It Takes a Village

by Shahira Mohamed

I was in second grade, and my youngest brother had just turned two years old. One evening, I was cutting an apple while my brother was playing with toys nearby. Suddenly he came and grabbed the sharp edge of the knife with his tiny fingers. There was blood. There were tears. Mayhem ensued. My mum was frenetic, trembling and exasperated at me—all at the same time. My elder sister ran to next door to ask for help, and when our neighbour came, she was calm and composed. She helped with the necessary first aid and in cleaning the mess. By then my dad had reached home and took my brother to the hospital. In all the mess, my neighbour didn’t forget to give me a hug and reassure me, “Your brother will be fine. Don’t worry.” Those words have stayed with me until now. Amidst all the blood and gore, everyone forgot I too was a child who needed reassurance and was worried about her brother.

Twenty years later, I am the parent now and one fine, lazy Saturday morning, my husband and I were having a late breakfast while our toddler was blissfully asleep. I heard a loud and urgent knocking on my front door. It was our neighbour. She was trembling. One of her sons had gotten locked inside the toilet courtesy of his older brother. We immediately went to the house, and my husband came with his drill set and unlocked the door. The little boy was safe—just slightly anxious. I did not forget to reassure the elder boy (only three years old) who was so traumatised thinking he wouldn’t meet this brother ever again. It brought back memories of my kind neighbour!

They say it takes a village to raise a child. They say a mum always needs her tribe. In our home countries, it is easy to find a tribe. The entire village acts as a guardian for the child, but this scenario changes in an expat setting. With no village and no family nearby, we find our group amongst neighbours and colleagues, in mum groups and community clubs. We become friends with people from countries we never even knew about until we met them.

Expat parenting is hard but some days we find help in the most unexpected of places. We find hope in a Facebook post shared by a mum going through the similar situation. We find strength to move on and overcome new trials every day.

With all the unique challenges and limitations of expat parenting, we ensure to give our kids a happy, healthy and fun childhood to which they can look back to fondly, like parents everywhere!