"Drastically Different Family Obligations and Matching Beliefs About Tension"
Amber Scout Brown
Ghanaian and American students have radically different experiences of their obligations to family but their beliefs about the tension between these obligations and their individual freedom are uncanny in their similarity. The discussion between these 40 or so students demonstrates the archetype of all adolescents realizing that interdependence is the gracious balance between selfishness and selflessness.
Ghanian students described their childhood experiences of obligation as being necessary for the basic survival of the family while the majority of American students described their obligations as a form of parenting to instill responsibility. Courtney writes that she was “fortunate enough not to have financial responsibilities” to her family, which illustrates the stark difference of Ghanian and American children’s obligations. Jessica and Abi both expressed the same sentiment by writing respectively “I started earning money for…unnecessary things” and “I was expected to pay for my own leisure activities.” Moving on to the comments of Ghanian students really exposes the juxtaposition of the American and Ghanian obligations. Emmanuel described needing “to leave to look for drinking water before school” and Lucy described doing dishes before and after school, helping her mother cook dinner, washing all of her siblings clothes, and “the most difficult aspect” when they “ran out of water in the house.” Lucy writes, “My mum and I have to travel far in search of water on top of all those chores.” Not one of the Ghanian students mentioned that they needed to do these chores in order to have other freedoms like playing with friends. However, it was a common theme for the American students to see their chores “as their ticket to freedom,” as Cara put it.
Each student from Ghana and the U.S. acknowledged a sense of tension between freedom and obligation but generally held the same belief about that tension, gratitude for the opportunity to have served and been served by their family. Of the Ghanian students, Qhurb elaborated on this by writing that he hopes to be “a kind of man who will grow up and set the family free of the bondage of poverty.” Eminence writes that he promises “to learn hard in school so that I can pay back to my parents for always supporting us.” Of the American students, Amy commented “Hopefully I’ll be as good to my children as they were with me.” Leigh added to the praise of family obligation with her comment, “ I am grateful for my supportive family and help them as much as I can.”
Joan’s comments on realizing that her actions impacted others perfectly sums up the mindset of a naive child. “I was not comfortable with that knowledge. I wanted to be free and run wild.” It is evident through our discussion that this mindset did not last into adulthood.
Although Ghanaian and American students had vastly different experiences of sacrifice, their welcoming attitude towards it was uncanny. Both groups of students expressed extreme gratitude for their parents’ sacrifices and embraced the tension it caused knowing that it resulted in their strength, accountability and drive for success in adulthood.