Ten days that swept away everything I thought I knew about love and respect for my child.
I always considered myself to be a caring and loving person, even more towards children. My main motivation when working with kids was to be able to connect with the most sincere, honest, and authentic people. With the challenges, it brought incredible satisfaction. However, every day I said goodbye to them. I did not have to get up to them at night, and take direct responsibility for their future, nourishment, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being, morals, and values. It all dramatically changed when I became a parent. These responsibilities and worries, at times, became overwhelming, and joy often was replaced with irritation and a grumpy mood. I did not know at the time, but later I realized that I was exhausted from questioning myself as a mother, battling feelings of irritation.
Then this trip happened.
We were very fortunate to have spent ten days on one of the 83 islands of Vanuatu.
With only 240.000 population Vanuatu people lead a traditional community lifestyle, it is considered to be one of the safest countries in the world.
Their communities are built and treasured from within and are the backbone of the whole society. Children – the most vulnerable part of society – are the most valuable part of the Vanuatu community, which makes it a secure and safe country to live in.
After arriving we decided to stay in our quiet resort, soaking peace and tranquillity of nature, and left sightseeing for another time, except visiting a local village and seeing their life for what it is. The place, where we stayed, didn’t offer entertainment or amazing water slides to amuse our child. My daughter’s days were made of time spent outside hunting for geckos and spending non-existent hours on the beach catching hermit crabs and playing with sand. One toy we brought with us got practically no attention and was given away to one of the resort worker’s children, the only toy her children will probably ever own. See, if you earn $2 per hour while paying $3 per liter of milk, you probably find that toys are not going to fit your budget. We spent as much time as we could talking to local people, hearing their joy and their struggles, and watching our child join their children in play. …
..sitting down, looking a the warm water gliding over my feet I hear them giggle and say something in their language. Then one of them turns to me with a sincere smile that makes me stop every other thought, and waves to me like I am one of them, co-existing in their world. Then they pick up a volleyball and start playing a game. Excitement grows because now they have an audience – my two-year-old Misa (the name children from the local village gave to her).
I simply can not explain why, but the feeling was almost like a drug – watching my daughter play with children from a completely different world soaking all the love, TIME, and acceptance that parents and children seemed to have to for each other.. and my child – a total stranger. We swim together, we laugh together, we pray together, we cry together…
When you look at your worth through the eyes of Vanuatu people you feel, that your value comes from your identity as a mother, wife, sister, daughter, and friend.
For many Vanuatu people, materialistic possessions come to a minimum. Almost nothing gets produced there, so the majority of goods are exported from other countries making them extremely inaccessible for the majority of the population. This motivated us to buy some school materials for village children and we took their contacts to send packages in the future with simple living necessities for children, like toothbrushes, clothes, books, and school materials. We always participate in charities, but nothing makes it more satisfying than being able to help people after making a personal connection and visiting their homes.
One place that drew me like no other was a playground in the middle of the town with very rusty swings that had a song of their own.. A look in fathers’ eyes when they took their precious daughters and sons, a look of explicit love, and admiration for their child. Their eyes never slid from the child to a screen on their phone. They gave every moment of their existence to the child smiling at them, and even giving generous smiles to my daughter and running to her across the playground to give her a push on a swing ( we were distracted from Misa by our conversation..)
It was one place where I didn’t lose my mind because a stranger grabbed my child and carried her in their hands with the most sincere love shining through their eyes, then sat her down on their lap softly playing with her hair.
This place captured my heart, keeping it forever because it captured the most precious part of my life – my child.
All this soul-searching and observation of the culture of Vanuatu people made me re-establish my attitude towards parenting – my daughter is not here for me, I am not here for my daughter, but we are here for each other, equally as important, equally as in need in love, forgiveness, second chances, patience, and affection. I made changes first – I started to give her more warmth, more hugs started calling her by her name more often; more often I stopped, looked, and smiled at her, letting her know that who she is and what she is doing truly matters. Did I mention I started to give her more hugs? And stroke her head, and gently play with her hair, and tickle her chin, and hold her on my lap.
Then it was her turn. There were fewer or shorter tantrums and less frustration, there were more smiles, independent play, and conversations that happened on a more trusting and deeper level.
I probably did not need to go far away from home to reevaluate my relationship with my child, but I needed to see the look in fathers’ eyes at their children and I needed to see the way those Vanuatu ladies looked at my daughter for my love to grow deeper and stronger.