Thursday, March 18, 2010

If you were a bug on a wall, you might hear this....

Conversation 1:

Me to my mother-in-law: "Sister-in-law and I are just going out to buy Yasmine a play-pen. Can I leave Yasmine with you?"
MIL: Oh, Yes. I'd love that!
Father-in-Law: "Aren't you taking Yasmine?"
Me: "Ah, no, it will just be easier if we can run in and out"
FIL: "Well won't Yasmine be angry"
Me: VERY uncomfortable silence
MIL: "No, go leave her with me, please!"
Me: "I don't think Yasmine knows angry yet, plus she needs to know that mom goes away and mom comes back"
FIL: "Well I think she will cry and be very angry with you"
ME to MIL: "OK bye then, see you in about an hour"

NB: Yasmine was fine and didn't even know I was gone!!!

Conversation #2
Me to MIL: "We moved Yasmine into her own room. She sleeps better and so do we"
MIL: SHOCKED. "No you must not put her in her own room. She'll be lonely!"
Me: She's 5 months, she's ready"
MIL: SHOCKED "No, Shelley, No."
ME: "So what are we having for dinner?"

NB: Yasmine never even noticed she was in her own room and sleeps 100 times better now and so do we!

Conversation # 3
Me: "My sister and her hubby are going to Hawaii for 10 days in May"
MIL: "With their son?"
ME: "No, Quinn is staying with Grandad (my dad). Lucky boy!!"
MIL: SHOCKED "I could never leave my children"
Me: "It's good for my sis and hubby and good for Quinn, and great for my dad"
MIL: "10 days is too long Shelley"
ME: "So what's for dinner?"

NB: You rock sis!! You and hubby go and have fun! Quinn will have a blast with Grandad, and dad will LOVE IT! So will Quinn! He'll miss you but he'll be a better baby for it. I guarantee it! children here could use to be away from their parents more often. Believe me!!

I have 2 points here, first, is that kids are not taught to be independent here. They are taught to rely on their parents and never to be away from them. This is not my theory, I just read it in a cross cultural communication article my MIL gave me. She read it to understand my wacky western ways. I'm not even kidding. When we moved out, she was VERY upset. Irrational almost. But then she read this article written by an Indian, about how North Americans and Indians differ, and it even had a special section on children. How we westerners teach our children independence (their own room, how to make their own decisions, get the hell out at 18), you know.... and how they coddle and don't teach their children independence. The article has definitely helped her to understand some of the differences, or at least it has helped her to cope with the differences. I don't really think she'll ever truly get it. And that is OK. At least she is trying.
My second point, is that I am learning to shut the hell up! I don't argue, I don't try to make them understand. The culture is just too different. I say my peace, and if they don't like it, or oppose or give advice, I listen, and then I just do what I want, with my husband's support of course!! At first he didn't want Yasmine to have her own room, but after a little convincing and letting me try it out, he realized it made the MOST sense, for her and for us!

So, if you were a bug on a wall, you'd get to hear these interesting conversations. They certainly make life interesting....

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Raising" a baby in India

Raising Yasmine in India could be a challenge, it could be difficult, it could be a lot of things, if I were an overly cautious parent, or want to put my daughter in a bubble.
Let's get one thing straight, India is one of the dirtiest countries in the world; it's dusty, it's polluted, cows roam around freely, yet they have a billion people and women have babies everyday and raise them successfully, so it can be done, even by "western" standards.

Now I do take many precautions, I use vinegar water and fresh lime juice that I made to clean Yasmine's room and the surfaces on which she might come in contact with. I use a mosquito net whenever I can, and I use bottled mineral water and boil it before I give it to her in her sippy cup or put it in her food. I wash her cloth toys a few times a week to ward off the dust and she is never around cigarette smoke. But I don't: boil her bath water, I use it from the tap and I know she gets some in her mouth, and when she bathes with me, she sucks the water off my shoulder. I don't tie her car seat in the belth buckles in the car (there are none)! She sits in a carrier and she is buckled in, but the cars aren't made to hold car seats. Our car is an older version and it's not even possible. My in-laws have never used carriers, even some of my western friends here don't use carriers, they just sit their baby on their laps (like we all did in Canada in the 70's and maybe even the 80's). You go at much slower speeds here, since there is so much traffic (40km/hr is the average I would say).
I don't stop too many people from holding her and I mean extended family (honestly here they just take her out of my arms before I have a chance to react). Total strangers want to hold her, people think it is OK to do that. But I've learned to chill out a bit. I would never let a total stranger hold my daughter, but when the maid comes over, she plays with Yasmine and today the maid brought her daughter and she hugged Yasmine about 5 times. Yasmine thought it was the funniest thing in the world too to have this little girl try to lift her up. I've even taken Yasmine in a auto rickshaw.

My point is, exposing Yasmine to some bacteria, and some of the water here is good for her. It will strengthen her immune system and allow her to fight off colds easier. Actually she caught a cold from her father, and she was barely sick for a day and fought it off quicker than she was actually sick. I also take some responsibility in her quickness to fight the cold. I was very healthy during my pregnancy, I never smoked, rarely drank caffeine, never drank alcohol and am nursing her so she gets all the antibodies to fight these little viruses that go around. Sometimes you need to give up a few things for a little while for the goodness of your child. Being a parent means being unselfish.
I have many western friends here all raising their children here for a little while and we all try to give our children a lot of the things that they would at home in our countries, but it is not always possible. But we do our best.
My in-laws think I am crazy I think. I come visit them with a portable playpen so Yasmine has a place to play and nap that is (clean to my standards) and so that she is not always in someone's arms. I am also feeding her carrots and green beans, and I think my MIL was probably feeding my husband curry and dal (lentil soup) at this point when he was a baby, or at least not taking such pains in preparing the food as I do. We just do things differently, one is not more right than the other, it's just different.
I am not saying I am perfect or better for raising my daughter this way, it's just different to how other's might raise their children. All that matters, to me, is that I see a healthy, happy, smiling baby every morning and every night when I put her to bed. And I'll continue to do the things I am doing and what I think is right, for her.
I think this small part of our lives in India will enrich us and will definitely put me more at ease when I am back in Canada. Everything will seem so mild in comparison, and I'll be that very easy going parent in the corner not freaking out when her daughter puts something in her mouth, while a lot of the other parents will be running around with their hand sanitizer disinfecting everything in sight. My daughter will probably be the one with less colds and a stronger immune system too. Believe me, you're kid can't fight colds if you never let it build up an immunity to the bacteria that is out there.
Raising a baby in India is not always the easiest thing in the world, but it is manageable, you just have to sometimes go with the flow and chill out!