Kids, everywhere!!!

In my community, and all the communities I’ve visited in Paraguay (except Asunción), there are tons of children everywhere I go. It’s a huge change from all the places I’ve previously lived.

I’m not sure why there seem to be so many babies, toddlers, and kids. True, the average family is larger here than in the States, but the average number of children a Paraguayan woman has is less than it once was. Perhaps it has more to do with the number of women who have children at all. From observing my community and others in Paraguay, most women have children; and they have their first child well before they are 30.

It could have something to do with the climate and way of living itself. The line between indoors and outdoors is blurred in Paraguay. People spend a large portion of their days outside of their houses. Many families cook most of their meals outside and use their patios as the living rooms they don’t have. It’s hot here, and few families have AC. Outside, in the shade, is cooler than inside.

Houses tend to be clustered. Most families don’t have large plots, or at least don’t live on large plots. And, houses are often built without a living room or other common room. This encourages people to go outside and makes it feel like the neighborhood is filled with people. A walk down the street requires greeting people sitting in front of almost every house.

Children tend to have more freedom to wonder around in my community than children of the same age might in the States. It’s not that they go far from home without an adult, but rather they run between the houses of their relatives (because families of grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins live in the same couple of blocks) which gives the impression that kids are running wild and free.

As soon as children aren’t toddlers anymore they learn how to look after babies and toddlers. There’s no one here who doesn’t know how to hold a baby, and everyone seems comfortable playing with babies. As girls get older, they are given more responsibility and take care of their younger siblings and cousins while their mothers work.

Patience and love for children appears universal, though I’m sure there are exceptions. The idea of “I’m good (or not) with kids” is irrelevant here because children are simply part of daily life.