I think it was about three years ago that me and my husband were sitting at the then newly opened Bizzy Bee bakery on a Saturday morning in Windwardside, Saba. People were waving, cars were honking, and the smells of coffee and freshly baked bread were in the air and we were discussing the lack of plans for that weekend. It was a comfortable and peaceful moment.
Then, about a year later, we were there again and it was swarming with kids and we were holding onto our baby twins, trying to pretend life was still comfortable and peaceful, trying to chat with people who were admiring our twins, trying to enjoy our coffee, which had gotten cold. We had entered a whole different demographic: new parents. Life is not as peaceful anymore – even if, like us, you do live on a rock.
This one is for all the moms on a rock, wherever you are.
Saba has one key element that identifies it: it is small. It is a wonderful community of about 2,000 people and it is safe. For example, we don’t lock our car doors when we’re doubly parked, so someone else could move it if need be. We have amazing friends who drop in often, who we can ask to help out with the kids and whom the kids are familiar with. I think I’m more afraid of rocks falling on this island than anything else.
Other moms know to find each other if they are clearing out their kids’ dressers. After all, we all know and understand the trials of online shopping on these islands. One real downside of this tropical paradise, however, is that there is no family close by. The isolated status of Saba is such that we don’t have a weekly grandparent pitching in. To some, however, that might be considered a blessing…
Coming from a European country, you expect to run into cultural differences on a Caribbean island. For us, one is the difference in parenting styles. Let me set one record straight: all parents are just winging it, okay? Whether you are European, Latin, African, Indian, or other – there are no “best parenting” awards, and most people will only show the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of mess, sweat, tears, pain, and frustration it takes to at least try to be a good parent. We knew there would be a difference in parenting styles, but we had no idea how that would play out.
Let me tell you.
Though there are almost 100 children under 4 on Saba, I started noticing there were hardly any toddlers visible in the public spaces on island. I hardly see children in the supermarket, for example, but I do sometimes see some curious eyes sticking out of open car windows while a mom is shopping. Dutch parenting is typically very laissez-faire – Dutchies don’t “hover” and, in general, they let their children make their own mistakes and they value independence and assertiveness. As a result, others may find Dutch children loud, rude, and a nuisance, all while their parents are obliviously gazing at their brood. Including me. My kids are the cutest kids I have ever seen. Right? Right. Suffice it to say, we are now “no longer welcome” at one pretty public space… unfortunately, the only space where both parents and children can enjoy themselves. Now, we go to playgrounds and we let them loose, while we patiently wait for them to get tired of throwing sand at each other.
The absolute best part though of having children on a rock is the outdoor life. My children are up after 6 am (island life!) and we open the front door first thing in the morning to see the sunrise. I’ve never had to struggle to put long sleeves on their tiny little arms, careful not to break their mini-thumbs. My kids have never minded changing diapers as their bums never get really cold. They’re always outside playing on their scooters and we get to go rainbow and goat spotting on hikes. I love that their first words are words like “sea,” “anole” (a small local lizard), “mango,” “hammock,” and “island” – and not “mittens” or “traffic jam.” And of course, the scenery of Saba really makes for great backdrops to the apples of your eye.
Life with small kids is hectic. Life with twins is even more so. Life with toddler twins and a baby, boiii. But being a mother comes with its challenges, no matter where you are. On this island I value the safety, the community, and outdoor life above anything else. My children are currently getting a pretty carefree childhood. Being a baby or a toddler on a rock is something that can never be taken from them. You can take the child out of the island, but you can never take the island out of the child. They are island children for life.
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Do you have small children on an island? What are the benefits and challenges you have in raising them on a tiny rock?