Saturday, 12 September 2009

Having another baby

I think every culture has certain ways of doing things that are just the right way. Here in Turkey, when it comes to home and family issues, it seems like old ladies are the ones to enforce the right way. Every time an old lady comes over to talk to me I know she's going to expel her life wisdom on me, usually by telling me something I'm doing wrong - my kids aren't dressed warm enough, or I need to get my baby out of the draft, or I shouldn't let my girls eat ice cream, or I'm holding the baby the wrong way, etc.

I think my friend Kristal has found the same thing in Albania. She hasn't had any kids yet and old ladies feel the need to stop her in the street and tell her to get busy.

I'm facing the opposite problem.

Turks in big cities love kids, but they are very concerned about providing absolutely everything for their kids - spoon feeding them until 3 or 4 years old (sometimes more), hovering under or over them at the park in fear that they'll fall when they slide or climb up steps, walking behind them with their arms extended until the toddler is no longer toddling. Raising small children in America is exhausting. For Turks it is even more exhausting. For this reason and others, it's more common to wait 5, 6, 7, or 8 years between siblings than it is to have them 1, 2, or 3 years apart like we do in the States. I'm about to pop a third baby out into the world before most of my neighbors with children Elise's age have even started thinking about number two.

A few of my neighbors have questioned why I got pregnant, some of them have expressed how sad they are for me that I accidently got pregnant so soon (they look shocked when I tell them I planned and wanted this baby), but it's the old ladies who really let me know what's up.

About a week ago I was at a playground with Elise and Marie. An older woman I'd never met before came and sat by me.

Me: Hello, how are you?

Old lady: Good, good. Are those two blond girls yours?

Me: Yes.

Old lady: They are so cute! Mashallah (that's something you always say after giving a compliment.. it's something like a charm to keep the evil eye away in spite of the fact that you've brought good attention to something).

Me: Thank you.

Old lady: Looking at my giant belly, When are you having your next baby?

Me: I only have about two more weeks. Not long.

Old lady: suddenly very serious. What are you thinking? You can't take care of all three of these children. Let me tell you what you need to do. You need to go to the doctor and get your tubes tied.

Me: sitting in silent surprise.

Old lady: Listen to me. You are losing your youth. You will age too quickly and become old and ugly. These children are way too close together. You have to put a stop to it.

Me: trying to hold in my surprise and laughter and really not sure how to respond to this well intentioned advice (coming from a complete stranger!), Well, I'll have to think about that.

Old lady: No, don't think about it. Just go and do it.

I just sat there for 30 seconds or so, trying to think about what to say. I've learned by now that it does absolutely no good to try to explain different cultures to old ladies. They could really care less that this is the way we do things in America. Their way is the right way, period.

Old lady: in the same natural way she told me to get my tubes tied, Don't forget to wash your kids hands when you go inside. The playground is full of germs.

Me: Thanks, I will.

We sat a little longer then she got up and moved on, probably to find another poor young mother who desperately needed her advice.


Moriah said...

Hi Jamie! I don't know how many times I received advice like that when I was in Peace Corps. Advice like your friend Kristal is getting I'm sure. You have no children! You're not a woman! You will always be a child until you have your own child.

the Buckners said...

Old women are always right! At least she didn't offer to be the kids' care-taker as I was recently offered..."you don't worry, have a baby boy, name him Angelo, and I will take of him!"

Ethnoquest said...

Imagine if she would have seen the girls eating bubble gum yogurt!

Jamie and James said...

Name him Angelo? Will she babysit for free if you choose a different name? That's funny.

There was an error in this gadget