I’ve decided I won’t jump back into nannying right away because the childcare mentality I’ve been exposed to the last two years probably won’t go over well stateside. Here, kids have the freedom to safely wander the neighborhood without the fear of abduction or being run over at any moment. My 2 ½ year old neighbors run around carefree collecting stray bottles and cans to play with. Whoever is outside just automatically looks out for which ever children are around. It’s a true “it takes a village” way of life. It helps that children take on various responsibilities at a young age. Children as young as five are caring for younger siblings and a 7 year old might be cooking dinner over the fire. So when a band of kids is roaming the bairro it’s safe to say that the older ones are keeping an eye on the younger ones. It’s not uncommon for a kid to be cutting vegetables with a large knife or playing with something they found in the lixo pit (trash).
What this means is that kids grow up fast but they have an imagination that would put American kids to shame. A bottle, can or box can keep children busy for hours if they’ve got a pile of sand or dirt to play in. Throw in some water and you’ve got a regular carnival! Anything is a toy when you’re not overexposed to high tech plastic toys and video games. And while they take advantage of all the time and space to run around, kids here know when it’s time to sit still and shut up. Take a chapa for example, if I child doesn’t take a seat from someone else you don’t have to pay for them so kids are always on someone’s lap or standing in front of their parent or older sibling. That means limited space and nothing to entertain themselves. And somehow these kids patiently sit through hours and hours of travel without a peep. It’s mind boggling! As children we had books, toys and even old school GameBoys to keep us quiet and even now I will get fidgety and irritated without my iPod. Kids here are amazing!
There are downsides of course – less mental stimulation as small children, lack of “out of the box” thinking and limited knowledge of worldwide advancements. But man, are they respectful and appreciative. I could ask a kid to ride my bike 6km into the vila for some veggies and give him a large box as a reward/thank you and he’d be happy as a clam (I’ve never done anything that dramatic but you get the idea). That box will make them the envy of every other kid around and they understand what it means to be popular. I’m going to miss when “bring me something from your trip” means a piece of candy and not a $50 video game. And when I ask a child to run next door or up the path to call on someone or get something, they’ll take off on a run and not just look at me like I told them to climb Mt. Everest.
So I’m going to let myself re-acclimate a bit before taking on any babysitting gigs. Because I’m hearing that it’s not kosher to send a 5 year old across the street to buy bananas or leave an 8 year old alone to prepare dinner. I don’t really see why not but when in Rome…
Pure Imagination - Gene Wilder, Glee or even the version by Maroon5