Kellers in Africa

our life in Zambia

African Traditions and Children

In Africa, there are traditions that dictate everything from handclasps to discipline to cooking methods. Living here with little ones, we’ve become acquainted with (and never cease to be surprised by) many of their traditions with infants, babies, and toddlers. I never really noticed these things before, but you know how it is… as soon as you buy a red Honda, you see them all over town, right? Same with parenting, I guess!

The Africans have very, very strong beliefs, superstitions, and traditions when it comes to child rearing. For one, never, ever even THINK about taking the baby outside until he’s over 4 weeks old. Literally: do. Not. Take. The baby. Outside. Once he’s over a month old, Ba Mayo (mom) can venture forth, but only if Baby is clothed in several layers, with booties, a hat, and a thick, wooly blanket. It doesn’t matter if it’s 100 degrees outside. This is the way it’s done. After Frederick was born, I had women (and men) chasing me down the street, BEGGING me to take him home and put socks and a hat on him. “Madam, he is cold! He will get sick! Madam, PLEASE, your baby!!” At the time, the weather was in the 90’s and as humid as Georgia in July. To this day, they marvel that Frederick is a big, healthy boy. In their minds, he never should have survived my callous parenting. : P

My poor, miserable, "naked" baby (3 months old)

My poor, miserable, \”naked\” baby (3 months old)

The multiple layers and thick blankets are used because the Africans believe that Baby is so warm in the womb, that the outside air will immediately “sap his life”. They believe this lasts until Baby can sit up on his own. In the summer seasons here (there are two), you frequently see infants that are so overheated, their eyes are glazed and sweat is dripping down their poor little faces. Ba Mayo will say, “He’s a good boy,” because he isn’t crying. They don’t realize that it’s because their baby is close to heat stroke. Apparently the hats, aside from keeping Baby warm, are said to prevent evil spirits from entering through the soft spot on his head. (I think Frederick and Monica are safe. Their bald heads put off way too much of a glare- very unattractive to wandering spirits.)

I would love to post pictures, but Africans are VERY superstitious about photos, especially of their children. If I was caught, many mothers would believe I had “stolen the soul” of her baby. He would be at risk of abandonment then.

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a wife, a mommy, a missionary, a teacher, a writer. I'm living a colorful life in Africa.

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  1. Wow! Different cultures are so interesting. The chinese bundle up their babes the same way…even in sweltering, humidity. We were always getting stopped & lectured by the “Grandma Police”. They even wiped our son’s nose for us….as they gave us the stink-eye. ha.

  2. Truly wonderful and absolutely a great piece.

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