Everyone has their role, and everyone does their part. From this, I have noticed that samoan children are the most diligent, resourceful, and obedient children I have ever encountered in my life. I have to say that in my own opinion they are very different form American children. Sure their still kids who run in the house after you tell them not to, fight with their brothers/sisters, and hate doing homework. Yet, their overall behavior is nothing like I’ve seen back home. In the states we say, “kids will be kids” but here in Samoa, “kids will be adults.” I have had a front row seat to observing this. In my host family’s house I have three younger sibilings; a 13 year old boy, a 10 year old boy, and a 7 year old girl. They each have their role to play throughout the day, but their purpose is still the same- help their family in the daily tasks. The 13 year old usually wakes up early in the morning (way before I do) goes to the plantation and collects food. He starts cooking soon after. Cooking here usually takes hours because they have to make a fire outside and then put coconut leaves on top of the food to keep the heat in. Essentially it’s like an oven. While the food is cooking he is cleaning, taking care of the animals, and also helping other nearby families if they need help. The 12 year deals with the rubbish, takes care of the yard, washes the clothes by hand, washes the dishes, and much much more. The little girl basically acts as a runner. Anything people need (especially her parents) she gets for them. Any miscellaneous chores are also done by her. They all wake up at sunrise, and go to bed late into the night. They are constantly doing things without being asked. If an adult has an empty cup of tea they will take that cup and fill it up for them. Sometimes I’ll lie on the floor to watch TV with the kids. Immediately one of them will get up and bring me a pillow. If their parents call for them they come running. They do whatever is asked of them, and believe me they are asked to do a lot! To someone who is not familiar with the Samoan culture, they might see how the children are treated similar to workers or even maids. I must admit, first coming here I thought the same thing. I was shocked to find out that every few weeks the students are obligated to clean up the school compound: doing yard work, painting, etc. However, after living here for several months I now know why things are the way they are.
It’s pure respect. Samoan children are taught at a very young age to respect anyone older them, never talk back, and do what they are told. These are aspects that we try to teach our children back home as well, but here its on a whole different level. Parents do things for themselves; older siblings do things for themselves. Here the children do everything. For example every morning when my host mom wakes up (they sleep on mats on the floor) she will call one of her children to pick up her blanket/pillow and roll up her mat and put it away. Every night they lay their parents bedding out for them, and every morning they put it away. In the States it’s hard enough to get a kid to make their own bed, let alone their parents bed! I started thinking about this custom and this is what I figured out. Back home the parents take care of their children, and then when the children are older they take care of their parents. Here in Samoa, it’s the other way around. The children take care of their parents, and then when those children become parents their children take care of them. It’s a never ending cycle.
I have a great appreciation for my younger siblings and Samoan children in general. They do way more at their age then I ever did. My American background and bring-up still gives me a feeling of guilt when a 13 year old is cooking my dinner. Nevertheless, I just try and remember where I am, and the grand scheme of things. Everyone has their role, and everyone does their part.