Menu Home

On losing sight of my child

We were at a community event when someone asked Elliot, ‘Where’s your mum?’ He replied, ‘I don’t know. Where is Mama?’ Sounds like a lost child, right? That’s what the person who found him thought, and fair enough. An announcement was made over the loudspeaker for me. When I heard it, I thought that Elliot must have been upset and I was surprised by that, but of course when I came to collect him he was happily making friends and completely un-fussed by my appearance though thankfully he came along with me cooperatively.

Same deal when we were at the zoo one day when Elliot ran off and, with all the alternate routes he could take I had no way of knowing where he was. The mum I was with was amazed at how coolly I took this situation, as was the poor woman who saw Elliot on his own and asked him where his mummy was, only for him to be completely unconcerned!

In Tanzania, corporate parenting means that when I don’t know where my child is, or he doesn’t know where I am it’s not really a big deal. Then again, he sticks out like a sore thumb in Tanzania, and so do I; you can tell in a crowd who he belongs to, and it’s not hard to use word of mouth to locate him, so he’s never really ‘lost’. In Australia we understandably do not enjoy the same special treatment, and other mums seem quite worried about losing sight of their children. They tell me they’re worried about child abduction, traffic and the child hurting themselves. Whether it’s personality, or having parented away from the influences of western media, these concerns don’t really loom large for me with Elliot. Here’s why:

  • Three quarters of child kidnapping cases are by someone known to the child, not by a stranger. The ones that are by a stranger are much more likely to happen near home than in public places. It’s not that there’s no stranger danger, and no one wants their child to be the 1 out of each 10,000 missing children who end up dead, but I’m also not convinced losing sight of him for a bit endangers him.
  • The little guy is super safe around roads. Maybe it comes from growing up around the chaos of majority world traffic, but he’s not going to run out onto a road. Ever.
  • Same deal with knives, holes, or other potential hazards. He knows how to handle himself. These have been an ordinary part of our environment in Dodoma.
  • He finds his way back. Many kids go a bit away from their parents (but maybe still within sight) before returning. Elliot does the same thing, but with a rather larger radius. When I can’t see him, I can generally be pretty confident that he’ll turn up again soon.
  • If he’s lost, you’ll know about it! In the event that he actually can’t find his way back, my little guy has quite the holler on him. All I need do is follow the noise.

Categories: Tanzanian culture Written by Tamie

Tagged as:

Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

4 replies

  1. Very challenging blog. It strikes at the heart of a lot of the fear based parenting we see going around. It also made me think a little bit about how we justify our own fears by sharing them with others. Fear evangelism! It is probably why fear is such a potent method of social control. I don’t want my child to become a statistic and will do all I can within my control. I guess the challenge is larger because our neighbourhood is the place where we spend most of our time and introducing different contextual rules would probably be confusing. In Australia we actually have laws that force parental supervision
    My immediate thoughts are: Tanzania is probably safer because there is a greater sense of responsibility in the community for safety and shared parenting. You are also advantaged in having a kid who is different. But, I wonder how/if you would be tempted to parent differently with a girl?

    1. Yeah, I don’t know if I’d parent differently if I had a girl or if I’d done more parenting in Australia or if we were more grounded in a local community. Like all of us, my parenting is a product of my context and my child (which is why this post makes no recommendations about how others should parent). The tricky thing I’m trying to navigate is parenting somewhere we don’t ‘fit’ (even though on the outside we look like everyone else) – it often comes down to a choice between stressing my child (even more) or stressing other adults around me!

  2. I think about this a lot, as I am definitely one of those ‘break into a cold sweat every time I lose sight of my child’ parents. I don’t know it’s purely a cultural different. Even in Australia, mums vary wildly from being quite relaxed about not knowing where their children are, to being quite anxious. I remember being shocked (and to be honest, quite envious!) when at a fete, my friend said to her husband, “can you just walk around and see if you can sight Ben for me? I haven’t seen him in over an hour!”

    In Australia where children are relatively safe, think it says more about where the mum’s at, emotionally speaking, than any real danger. As someone who is clinically anxious, I know logically nothing will probably happen to my child, but that doesn’t stop the emotional reaction, and I think this is the case for many parents.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: