Daj / Dad

Bringing up the children

Ajsi daj lačhi, so pes starinel pal o čhave, pal o rom, khere ča bešel u tavel. (D. Žiga 1988)

"A good mother is one who takes care of her children and her husband. She stays home and cooks." (D. Žiga 1988)

The mother's job was to assure the upbringing of all the little children. She retained charge of the girls until they got married. (The father took over the boys when they were ready to learn a trade – about the age of five or six.) When a girl was six or seven years old, she had to prove she could take care of her younger brothers and sisters and the cleanliness of the house, and she began to learn how to cook the simpler dishes. The mother educated her daughters, on the one hand, so that they could help with the household and, on the other hand, so that they would be prepared for marriage at the age of fourteen or fifteen. This meant, apart from other things, that they would know how to behave in the homes of their future mothers-in-law and fathers-in-law and what they could expect from their husbands. The mother also instructed her children how to behave on a visit. She gave them advice and taught them what to do so that they would not be a disgrace:

No dža, aľe na hoj kodoj tut te ispides andro čaro! Le tuke jekhvar, duvar, aľe na hoj chaha savoro sa! Bo phenena o Roma, hoj tut khere na sas ňič. (B. Demeter 1982)
"Well, hurry, but don't pile food on your plate. Help yourself once or twice, but don't eat up everything! Afterwards, everyone would say that you don't get enough to eat at home." (B. Demeter 1982)

In the traditional Roma community, where the extended family lived close to each other (which is still true for Roma settlements in Slovakia), it was not only the parents who supervised the education of the children, but all the relatives, who had nearly the same rights to educate as did the parents. That socio-cultural control is disappearing today in the towns because the family does not live together. As a result, some parents, without the co-teaching and support of the community, are often helpless and do not fulfill all of their educational obligations.

Earlier, Roma women were not trained in jobs outside the home. Their obligations were limited to the care of the family and children, and so they never went to work regularly. With so many children, it was not possible. In Roma settlements, this is still the case. The position of today's Roma woman in the city is much more difficult. Even if she has several children, she is often forced to go to work because her husband's income is insufficient for city living. It is also a fact that, in cities, the mother bears the main responsibility for the family but she often has no one to help her. That is one of the reasons that children of Roma families living in cities end up more often in children's homes.

Earlier it happened only rarely that a Roma mother would abandon her children. If she did, her relatives and the other members of the Roma community condemned her publicly. Even if she left the children because her husband drank and beat her and did not look after the family, this was not considered a mitigating circumstance.

Kerel mištes - na kerel mištes, marel la - na marel la, hiňi bokhaľi - nane bokhaľi, mušinel leha te dživel. Oda imar kajso zakonos - hin len čhave, ta mušinel leha te dživel. (V.F.)
"Whether she does the right things or not, whether he beats her or not, whether she goes hungry or not, she has to live with him. That is already a kind of law – they have children together, so she must live with him." (V.F.)

If the situation in the husband's family became unbearable for a wife, she usually solved it by running home to her mother, to her family. If she already had children, she always took the youngest child with her if she was still nursing him/her. She left the other children home and the father and his family had to take care of them. Thus the wife abandoned her family for a few days, sometimes for even two or three weeks. In the meantime, the husband could put himself in his wife's place and see how many duties a woman has to master daily and think about his own behaviour. At the same time, he was talked about because a wife's running away was always a subject of discussion among Roma (Te Roma vakeren, olestar šar avel ladž. / "If Roma discuss something, the result can be that someone will be disgraced.") and this means not only the husband but his whole family. The family tried to avoid that. Therefore, the husband came for the wife after a while or she came back herself because of the children, occasionally on the instigation of her own family. If the husband's family was stronger – if it had more male descendants, neither the parents nor the brothers of the bride would interfere in the disagreement.

The union of a man and woman in Roma society, whether it has been officially certified in a public office or church, or concluded only according to Roma tradition, is basically monogamous and lasts a lifetime. It can come apart only if there are no children. Since the guilt for childlessness always rests with the woman, the man has the right, in such a case, to leave her. If, however, he had children and did not take care of them because he had a mistress, the family and the whole community tried to convince him to return to his wife and children. They appealed to his better instincts: that they all, including him, must be in charge of the children's education, especially the sons.

The father took over the education of the boys from the ages of five or six. The boys helped the father with all of the work inside and outside the home; if the father was a musician or a blacksmith, he taught them his trade. In musical families, the boys played for money along with their father starting from the age of twelve and they contributed to the household finances. The father taught a son if he was gifted; he did not force him if the son was not capable.

Man o dad sikhavlas te bašavel, aľe mange na igen džalas, na sas man rat pr'oda, ta phenďa, kaj te sikhľuvav charťaske. Pre koda goďi man sas. Ta som sikhado avri charťas. (B. Demeter 1982)
"My father tried to teach me to play, but I simply couldn't learn; I had no talent for it, so he decided I would learn how to be a blacksmith. I was suited for that trade, and so I became a blacksmith." (B. Demeter 1982)

The father watched the boy work and helped him; that's how the boy learned.

Miro dad man sikhavlas buter veci, aľe ov na phenlas mange ňigda - kada the kada, kavka the kavka te kerav. Ov man lelas furt ke peste, aľe na zoraha, maribnaha, me imar korkoro džavas. Na ča me, aľe savore čhave džanas. Te miro dad vareso kerlas, ta amen dikhahas, so kerel, oleha sikhľuvahas. Me kamavas te jel sar jov. (R. Dzurko 1981)
"My father taught me many things, but he never told me, "Do this and this, that and that." He always took me with him, but he never forced me to go. I went because I wanted to. Not only I, but all the other children went. When our father did something, we all watched what he did and that's how we learned. I wanted to be like him." (R. Dzurko 1981)

Punishment of the boys also fell within the competence of the father. On the other hand, the mother had the right to punish the girls.

K'amende avka hin: sar tut hin ternechar, t'odi daj hin barikaňi. O dad dikhel rado la čha. O dad ňigda pre čhajorate na thovel o vast, marel ča muršoren, sar hine cikne. A e daj paľis na marel muršores, ča la čhajora marel, sar hiňi cikňi. (J.K. 1981)
"In our society, it's like this: If you have a boy, the mother is proud of him. On the other hand, the father likes daughters better. A father never raises his hand to a daughter; he punishes boys only when they are small. The mother, though, would never beat a boy; she would hit a daughter only when she was still small." (J.K. 1981)
Maribnaha ňigda nič na dokazineha. Ňigda. Lačho lav te del, na paľicaha te marel! (F.S. in Romano džaniben 3/95)
"Beating never proves anything. Never. Educate with a good word. Don't beat with a cane." (F.S. in Romano džaniben 3/95)

Even if the father did not educate his daughters directly, it was important for him that they behave correctly and that they be irreproachable because shame always fell on the whole family, who were responsible for their education. If a father had sons, he most frequently entrusted the oldest with the supervision of the daughters.

Pal o čhaja pes o dad starinel, ča kaj te na keren lubipen. Vaš oda o čhaja daran le dadestar. (E.K. 1981)
"A father watches over his daughters only to the extent that they don't run after men. That's why daughters fear their father." (E.K. 1981)

Usually the father didn't punish or hit his daughters. Only in case the mother did not know what to do, did the father then intervene in their education. Being punished by her father's hand was the greatest possible punishment and disgrace.

Sar o dad imar thovel pes andre čhaj abo la marel ajci, kaj pes ladžal jekh kurko, duj kurke te džal andal o kher, ta paľi kodi čhaj daral le dadestar calo dživpen. (E.+J.K. 1981)
"If a father intervened in the education of his daughter or if he beat her so hard that she wouldn't go out of the house for a week or two, the daughter was afraid of her father for the rest of her life." (E.+J.K. l981)

The father had a decisive say in the choice of a bride or groom. The mother could also intervene, but the last word was the father's:

Hjaba e daj leske phenlas: Mi džal pal leste, mi džal! Te o dad jekhvar kole čhas na kamelas u phenďa Na džala! Na džal. (J.K. 1981)
"Mother would say, to no avail, "So let her marry him!" But if the father did not want that boy and said, "Don't marry him!" then she simply didn't marry him." (J.K. 1981)

If it happened that a son did not obey his parents and married a girl against their will, and if the marriage did not work out, he came repenting to his mother, who pardoned him. As a sign of reconciliation, they cried together.

The mother was the greatest security and certainty to her children. If something unpleasant happened to any of the children, they always came to their mother for comfort. The easiest thing was to express remorse and helplessness with the words, Mamo miri, mamo! and their hearts felt lighter. They most often found understanding, comfort and forgiveness in their mother. This relationship to the mother is beautifully expressed in the words of many songs.

Text based on

Žlnayová, Edita (1996) Postavení a úloha ženy-matky a muža-otca v rómskej rodine (Position and role of the wife-mother and husband-father in the Romani family). In: Romano džaniben 96/1-2.
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Family Levačič (Črensovci [Slovenia]), 2002
Črensovci (Slovenia), 2002
Črensovci (Slovenia), 2002