What Do Moroccans Get About Children that We Americans Miss?

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In the year 2007, I packed up my kids, books, and goose down pillow and moved to Fez, the medieval city in the heart of Morocco.

A few things about the people I encountered that year left a lasting impression on me especially regarding their children.

Moroccans are easy going people, which makes it very easy to be with them, and they certainly have far more mental resilience than we do.

What struck me most though is that it's much easier to raise a child there, and suicide amongst children is non-existent. Maybe even amongst the adults, because I never heard the word mentioned once during the entire year I lived there. 

It's not something Moroccans usually do.

In my town in America, a well-to-do suburb of San Francisco, a few years ago a 16-year-old girl committed suicide because she anticipated failing a math exam.

I expect there was more to this beautiful young woman's heartbreaking suicide than the math exam, but why is suicide so rampant in America today?

Every five days in America, a child between the age of 5 and 12 commits suicide. That doesn't include the number of children who try and fail, either. 

A five-year-old! 

It makes my heart ache just to think about it. What nefarious force in our culture dares to put such horrific and tragic thoughts into the mind of a child? 

One can seldom boil the complexity of a people down to one factor or trait, but one significant quality about living in Morocco is that not much comes easy which forces Moroccans to develop more patience and mental resilience than Americans; they have literally mastered the art of "keep going." 

You learn how to accept struggle as a daily part of your life there. But for pampered Americans, like myself, living in Morocco can be challenging at first. 

Try to get through a summer or winter in Morocco! The homes aren't equipped with air conditioning or central heating because most people in Morocco can't afford to pay the exorbitant electricity bills.  

In simmering hot summers and below zero winters, you either freeze or sweat to death; and you learn to tolerate the extreme discomfort because it's just how life is in Morocco.

Well, maybe not for the King and his men, but it is for just about everyone else.

To cook dinner in the wintertime, I would have to leave my little room with its floor heater on full blast—the same heater my kids and I huddled around all winter to stay alive—and I'd be dressed up like I was heading into a snowstorm instead of my kitchen.

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(The kitchen opened up into the rest of the house, and the entire house was impossible to heat in case you're wondering!)

But it wasn't just the discomfort of extreme temperatures the people have to suffer through. As they have a somewhat corrupt police force, trying to get simple documentation like a passport extension or a marriage license could become a part-time job for three or four months.

It could also cost you money in bribes that you would have no choice but to pay. 

And to do something as insignificant as rent a little apartment, you have to know someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who knows the landlord of the apartment you want to rent. 

It becomes a community affair, everyone gets involved, and it can take weeks to get a contract signed. During that time, the terms could and would change like the wind. 

The Moroccan children had long school days, too. They had a lot of subjects, and they learned French as well as Arabic. Knowing their parents expected them to do well, they worked hard in the evenings to get their homework done in time for the next long school day. 

They'd be in the hot seat if they didn't. Moroccan parents do not mess around.

The Moroccans are a really tough people, and I admire that about them. In the face of adversity, they do not crumble. No one commits suicide when their life takes an unbearable turn.

I'm sure somewhere, sometime, someone did, but for the most part, it didn't really happen in Morocco, at least not like we see in America today.

We have so much by way of physical comforts and opportunity, too, far more than most countries have, but in spite of this we can still manage to find life not worth living.

The Land of the Free. Free to kill yourself.

I know, for sure, that suicide did not happen amongst the youth in Morocco. The Moroccan kids knew their parents would strangle them if they even thought about it.

There was something else I found interesting about Moroccans. The entire country agreed on how to raise a child. Even strangers looked out for your children, and everyone just adored the children.

The grumpiest looking person would break out into a huge smile at the sight of a baby. 

The national accord around how to raise a child made being a parent and being a child so much easier. 

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Some of the Moroccan parenting methods I agreed with, some I didn't, but I came to understand that agreement was the operative word. You see, when an entire country agrees on how to raise a child, children know precisely what's expected of them. 

It's called tradition. For better or for worse, there's something grounding and unifying about tradition. 

In the states, with the loss of tradition and the deluge of confounded parenting theories, it's difficult to find a family or a group of friends who agree on how to raise a child, let alone the entire country. How many times when I was raising my children did a friend ask, "Do you mind if I discipline your child?"

"Go right ahead!" I'd reply. The way I saw it they were helping me out and helping my kids out.

We try so hard in America to make everything all right for our kids, that some of our children never learn how to make things all right for themselves. 

It's probably not a good idea to turn off our air conditioners in the summer, or turn off our heaters in the winter, but it might behoove us to think about creating opportunities for our children—and even for ourselves—to toughen up a little. 

Or, maybe it's not even that we lack mental resiliency. Maybe the problem is something as simple as a matter of faith that presupposes a belief in something higher than ourselves?

Moroccans, I noticed, had plenty of that. 

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