Friday, September 13, 2013

5 Things about Anthropologists' Kids

The children of Anthropologists are a little bit different than your average child.  Their parents study people for a living, so how could they not be?  Here is a short list of ways I think that anthropologists' children (including my own) are changed by having us as parents.  

1. Anthropologists' kids can explain cultural relativity to their Kindergarten class.
My daughter might not know the term cultural relativity, but she can sure explain the fact that different people in different places have different rules and that's ok.  Essentially, that is the crux of cultural relativity, without getting into too much nuance.  We'll save the nuance for when she's a little bit older.  

2. Anthropologists' kids know a ton of random trivial facts about cultures far and wide. 
Annika already knows that not everyone keeps dogs as pets and that some people like to eat bugs.  So far, most of her random knowledge has to do with food, but this will surely expand as she grows up and I trot out more random facts to make her gasp.  

3. Anthropologists' kids catch the wanderlust bug early.  
As noted earlier, Annika already wants to travel around the world.  Her list of places to visit grows by the week, and I can't wait to take her.  I want to explore the world with both my girls while they are still young enough to be in awe of it all and old enough to remember it for the rest of their lives.  Of course, I do still consider myself in this category, but I know that isn't for everyone.  Andy gets a little peeved whenever I talk about travel too much.  He tells me to just put it on the list, but the list is becoming a little unmanageable.  Let's hope my girls keep their wanderlust throughout their lives, just like their mama!   

4. Anthropologists' kids get more stamps in their passports.
Certainly related to #3 is the fact that anthropologists' kids do actually get to travel more than most other kids.  Depending on where their parents do their research, they may be making frequent trips to Indonesia, Japan, Germany, Brazil, or some other locale.  The fact that these kids already have passports, already makes them a little different than other kids too.  Annika is 5, and is about to get her 2nd passport.  Anthropologists' kids can be seasoned travelers who speak multiple languages, but it doesn't mean they are always good while under way.  They are still kids after all.  

5. Anthropologists' kids get observed more than other kids. 
Anthropologists are observers by training, so it only stands to reason that they would observe their own kids.  Some of us like to think of parenthood as the ultimate participant observation.  Nancy Scheper-Hughes, an UBER-famous anthropologist, actually published an article on her children's observations while they were in the field in Brazil with her.  She had them keep journals and she later wrote about what they experienced.  Now THAT is what you call observation.  When I was pregnant the first time, one of my professors made sure that I read all there was to read in the anthropological canon about infants' acquisition of culture and the culture of birth.  I'm pretty sure that non-anthropologists focus most of their pre-baby reading on What to Expect, without critiquing it for culturally biased opinions.  The observation started in the womb, and continues as they grow.  

We anthropologists have a very different conception of normal, as most of us understand that it is completely culturally and situationally relative.  I had a friend once chastise me for not breastfeeding another friend's 2 year old, because that's what they would do in Tanzania where she did her fieldwork.  That's an anthropologist for you!  She would probably laugh at that now, but at the time she was dead serious.  

We are an odd bunch we anthropologists.  We think about things a little differently, so how could our children know any different?  At least we help form them into interesting humans!

Here is our lovely family in Berlin (my fieldsite). 
*Photo Credit goes to our good friend Mike Terry.
Mike also does some amazing mixed media work that you can check out here


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