Equal Partners
by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners by Roland Ezri

Equal Partners

By Roland Ezri

"Women are the backbone of all societies. They do a substantial part of the work, and play a major role in raising the future generation yet they are largely powerless. The decisions that count are made by men and foisted upon women."

Writings by Roland Ezri

Child-Rearing – An Ancient Formula – II. A Personal Example

I consider myself very lucky. I benefited from the clan upbringing and my family was financially comfortable.

I was born, and spent the first 20 years of my life, in Cairo, Egypt. My family was originally from Italy. I am myself a third generation Italian born in Egypt. While French is my mother tongue, I spoke both French and Arabic fluently. For the “true” Egyptians, we were considered as Afrang (foreigners). Foreigners or not, we benefited from the special atmosphere that existed in this wonderful country without suffering from the poverty that plagued most of the Egyptian people.

I had the misfortune to come into the world when people believed that holding a crying baby would spoil him. Actually, in our household, my mother was the only person that subscribed to that erroneous theory. The household in question included my father, my maternal grandmother, an aunt, and the maid. I was told that when my mother left, I was grabbed and cuddled by the other members. Even when my mother was home, her objections were often ignored. Oh, I left out the neighbors who came unannounced and without further ado grabbed me and consoled me. There my mother was helpless. It would have been rude to tell them anything.

We know today how critical it is to hold and cuddle a baby at every opportunity. This is the time when the brain forms critical connections. Therefore, thanks to the other members of the clan, the damage was limited.

The aforementioned grandmother lived with my parents in the winter; in the summer, she went back to her son in Alexandria. When I was 3 years old, my parents decided to try an experiment. They sent me to Alexandria with my grandmother to escape the implacable heat of Cairo. It was agreed that somebody would bring me back if I missed my parents. That never happened! I stayed in Alexandria for 3 months and got exposed to a brand new clan: aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, and many other people. And it was no different than Cairo. Everybody had his say as to how to deal with my mischiefs. (Apparently, I was a real hellion!)

Do not assume for a moment that I didn’t love my parents, I loved them (and still cherish their memories for they are both departed now) dearly. I also knew exactly who my parents were; there were never confused with other members of the clan.

After the war, we moved into an apartment building that had 10 units. In other words, 9 other families to be added to the clan. There was very little turnover. Therefore, I had many years to know these people and interact with them. I can say that not only did I learn a lot from them, I actually took something from their varied personalities that is still part of who I am today.

Merchants in our area were also part of the equation. I still remember being berated by the grocery store owner on our street. What was my sin? I didn’t haggle over the prices! In Egypt, you’re expected to negotiate until you’re sure you got the best price. The fact that I was only 9 was not a valid excuse. You’re never too young to learn.

Modern parents monitor their children’s activities by arming them with cell phones at a young age. They are expected to report regularly on their activities or privileges can be suspended. Parents may use GPS to keep track of their teens when they borrow the family car. The clan solution was low tech: other human beings. If I was tempted to break the rules, I had to be mindful of the fact that a person who knew my parents (or an uncle, cousin, neighbor, etc.) could see me and report the misdemeanor to them. I would then be lectured not only by them, but by other family members, neighbors, the maid, etc. Believe me, it was far simpler to walk on the straight and narrow than to hear all the time: “Don’t you know how much your parents are doing for you? Do you want to break their hearts?”

How did the clan upbringing impact on my life as an adult?

My life has not been easy. I suppose you can pick at random any adult on the planet and quickly be apprised of the fact that his or her life has not been easy. Therefore, I am not singling myself out. These were my circumstances.

I left Egypt when I was 20 and went to Italy. I had to adapt to a new country and learn a new language. It didn’t work out in Italy and I immigrated to Israel. Again I had to adapt to a new country and learn a new language. After a number of years in Israel, I immigrated to Canada. I had to adapt to a new country but mercifully this time I didn’t have to learn a new language. I already knew French and English.

Canada in many ways proved to be a wonderful country for me. I married, had two wonderful children, completed my education, and secured a good government job. But there was a black cloud which hovered over our (my family and myself) heads for many years.

In 1976, my wife fell into a deep depression. On and off, she suffered from this terrible illness through the ’70s, the ’80s, and part of the ’90s. In 1979, it was my turn to have a nervous breakdown. Thereafter, depression plagued me for some 14 years. Under those difficult conditions, I had to hold a demanding job, look after my sick wife, and care for my two children. I went to hell and back. And if all of this wasn’t bad enough, my marriage broke down in 1992. In 1993, I fell into a deep depression and was hospitalized. I was put on one of the new (SSRI) antidepressant. It did wonders for me and I have been well ever since.

When I came out of the hospital, the doctors insisted that I start therapy. However, I felt so well, I didn’t see the need for it. I consulted with my wife and my doctor and they both agreed that if I didn’t need it, I shouldn’t have it.

Presently, I am a happy and secure individual. I am deeply spiritual and love my Creator with all my might. Today, I look back at my life, and what a colorful tapestry it is. So many countries, so many languages, so much knowledge, and above all, so many people. I can honestly say that any person who crossed my path enriched my life in some ways.

The clan upbringing has been good to me. But how do we extend it to the Western world?

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