living in a country where the hand sanitizer flows like water and there is a product to keep just about every baby-related item free from dirt and germs, this was eye-opening for me. Watching this documentary gave me the one thing I desperately needed as I approached the first year of my baby’s life: PERSPECTIVE.
One would think that in watching a documentary like this, I would resonate most closely with one environment and align myself with that family. Or, that I might compare the respective parenting styles and make valuations of their worth.
But, that’s the odd thing – I came away feeling resonance with all of them and with recognition that there are a LOT of beautiful and faithful ways in which to rear a child.
We often think about perspective as happenstance to the business of living. As the years draw lines on our faces, perspective is drawn into our hearts and minds. But, I don’t really think it works that way – Perspective is something we need to seek. We need to GET it. Get it? If we don’t, ways foreign to our own become areas of judgment instead of areas of understanding. Seeing the documentary was a jumping off point for the confidence Bret and I needed to parent OUR way, but with a deep conviction that “our way” is merely one of many possible ways to raise a family and is subject to change as we grow both as a couple and as a family.
Beginning immediately after we saw the documentary and continuing on until today, Bret and I often look at each other, shrug, and say “Namibia”. It’s our way of saying “PERSPECTIVE”.
Pacifier drops on the floor? “Namibia”
Baby wants to “play” in mud in the garden box? “Namibia”
Sleep trained the first two kids (with great results) and having a change of heart with the third? “Namibia”
“Namibia” has also been a word for Bret and me beyond the situational. It is a word that when spoken, reminds us of what really matters—in our home and homes around the globe–Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Gentleness. Goodness. PERSPECTIVE.