Confession time: Maybe I really haven't lived here long enough. (In contradiction to a previous post about living here TOO long!) I give you as evidence, yesterday's experience:
It's a lovely Saturday, John is busy all day, and the girls and I need to get some exercise and fresh air. We get ready to go outside and as I dress Christin, I realize that I don't really have a winter coat for her. All winter she's been in the Ergo, layered under a (borrowed!) handy-dandy sheepskin pullover thingy that I wear around my neck. This is the first time that I want to take her out in the stroller. No problem! I improvise and arrange the sheepskin pullover over her and the stroller! It leaves a bit of her neck exposed so I cover that with a blanket.
Why all of this hyper-coverage? Well, in this country, taking your children outside is like subjecting yourself to everyone's free, and usually well intended but sometimes slightly annoying, advice. The word for grandmother is "nai nai" and usually there are about 5-7 nai nais hanging around outside, enjoying the fresh air and waiting to give advice to any young mother who happens to be out and about. At times in the past, particularly just after I had Clara Anne, the nai nais would accost me and tell me in no uncertain terms how I wasn't caring for my child properly and all the bad effects of such a lack of care. It used to really bother me; in fact I remember one particular time where two nai nais followed me into a store, not because they wanted to buy anything, but simply to follow me and give me the what-for. That day I returned home in tears. But, I'm beyond all that now, right? I have three kids now, I've lived here so long, I should be accustomed, right?? Riiiiiight.
Well, yesterday, we were having such fun at the playground. Clara Anne and Chloe were running around, making up their own games (which for some reason all involved blueberries--buying, selling, and eating), and having a great time. I was pushing Christin in the stroller as the girls ran from place to place. As time went on, though, the crowd gathered, and soon the nai nais present realized collectively that--gasp--my children only had on one layer of clothing! (Underneath their winter coats, that is!) Then they all approached to take a closer look at Christin. FOUR of them were crowded around the stroller, touching her face, feeling her hands, and scolding all the while.
"She's too cold! This is quite bad! The wind is cold today! Look, she's only wearing one layer of clothing! She's going to get a cold! She'll be sick! It's too cold out! . . . "
And on and on.
At first I tried to smile brightly, but then I started to feel guilty/paranoid. "It's true, the wind IS kind of chilly . . . maybe we'd better go . . . oh I wish they'd stop touching her! . . . ok, we're leaving NOW!"
So I fled. I called Clara Anne and Chloe and we just went home.
I'm sorry now, that I let a few (probably well-intentioned) comments ruin our playtime. I'm also sorry that I got my feelings hurt about it again. Honestly, though, four at once! I did have a number of retorts on my lips that I am now very glad that I didn't say. On the way home, I consoled myself by thinking that it really wouldn't have changed anything anyway, to try to answer them back. They have their ways of thinking, of received wisdom, and they are trying to help. I know that in my head, but when they are standing there and scolding and criticizing, it's hard not to take it personally! Next time I go out I'll have to remind myself to get "dressed" in a thicker skin!
There's always more to learn about living in a different culture!