Rach's Ramblings

Thoughts from another world

The first child

on November 1, 2013

The first child. The rule keeper. The promoter of justice. Are the slices of cake exactly the same size? He has one more m and m than me. You said we could have 45 mins computer time and it’s only been 44 and a half minutes. That’s not fair!

Take the first child, the rule keeper and transfer him to a third world country. A place of fluidity. A place where rules bend and flex and do not keep a fixed position. All that he has held dear and all that has defined the parameters of his life is torn away and thrown into the air and he is left reeling and frustrated and judgmental of this new reality.

His black and whites are forced into new patterns of gray – and red and orange and purple. His rules, the rules of ordered society, are openly flaunted around him.


He stares as he sees rubbish thrown out car windows or tossed on the path. He sets in motion a personal mission to stop his friends from littering. They look at him with raised eyebrows and a quizzical expression. They humor him but have no intention of changing their habits. Why would they? This is what you do! We explain to him that when life is a struggle for survival, rubbish disposal is not high on the agenda. We explain that his views are the product of an extensive media campaign and national effort to stop littering. He wasn’t just born with that ideal.
He is aghast when toys that are left out disappear. How dare other children steal them! Don’t they know it’s wrong! Why don’t they just buy their own. We gently explain that they have nothing and we have everything. We tell him that they see the world differently and taking a toy is often not seen as stealing but as making the most of an opportunity.
He watches the men cutting the lawn with scythes. There are four of them and only one cuts at a time. The take a break every five minutes and play in the yard- they start up a game of cricket using his bat. The job takes four days. He is aghast. They are being paid to do this job ( not by us) and he has been taught his grandfather’s work ethic. This is not the way it should be done! He cannot watch- but then returns to watch again. Once more we explain to him that work is done differently here. It is not better or worse, just different. We explain that he sees work a certain way because that is what we, and society, have taught him, but here they are modeled a different work ethic that does not match our own.


We encourage him in all these things to be aware of his value adding. We add or subtract value according to our culture, upbringing and experience. We encourage him to not judge but accept that he is the visitor here and does not have enough understanding to pass judgement. Yes, rubbish makes things look dirty, stealing causes ramifications for others and work would be finished sooner if cricket were not played. But….. this is the lens in which we see the world and we cannot impose that lens on others.
I’m sure our advice and encouragements are full of flaws and I don’t think he is taking on much of what we say anyway. We keep saying it none the less. Perhaps it is soaking in. We cannot expect a 10yr old to be self aware enough to understand world views and cultural complexity- we still struggle with all this stuff too in spite of our adultness. But perhaps this experience is shaping him and stretching him and in the future he will be a more self aware individual. We can only pray!



7 responses to “The first child

  1. Caroline Laing says:

    You are a good parent, Rachel…. Don’t give up! šŸ˜€ Something will sink in!
    PS I enjoy your writing…
    With much love from Canada… Blessings <<

  2. Michelle says:

    Oh Rach thank you so much for sharing your amazing life experiences with us what a special boy Josh is.

  3. melanie says:

    This is beautiful rach and sobering for me and im sure a lot of us!!

  4. Matt says:

    Firsts must be the same! So familiar. Good luck! What great experience for you all.

  5. Rebecca says:

    What a great post. I agree with a lot of it but I wonder about some of it. Sure cultures are different and we are taught that neither is better than the other. But I don’t know if I still believe that mainstream thought. I really think that the culture taught by Jesus would be the best. So any culture that has incorporated at least some of his teachings would be better than those that don’t. So I guess that American culture isn’t better than random 3rd world culture BUT Jesus’s culture would be far superior. BUT then where our kids are coming from Jesus’s culture where stealing is wrong then I would have to think that the culture of stealing is wrong is better than the culture that says it is right. What do you think? Our family lived overseas for many years and I had a hard time reconciling this concept as we were trained. I agree that some aspects of culture, time orientation vs people orientation are neither here nor there BUT a culture based on lieing being ok and corruption just is NOT better than the US culture based more on Biblical principles. I have not figured this all out but I was careful teaching our kids about some of these things because stealing is never better or ok. Make any sense?

    • rachrambling says:

      Rebecca that makes lots of sense. It is such a difficult subject, especially when dealing with the black and white of kid’s understanding and I am just a baby on this journey myself. I agree that a Jesus culture is the ideal and the parts of the culture here that contradict that teaching are the harder ones to deal with, as in my own culture too. I guess I want my kids to understand right and wrong but also I want them to love others primarily and not judge, as they, and I, am so prone to doing. In their mind, if someone does wrong then they are bad and that just closes doors on relationship. We have a long way to go in working through all this and I really appreciate your comments and thoughts. Thanks:-)

      • Rebecca says:

        You are very wise, Rachel. It is very important that kids learn right from wrong but to love and not judge those doing wrong. So much of how the kids understand and process these things is based on our actions and words as parents. Humility was one of the biggest things we practiced living overseas. Sounds like you are too. May God bless you richly in this journey.

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