12 Days that Changed My Life and the Lives of More Than 100 Children and their families – Part 3

Ruth Kaiser, of SpontaneousSmiley.com,
a frequent contributor here at DrGreene.com,
shares her experience as a volunteer on a medical mission to Paraguay with Operation Smile.

When you go into another culture, you really don’t know what you will discover, what things will strike a cord because they were not what you expected.

One of the things that most struck me about Paraguayan society was the involvement of the daddies. The young dads were as active participants, as the moms were. From what I could see Paraguay was doing an awfully good job of splitting the parenting duties 50/50, especially those duties which require a nurturing approach.

Most of the kids were there with both parents. It was so touching to see that the dads were doing the cuddling, the play, the feeding, all of it. And all of it without self-consciousness or the awkward “look at me, I’m doing my Mr. Rogers impersonation” sometimes seen on playgrounds in my neighborhood.

Not only were these dads being the ones to wipe up the spittle and soothe the crying infant, they also showed their emotions without shame. The dads were just as likely to cry as the moms. The dads’ faces were as deeply troubled as they waited and waited for their child to emerge from the Operating Room. I fell in love with the daddies of Paraguay for being so sweet, so vulnerable.

Smile. Be happy.I have to admit that one reason I was so touched by their behavior was because it was not what I had expected. In my mind was the notion of Latin American machismo that really had no place in Paraguay. I guess the lesson here is that no preconceived notions ever have a place no matter where we go. Travel with an open heart and open mind ready to see what is really there. Even if where you are traveling is to your neighborhood grocery store.

Smile. Be happy.

Ruth Kaiser

Ruth Kaiser is a preschool teacher, TED Talk speaker, children's author, AND the creator of the popular online art project SpontaneousSmiley.com where thousands of people find, photograph and share Smiley Faces they find in everyday objects.

Note: This Perspectives Blog post is written by a guest blogger of DrGreene.com. The opinions expressed on this post do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dr. Greene or DrGreene.com, and as such we are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied. View the license for this post.

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  1. Ruth, what an interesting perspective. I would not have imagined this to be the case and now I am wondering what makes this so…why are dads in Paraguay comfortable expressing their nurturing more feminine side? And, HOW can we learn about this and use it to support dads in the U.S. Thanks for making me think today!


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