First Find Your Child a Good Mother: The Construction of Self in Two African Communities

By Paul Riesman | Go to book overview

6
LATER CHILDHOOD

Weaning is often a difficult period both for children and their caretakers, yet all the examples given tend to show that it does not involve a significant change of attitude toward either children or their behavior. Children are not permitted to nurse--though mothers differ with regard to how abruptly this rule is enforced and how rigidly--but they are not expected to have "grown up" or to "understand" or to accept this change willingly. It is when children begin to develop ha YYillo (social sense) that adults in turn change their expectations and behavior. This can be noted in all aspects of life. Between the ages of five and seven, children, especially girls, begin to be given their first responsibilities. As food preparation and handling is so central in women's lives, it is easy to find many instances in this domain to illustrate these points.

The sharing of food, at least under certain circumstances and with certain other people, has a very high value for the Fulani. We have already seen some hints of this. But here again we have to watch out that our own notions of what it means to share don't get in the way of understanding its meaning for the Fulani. Let us now examine a few episodes of sharing, or failing to share, more closely. These will shed light on how Fulani interpret the giving of food in different contexts, on how the meaning of children's acts changes as they get older, and especially on how adults change their way of responding to children once the latter are believed to have acquired social sense.


(1)

Diimaajo. Mayrama (thirteen months) is not quite able to walk yet. She is in great spirits, staggering around holding on to things. When I first ar

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