There is an African tribe whom I read about some time ago, whose family customs are rather unique. In many ways they are the typical group of people we Westerners have come to imagine about Africans, especially for those of us who have read national Geographic. Father is the hunter/gather. Mother tends the home camp, cares for the children, and keeps the fire burning, cleaning the hut and so on. But when this family is all together at the end of the day, sitting or lying around the glowing embers of their fire, they are so close to each other that they are literally touching…a foot against a leg, a hand on an arm; its an amazing thing to see…when this family is together, they are really together…their custom of touch bearing witness to their closeness, their interconnectedness, their dependence on each other, their love for each other. And when dad is out hunting and gathering food, mom and children are carrying on with this interconnectedness until he returns…always in touch with one another…what tenderness.
It has been discovered that the human touch is the most powerful communicator of our emotional connection or disconnection with another; along with the power of one’s presence with another. But, nowhere is this more important than in our families; so much so that there is a condition which young children can experience when their parents leave them with relatives, baby-sitters, first day of school, or some other place….it’s called “Separation Anxiety Disorder.” It can be quite traumatic for the child and the whole family.