Parental and Other Caretaker Roles

Children are believed to be the products of both parents' bodies, the father's semen and the mother's uterine blood. It is not unusual for a father to help his wife deliver the baby. While mothers take more responsibility for child-care, fathers often mind infants and toddlers, especially when the mother is busy, holding them and singing lullabies and kachina dance songs to them. As in many matrilineal societies, the mother's brother is more of an authority figure than the father, especially to boys as they grow older. The father is seen primarily as a protector, provider, and nurturer. Relations between fathers and children are often close and tender, and the word "father" connotes loving protection rather than authority or distance.

The closest relationship for both boys and girls, however, is likely to be with the mother. She is all-loving and all-giving, at least in theory. The maternal grandmother shares some of these features.

Parents begin treating girls and boys differently when they are about 4 or 5. Girls are discouraged from wandering too far from home, while boys are expected to be away much of the time. Mothers train their daughters in domestic tasks, as fathers and maternal uncles train the boys in farming and herding. As indicated above, training for girls becomes more systematic when they reach adolescence. Both parents are somewhat likely to indulge adolescent boys, rationalizing that they have only a few years of freedom. The maternal uncles are expected to do any necessary disciplining.

Parents seem to expect children to pick up what they need to know, rather than giving them a lot of detailed instruction. When children misbehave, they are reprimanded but rarely punished physically except in one way. A parent or other adult might throw a dipper full of water in the small child's face, a startling and unpleasant experience. After a time the adult has only to move toward the water barrel for the child to stop its misbehavior. This punishment is symbolic as well as real, for water is a purifying agent and will help cleanse the child of any antisocial tendencies.

A much harsher punishment, generally reserved for boys, is to smoke the child. Smoke is also a purifying agent. The truly misbehaving boy is held over a smoking (but not hot) fire, gagging and coughing, until his punish-ers feel that he has had enough. This kind of punishment is generally administered by maternal uncles, not fathers.

Another treatment reserved for boys is something of a punishment but more of a healing ritual. A boy who consistently wets the bed is carried from house to house on the back of a maternal uncle so that people can pour small amounts of water on him. Either girls do not wet the bed often or, if they do, no fuss is made about it.

Pregnancy And Childbirth

Pregnancy And Childbirth

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