Fiji: Where kids matter, and rainbows grow on trees!

Somewhere along the way we got lost. Somewhere as a race of superpowered predators with machine guns and gucci bags we forgot the basics. Somewhere between curing baldness and inventing art where people wee on naked pictures of themselves(1) we dropped the ball. We let down the team, we stumbled, we dropped an egg or two.

You see, people for the most part are smart. Even stupid people are pretty smart. Man, can we think. We have thought and talked and talked and thought and discussed and invented. We invented so many things that people started reserving inventions they haven’t even invented(2) yet! As we thought and invented, and discussed and planned we got pretty cocky about our inventiveness here in the western world. However, Our insatiable desire for stuff made the world start to die! So being the responsible global citizens that we are, we set about putting things right. It’s a work in progress because we want to keep our stuff without having the world die. The debate continues but there is cause for optimism. Anyway, I digress. All these things we accomplished made us really busy.

In the middle of our busy business, in our planning and plotting and saving the world and killing it, we forgot something. We forgot about our children and our families! I sensationalise. We didn’t forget about our kids at all, it’s just that the relationship changed. Instead of “think of the next generation” we started crying out “it is our responsibility as an advanced thinking species”. Did you ever notice that? It can’t be about video games either, because I played more video games than captain N, and I’m writing the blog. So what is it about us? Could it be our ethos of homosapian as an evolutionary achievement rather than something more… human? Why does the rise of reason have to be the downfall of love? Do we in the western world hold such an allegiance to logic that there is no room for anything sentimental? Am I sensationalising again? Is sentimentality so opposite to the creed of free thinking that we put it on the shelf or mock it? “Kids are people? Yeah and rainbows grow on trees!” you might say… if you are particularly surly.

There is a stark contrast to this when you visit a place like Fiji. You see, somewhere along the line we, that is society, forgot kids aren’t actually a burden, a way to pass on genes or just a “phase of life”. Having children is a privilege. In Fiji, everyone older than a child in question is a parent of sorts to that child. If someone you know has a kid, and you are there, you tend them, discipline them, love them like an aunty or uncle. This communal parenting strengthens the fabric of family even when there are no blood ties and has interesting results. Sure there are social problems in Fiji, but children are really really well adjusted. They rarely throw a tantrum, and are all reasonably well behaved. People make parenting mistakes but the weight of experience for a child is that they are loved and important.

There are of course other contributing factors to the behaviour of kids here like discipline, culture etc. Older children are also treated with more respect, and addressed as an adult who can make decisions earlier. The children still pay respect to older leaders in the community and will defer to them and call themselves “youths” up until the age of 30 even, but at a younger age children are given responsibility and taught to grow into an adult. They parent younger siblings to some degree, or cousins. There isn’t the same extension of adolescence that is perpetuated in western society.

I have the privilege of working in an office where there a lot of children of different ages that pass through and sometimes even start playing with the paperclips and stuff on my desk. It has been really nice getting to know them and their personalities and reassuring as someone around the parenting age that if I decide to have children that they will be wonderful little people with big personalities. I hope I can surround them with as many people who love them as these kids have. It’s not about making new laws or finding new ways to control children and parents through legislation, people just need to love their kids and other people’s kids (it’s a shame I can’t write that without you thinking about pedophiles too).

People talk in a condesending tone sometimes about the lifestyle and priorities of developing countries. Speaking about how “one day” when they graduate to the western world they will come to their senses and give up on their silly little habits like religion, home cooked food, communal living and close families. Well, I think I have been learning from Fiji that they do many of these things well, and they are great for society. Maybe rainbows do grow on trees sometimes. Maybe closeness of family and raising children is just as important as biodegradable snot rags or which washing machine cycle saves the most water.

“You never stop being a parent. Ever. I can’t understand these people who can’t wait to kick their kids out of home as soon as they turn 18.” – Papa Donato.

(1) This happened at my school.
(2) Patenting! Much more prosperous than parenting! Try it today!


A nice place to play

One of my favourite times in Fiji so far… for about an hour I was just chucking a volleyball in the air for some kids to jump and catch. You can only get to this place by boat, it was amazing.