Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ok, Maybe Not

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!


Sarah said...

I hear ya loud and clear about the nai nais coming up and giving all their advice! It seems to never fail when I take Nathan and Emily out there is someone telling me they are not dressed with enough clothes. Sometimes it gets to me and sometimes it's ok. You are doing a great job with parenting and taking good care of the girls! They are blessed to have you as a mom! Thanks for the potty training advice. I backed off a little today and just let Emily try to go here and there and she went all day with no accidents and 2 times on the toilet. I am going to take your advice and press on! It will come eventually! You all take care! I also love keeping up with you all through your blog!

rachel said...

"no, they're just fine!" you exclaim with chattering teeth...

hahaha...the nainais are just his tool for working sanctification in you, right? you could write the next book in the series! =)

my newest little sling thing hides the baby so well that people don't even realize I have a baby with me...I'm so excited to take it back and (hopefully) bypass all the unwanted advice.

see you soon!! =) finally...

sandra said...

I'm pathetic to say that I intentionally dress our son for The Nainai's.

Hubs is now the one who gets on to me: He's too hot! He's wearing too many layers. I reply, "If I'm going to the playground for the next 3 hours then I need it to be in peace."

If our little guy has on all his layers and they still express concern, I just tell them that my husband is from the north and that generally does the trick.

You know how xiguan we northern families are! ha!

I'm so sorry you had four at once!

Kellie said...

I am also with you - even though technically you have more experience than they do - because you have 3! I exhort you for not responding back - that is always my biggest struggle and I always regret it when it gets the best of me! Jia you! And know that your kids are American kids and therefore they just don't get as cold! :) right?! Keep up the good work!