February 19, 2014

Raising Children Like Elephants.


What if a child does not have a consistent father figure in their life?

I just read an interesting article that detailed how children are happier if they have a consistent father in their life. I could not agree more with what the author said, but the article left me feeling low. Are they doomed to have an unhappy existence?

 If depression is on a scale of 1 to 10—10 being depressed and 1 feeling pretty good, I was definitely at a seven after reading the article. It seemed to confirm all my worst fears about raising my child alone. The author’s points were valid, but it left me feeling helpless. I, like so many other women, am raising my children alone. Many of us, did not do anything to get into this position. Life just happened and now this is our reality.

It’s funny how our brain stores little factoids until a time when we need that information again. After wallowing in despair for several moments after reading the article, a memory came to my mind of a National Geographic show about the herd structure of the elephants. I had seen it on TV several years ago when I was not raising my child alone.

The show talked about how the elephant herd is mostly made up of mothers, aunts and their young… that the male elephants come when it’s breeding time, but are gone for most of the children’s day to day lives. I come from a family of sisters and loving, strong aunts, so I could really relate to this image of a strong social group made up mostly of woman and children.

Look to the elephant for hope and direction in successful matriarchal parenting.

If these amazing, intelligent mammals can successfully raise children without a consistent male around, they can give hope to human single mothers as well.

1. Elephants have a highly ordered and structured social fabric—especially in the breeding herds where the stable social group is made up of closely related adult females with their offspring of various ages.

Although the females do the majority of the child rearing without the help of a mate there is a social structure set up that provides support to the entire herd. It is important to create a support network that gives us and our children a sense of belonging.

2. A dominant matriarchal cow that dictates their movements leads the elephant herd.

Their methods of communication include touch, visual cues and audible communication. The leader of the elephant herd is a strong female.

If we are going to be strong leaders of our families, we have to be strong ourselves. We must make it a priority to strengthen our mind, body and spirit on a regular basis. If we are confident, we can lead our young with confidence. This is no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We need to pull-up our boot straps, forget the past, and move forward marching our young in the right direction.

3. Young elephant are adventurous, fun loving and frivolous and enjoy interaction with all members of the herd.

This just made me smile. Even though these children don’t have a consistent male around, they are happy and free. Their identity and security comes from the support structure of the herd.

4. Touch is extremely important to elephants.

Young calves and mothers will often be seen touching one another, expressions of reassurance and fondness. Without a doubt and without the danger of becoming anthropomorphic there appears to be a real expression of affection—even love—between elephants and especially between cows and their young offspring.

We mamas need to love on our kids. Hug them, wrestle them, kiss them and roll around on the floor with them. They need that regular physical contact to feel our love and feel secure.

5. Elephant cows are highly protective of their young and to find yourself, on foot, in the close proximity to a breeding herd of elephant is possibly one of the most dangerous situations in the African bush.

I think this goes without saying for most mamas. We are innately protective. But, like the elephants, we need to let our children know that they are being watched over. They are not alone in this world. Their mama is protecting them.

Life does not always bring us what we expect or wish for.

That is the case for so many single mothers trying to do their best to raise their young. Like the elephant herd, there is strength, safety, happiness and prosperity when we give our children a sense of belonging and confidence that comes from our own herd.

All elephant information taken from www.africam.com.

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Assistant editor: Jennifer Moore /Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: WikiMedia Commons/ William Warby

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