Monday morning, Sally, a twelve-year-old American girl, is woken up by her father. As she gets ready to go to school, her mother hands her a backpack and lunch with a quick kiss goodbye. Meanwhile, Zarina, a twelve-year-old Sierra Leone girl, wakes herself up to get ready for work. Her aunt says good morning as they both head from their home to the cassava fields. Both of these girls have a traditional family setting. In America children in a traditional family grow up with both biological parents and any siblings they have. In Sierra Leone, the setting for both The Bite of the Mango and A Long Way Gone, children of traditional families live with aunts and uncles as well as many children from different parents. These different views of what is traditional create uniqe children in many ways. Children who grow up in Sierra Leone are more self-reliant than American children.
In American homes, a traditional family consists of a mother, a father, and some children, who are all siblings. In these families, the parents try to guide their children on the “right” path and each child is equal in their parents’ eyes. In Sierra Leone homes, their traditional family is very different. It will have a single biological parent, an uncle, an aunt, or a community member as the head of the house. There will be many children, but most will not be siblings. While these guardians will also be caring, they will not have the time to help each child with every little problem. The aunts or uncles may pick a favorite to focus their time on, often one who is their own child. These two types of families create interesting children, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
The children in American traditional families will have obvious strengths. They will be brought up with the knowledge that their parents will always be there for them. The will have total confidence that the adults in their life will help them if they are in need. In a scary situation they will not look inside to find strength, but instead will look to their elders. Sometimes the parents in these families are called “helicopter parents” because they are often hanging around their children, constantly interfering with their lives. “It’s a complicated world today. Eighteen-year-olds just can’t strike out on their own to make it like they did 100 years ago.” (“Helicopter Parenting” 2) It is impossible for young people in America to get going on their own now. This generation needs helping hands to get them on their way.
Although there are many benefits to these families, there are also drawbacks. These children are never forced to learn how to do things for themselves, but instead are guided through their childhood by kind hands until they are shoved out of the nest to face the world. This style of parenting cripples the young by never allowing them to gain self-reliance. “Some students do not own alarm clocks…, but instead get the same daily rousing by telephone from their parents that they got back...