Have you ever noticed your child saying dad when he means mom, or vice versa?
This is too common to be a coincidence. There may be a more profound understanding being expressed through our children.
I once asked Sobonfu Somé what the difference is between mothers and fathers among her large Dagara family in Burkina Faso.
She told me this–a mother is ‘me-other’. Her role is to offer the child a sense of groundedness, rootedness and belonging to the hearth.
A father she said, is ‘farther’. His role is to expand the child’s world, to take the child beyond the hearth into the unknown.
But she also said this:
It’s up to a child to decide who is a father and who is a mother.
If a child runs up to a man, and says ‘mother’, the man is asked to be nurturing, caring, safe.
If a child runs up to a woman, and says ‘father’, the woman is asked to offer guidance and orient the child to the world.
The child decides what need is to be met, and the adults respond the best they can.