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Giving children away.
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  1. #1
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    Giving children away.

    This is first hand knowledge; I was there, I saw it, and I still don't seem to grasp the deeper meaning of why it is a custom.

    My brother-in-law (age 25) was severely injured in a motorcycle accident in Isaan (go figure) and was very lucky not to have been killed. After the accident it was announced by people-in-the-know about such things that my brother-in-law was marked with Bad Luck because of some unexplained spiritual problem with his parents. Beyond the normal transition from boyhood to manhood there was no apparent conflict in the relationship as I could see; but I guess that is why I am not an expert in such matters.

    It was determined that my brother-in-law should be given away (or possibly sold because a little money changed hands: I am not sure). A gathering was arranged and it was determined which couple in the village would get my brother-in-law. The event was handled in Khmer so I could not understand what was actually said.
    At first my brother-in-law sat behind my in-laws and then he got up, walked over, and sat behind his new parents. After the ceremony took place he addressed his parents as father and mother and he also addressed the new parents as father and mother.

    According to my wife this is more of an "appeasing the Ghost" thing than an actual exchange; but there are several level in which the exchange is very real. On Father's Day and Mother's Day my brother-in-law will be expected to present gifts to both Fathers and both Mothers. The new parents have free range to cousel when they think it is necessary.

    Are there any other experiences in this sort of dealings?
    The Heart determines what is Possible by the Mind

  2. #2
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    Re: Giving children away.

    Maybe "appeasing" is not quite the right word-could it be "confusing"? This event echoes of the traditional Thai practice of giving new babies an "ugly" nickname for a month or more to deter evil ghosts/spirits, prior to giving a "proper" name when the danger for the new child is past.

    However, this ceremony seems to go much further, as it enters the social realm as well, seemingly publicly declaring an alliance between two families-I am sure the relationship between the two sets of parents and son is very complex.
    What of inheritance. for example? Does the son inherit from both sets of parents? What are his rights in the division of land between him and his "new" parents natural offspring?
    Never came across it before, but I bet this ceremony would be of great interest to Social/Cultural Anthropologists-they would probably argue about it for years-if they are not already doing so!

  3. #3
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    Re: Giving children away.

    Yes, Khun Don has some interesting questions. It would be interesting to know if the new parents have any children already and if they are related to your in-laws in any way (even if it seems quite distant to us).

    I know of several families where at least one of the children has been brought up by relatives, usually because it is difficult for the real parents to manage (as they have other children as well), but also because the relatives have no children themselves. The children seem to respect both sets of parents as parents. As your wife says, it doesn't seem here that your brother-in-law has actually been given away as he must still pay respect to your in-laws.

    What kind of situations will they be likely to give counsel in?

  4. #4
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    Re: Giving children away.

    Boy I am sure glad I married a real Thai and do not have to live over there in Issan as these storys you have been telling here lately just makes me think that them Khmer folks ain't wrapped to tight.

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    Re: Giving children away.

    Although 'giving children away' gives a negative impression, I don't think you necessarily have to take a negative view. After all, we're talking about a 25-year-old man in this case. As Khun Don has pointed out, it may well be something done to ward off the spirits and at least bring peace of mind to everyone involved

    But even when we're talking about small children, it's often a case of trying to do what's best for the children and demonstrates the much stronger family and community ties than we're used to in western countries.

  6. #6
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    Re: Giving children away.

    The "new" parents can be relatives or not; it does not matter. The only really requirement is that the "new" parents can not already have a son if there is to be a "new" son (the same applies with girls). The can have a daughter and still accept a "son" or they can have no children and accept a "new" child.

    There is no entitlement to land or inheritance.
    The Heart determines what is Possible by the Mind

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  8. #7
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    Re: Giving children away.

    I'm curious about the reasoning behind these decisions by the "people in the know" who decided on this solution to your brother-in-law's bad luck. My guess is they are what the locals call spiritual mediums or witch doctors, or whatever name they are given. What are their ideas based on; what are the origins of these beliefs?

    I don't denigrate superstition because when I was young I was taught it was unlucky to walk under a ladder because it was bad luck. For years I would make sure I didn't walk under ladders. There's a psychological effect in that if you think something is unlucky, the thought plants a seed in your head and a bad feeling stays with you however much you try to tell yourself it's horse shit.

    I've lived in flats in HK (which calls itself ''Asia's World City'') that did not have a 14th floor - it had 25 floors but after the 13th floor the next floor was the 15th - because 14 (sap say) in Cantonese sounds something like ''double death". So anyway, superstition is not just an Isaan thing.

  9. #8
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    Re: Giving children away.

    Hi Sparky,
    Its not just in HK that hotels dont have a 13th floor - its world-wide. And in my recent stay in Bangkok one of the hotels I stayed at didn't have a 13th floor.
    Ӽ

  10. #9
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    Re: Giving children away.

    Many hotels worldwide also do not have a "Room 13".

  11. #10
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    Re: Giving children away.

    In northern Alaska giving kids away is a common practice, so much so that when asked how many kids one has, a common answer might go like “ I have three, a boy and two girls, and I have two more boys from (insert family name here)” . yes this happens in the good ol USA.

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