By Daniel Udechukwu

As a parent, how do you react when your child offends you? Do you correct with love or punish to make a statement? The story below from an African tribe will give you quite a lot to think about. It goes thus: In Africa, there is a tribe where the birth date of a child is calculated from the day the child was just a thought in its mother’s mind.
And when a woman decides that she will have a child, she goes off and sits under a tree by herself and she listens until she can hear the song of the child that wants to come. Once she has heard the song of the child, she comes back to the man who will be the child’s father and teaches it to him and as they make love to physically conceive the child, they at points sing the song of the child as a way to invite it.
When the woman is pregnant, she teaches the child’s song to the midwives and the old women of the village so that when the child is born, the old women and the people around her will sing it to welcome the child. As the child grows up, the other villagers are taught the child’s song. If the child falls or hurts its knee, someone picks it up and sings its song to it.
Or perhaps the child does something wonderful or goes through the rites of puberty; as a way of honouring the child, the people of the village sing its song. For this African tribe there is one other occasion during which the villagers sing to the child. If at any time during his or her life, the person commits a crime or some other aberrant social act, the individual is called to the centre of the village and the people in the community form a circle around the person and sing the song to him/her. The tribe recognises that correction for antisocial behaviour is not punishment; it is love and the affirmation of identity.
When you recognise your own song, you will have no desire or need to do anything that would hurt another. And it goes this way through the child’s life. In marriage, the songs of both of the couple are sung together. And finally, when this child, now grown and old is lying in bed ready to die, all the villagers know his or her song and they sing it to that person for the last time.
You may not have grown up within this African tribe that sings your song to you at crucial life transition points or raised a child in such environment, but life constantly tells us when we are in tune with ourselves and when we are not.
When you feel good, what you are doing matches ‘your song’, and when you feel awful it doesn’t. In the end, we shall all recognise our song and sing it well. You may be a little off key at times now, but all great singers have been through that. Just keep singing and you will find your way home.

SI Magazine

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