Pin It

Raising my babies in a bamboo hut

17 Comments

By Lori Vernon, The Vernon Journal

 

Yup, I really do live in a hut, complete with bamboo walls and a grass roof.   My husband and I are Americans living in Thailand. We’ve been here for six years working with an organization that focuses on helping the Akha, one of the minority people groups in the area. There are no Akha language schools and no Akha Rosetta stone, so  when we arrived, the only way for us to learn the language and culture was through pure immersion. This is our great adventure: being the only English speakers in a village perched on the side of a mountain in Northern Thailand…

As you can imagine, raising two daughters in this environment presents an entirely new set of challenges for parenting.  Here’s what I have learned as a parent in a foreign land.

Parenting Lesson #1:
Let go of your preconceived notions of what being a parent looks like.

Having grown up in middle class America, I always imagined myself raising a child in the traditional American manner… you know, nursery, cribs, high chairs, strollers. However, when my first baby was born, we had been living in an Akha village for two years. And let me tell you, strollers and cribs just don’t work here. When that little, tiny, perfect baby girl arrived, there was no way I was putting her in a crib in the next room when I knew there were giant spiders and other various creatures wandering in and out of our loosely woven bamboo walls. No sir, that baby was staying with me!  Thus began our family bed and co-sleeping journey (which, for the record, were terms I had never even heard of at the time!) And as for strollers, well, even the toughest off-road jogging stroller simply wouldn’t cut it on a narrow, muddy and steep village path. So, again, we did it like the Akha and learned to tie our precious bundle on our backs as we trudged up and down the mountains. Even though I never planned on these things, cosleeping and baby wearing have become a treasured part of our family. So keep an open mind, you never know what you might be missing by residing in your comfort zone.

Parenting Lesson #2:
Have thick skin when it comes to receiving parenting advice.

Being the only foreigner in the village made me a prime candidate to receive advice from nearly everyone!  Asian traditions dictate that mother and baby both wear hats following birth, so I had a million mothers and grandmothers constantly telling me that my newborn baby was surely going to get seriously ill if I didn’t put a stocking hat on her…. in 100 degree weather (that’s nearly 40 celsius for all you readers in Oz)! This, and a million other situations like it, taught me to be very good at assigning positive intent. I had to remind myself that they were trying to help and to simply respond with a smile and a nod, while, at the same time, remaining firm in the things I felt were right for us. In the end, it’s too much trouble to fret over the comments that people will inevitably make; mothers have enough to worry about without the opinions and advice of the rest of the world.

Parenting Lesson #3:
Sometimes you just have to stop worrying.

We live in a hut… on the side of a mountain. This is not really a very baby proof-able place.  Our walls are held together with sharp rusty wire and our front walkway has a 7 foot drop off. My toddler once (after reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar) found a caterpillar in her poo… actually, it was intestinal worms. I know gross, huh? The fact is, we don’t live in a clean or safe place; but, you know what?  With a little anti-parasite medication, we’re all healthy, happy, and doing fine. Odds are, if you’re reading this, your home is A LOT cleaner and safer than those in the majority of the world. Even without baby proofing and hand sanitizer,  kids around the world have been growing up into productive adults for thousands of years. So remind yourself what an amazingly clean, safe and  stimulating world your kids are privileged to live in,  then take a deep breath, relax and let them play in the dirt every once in a while.

Parenting changes everything; whether you live in a suburban house full of baby gear or an isolated rural hut, parenting will always defy your expectations. While I’m certain my experiences are pretty unique, I think the lessons here are ones that every parent faces to some degree or another… being in a cross-cultural environment simply amplified them for me.

Being a parent is an adventure for everyone, what have you learned in your adventures?

Bio: Lori Vernon is a missionary mom sharing God’s love among the Akha people of Northern Thailand with her best friend and husband, Paul. She is primarily a stay-at-home mom to her two daughters (ages 4 and 1) but also teaches at an Akha Bible college once a month.  You can learn more about the Vernon’s life and ministry among the Akha at Vernonjournal.com.

 

Dear friends, my guess is that you don’t live in an environment like Lori’s, but no doubt becoming a parent has taught you some similar lessons of your own. What is one piece of advice you would give yourself if you could go back and speak to your newly pregnant self? (Thank you Lori for a great post… and please know that I will never, ever read the Hungary Catapilliar the same again!!)

17 Comments

  • Reply Raising My Babies in a Bamboo Hut (Guest Post) : The Vernon Journal 15 November 2011 at 1:05 am

    […] read the rest of this article,  follow this link over to the mommyhood memos where I had the honor of  writing as a guest blogger this week. If […]

  • Reply Sara 15 November 2011 at 3:08 am

    Thank you thank you! I have been obsessing about germs a little too much lately, and that really helped to read about your experiences….also, my husband will be pleased that you have a 7 foot drop off and you are still living there. :) I scream when he gets close to ANY edge with the kids. How do you teach your children- ie home schooling?

    • Reply Lori 15 November 2011 at 7:08 pm

      Sara, So glad my experiences helped you! Believe me, I had my fair share of freak outs about germs when we first arrived here. But I eventually realized that when living in an environment like this you have to either make peace with the germs or go crazy! As for schooling, my girls are currently only 4 and 1, so I am currently doing preschool at home with the four year old. There is an international school (not in the village, but in the city where we also spend a good deal of time.) so that’s an option too, but that would keep us in the city and we would not be able to spend as much time in the village. We’re just kind of playing it by ear right now! Who knows what next year will hold for our family! :)

  • Reply Amy Sullivan 15 November 2011 at 11:31 am

    Lori,
    Wow, I read your post twice. Not only is your advice good, but I can’t imagine the adventures you have. I must click over and check out your blog.

    What have I learned? Pay attention to the prayers God whispers into your heart, especially the ones that don’t go away.

    Clicking off to see your blog.

    • Reply Lori 15 November 2011 at 8:00 pm

      A double-read through?… I’m honored! Thanks!

      We do have quite a few adventures! Some are amazing at the time, but others are the kind that are horrid in the moment, but make amazing stories a year later! Hope you enjoyed our website!

  • Reply Life As Wife 15 November 2011 at 11:58 am

    Wow just think of the stories her kids will have of their childhood.

  • Reply Becca 15 November 2011 at 1:01 pm

    I would tell myself to relax. It isn’t going to be perfect, but it will be awesome.

  • Reply Lauren Vitrano-Wilson 15 November 2011 at 1:50 pm

    I look forward to meeting you and your little ones some day. I got the hat advice too. Way too funny. Sometimes I just have to tell them that natalia, although born in CM, has western blood and is hot like I am. :)
    God bless you guys!
    Lauren

    • Reply Lori 15 November 2011 at 10:23 pm

      THanks for stopping by Lauren! Yeah I’ve often used that tactic for well-meaning advice givers… “Yeah, we’re just weird foreigners we don’t wear a hat, shave the baby’s head or …fill in the blank.” Sometimes that’s all that’s needed to satisfy them.

  • Reply Rachel 15 November 2011 at 4:56 pm

    So true! As a fellow ‘ex-pat’, full-time Christian service volunteer (a very long winded way of saying what I do), I can relate to a lot of this post! Lori, your children will have a WONDERFUL education! Thanks for this post — I found it very encouraging.

    • Reply Lori 15 November 2011 at 10:32 pm

      Great to “meet” you! Blessings on your crosscultural parenting journey!

  • Reply Natalie 15 November 2011 at 5:36 pm

    I agree with Lori about having to give up any preconceived notions of what we want our children to experience. I also grew up in a middle-class suburb in the mainland (USA), and am now raising my children on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is so hard to let go of the idea that my children will not have the experiences I did growing up — huge family gatherings for holidays, living near cousins, being spoiled by grandparents, having snow for Christmas, etc. But then I think of all the awesome things they get to experience by growing up in Hawaii (aside from bragging rights), and I know they’re going to be more than okay for it.

  • Reply Lori 15 November 2011 at 10:26 pm

    “But then I think of all the awesome things they get to experience by growing up in Hawaii (aside from bragging rights), and I know they’re going to be more than okay for it.” EXACTLY!

  • Reply Heather 21 November 2011 at 4:56 am

    I loved this! What a truly unique insight into a completely different parenting environment than what I have grown up with. I think, after having my second child (who is now almost 2), that I would have told my pregnant self to not sweat the small stuff. Even as a first time mom, I felt like everything just had to be perfect…or maybe it was more that I felt like I had to be the perfect mom. Once another baby enters the picture it changes everything, at least it did for me. All the things I used to worry about as a mother to one child, fell to the wayside and I learned to let go of a lot of things.

  • Reply Broderick 29 November 2013 at 8:56 pm

    Spot on with this write-up, I really feeel thjis
    website needs far more attention. I’ll probably be back again to
    see more, thanks for the advice!
    Broderick recently posted..BroderickMy Profile

  • Reply Raising Children Parenting Tips 16 November 2014 at 10:05 pm

    On some instances, finding a good middle ground would be best. For example, some autistic children are sensitive to touch and does not like taking a bath, and even though you’d want the child to be clean, you also want them to be happy. You can probably reduce the bath time number to every other day. You can also help them to overcome their sensitivity to water by playing lots of water games. Squirt guns and water sprinklers can be two great tools. When they’re having fun with water, they might come to enjoy bathing later.

  • Reply mumzone 5 January 2015 at 4:59 am

    Nice Post i want sharing some information about Pregnancy calculator

  • Leave a Reply