Sunday, October 25, 2009

A Typical Thing


I meant it when I said I've been keeping a list.

In the park a couple of months ago, some woman was hovering over LE as he climbed the stairs to the slide going "Careful! Careful! You'll fall! You'll fall!" as though I weren't standing right there and as though a 2 1/2 year old isn't perfectly capable of climbing stairs. Her hovering was actually causing him more problems than the stairs were because she kept kind of grabbing at him and knocking him about.

Then suddenly she took hold of the waistband of his pants and pulled, which made him lose his balance. She caught him and started tucking in his shirt. "Atlet yok," she chided me. "Rüzgar çarpar, hasta olur." ("He's not wearing an undershirt. The wind hits, he'll get sick.") The she went on to explain to me how she currently had a cold because of the wind and was just trying to save LE from the same terrible fate. Of having a cold. From the deadly wind.

Yeah, it was windy but it was also like 75 degrees outside. A lot of Turkish people seem to consider the temperature based on the date rather than actual heat. After September 1, it's FALL and it's COLD and therefore EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, even though the summer heat can hang on into November sometimes. Her own kid was wearing a coat, scarf, and woolly hat with fur-lined boots and the woman had a winter coat and sweater on. I was in a tank top and capris.

LE and I have been spending a lot of time in the park. The good park with the good sand. It seems to be the main hangout for the very small kids, though in the afternoon it fills up with bigger kids who play annoying games like Let's Kick the Football at the Play Structure Even When Some Small Kid is Teetering Up There or Let's Chase Each Other With Our Eyes Closed and Knock Small Kids Out Of Our Way.

When it's small kids though it's mostly okay, unless, heaven forbid, some kid has brought a toy, which immediately results in Toddler Dramas. As much as I love LE, he's definitely the turd in the punchbowl with the Toddler Dramas because he snatches things from other kids, even babies, and runs away. I quit bringing toys with us to the park ages ago because he quickly loses interest and I'm stuck carrying the damn thing around. But whenever some other kid has a toy, LE suddenly will simply die if he can't have it, even if it's a toy he never would have given a second thought about otherwise. So I dread the toys in the park.

This isn't special for Turkey. In America it was the same, though the drama played out differently. In Turkey, people tell their kids to share but don't force it, and then often produce another toy so that no child cries even for one second. In America, all the Park Mommies had to make a big show about how they were Teaching Their Kids To Share. So they'd give their kid a toy, and wait until another kid tried to take it, then try to force their kid to give up the beloved possession, and then all the kids would cry and the parents would start to offer elaborate excuses more or less designed to exonerate themselves from the guilt of being someone who Didn't Teach Their Kids To Share.

I was kind of the Park Asshole because LE always had this smelly Nerf basketball that he would never share (and I don't mean good smelly-- I mean smelly the way things get in Oregon because they stay damp for a long time). I never tried to make him share it, and would just politely tell the parent their kid had no chance at the smelly Nerf basketball. I know better than to try to take a ball from my kid. No Teachable Moment is worth upsetting him that much.

For the most part, the Park Mommies in America were a pretty scary bunch. I got along all right with the foreign mommies (thank goodness there were more of them than American Mommies), but there was only one American Mommy I really liked because she acknowledged this crappy sharing behavior and didn't really get into it. Her kid had this plastic lawnmower that blew bubbles when pushed. Their house was near the park and the kid would suddenly run off to fetch his mower and his mom would go, "Oh shit, the Drama Mower." And indeed it was. A cruel bit of gossip other Park Mommies talked about with furrowed eyebrows and voices dripping with silent indictment was that they'd gone and bought their kids their own Drama Mowers because that kid Wouldn't Share. Oh, the shame. I suppose when I wasn't there they harped on about the smelly Nerf basketballs they'd had to buy their kids.

I tried to write a post about the American Mommies when I was in America, but I couldn't reduce the rant to a post-able length, about all their tacit disapproval and judging and "I'm not being competitive but here's how my kid is so much better/smarter/nicer than yours and here's how I'm such a better parent than you are" ultra-competitiveness. It actually made me miss the Turkish Mommies when they do Typical things like tuck in my kid's shirt and look at me like I'm an idiot.

Even though it annoys the hell out me when people jump in and take care of my kid right in front of me as though I'm a neglectful parent because I don't know how to protect my kid from dangerous things like Air and Wind and Cold Things, I admit I appreciate that they're at least up front about it.


siobhan said...

Hmmm. You've thrown me a little bit with this interesting new slant. I've got to admit you've got a point though. In the UK, you're often made to feel guilty for being bothered what your kids do, 'take 'em to the pub, stick 'em in the play area, get a pint and leave 'em to it, what the hell's wrong with you?'

Anonymous said...


Nice one Justme. We will never understand the locals.

Stranger said...

I don't understand the locals anywhere, apparently-- not her or the US. I just try to stay under their radar.

Siobhan, do they really have pubs with play areas in the UK? Brilliant idea.

siobhan said...

You don't think we'd let having kids get in the way of a good sesh, do you?

Nomad said...

Wonderful post. Had me giggling all the way through. But one question comes to my mind, is it only in Izmir that people that bring their babies and tots to bars and stay out past midnight?
As a non-parent, I have always been the one with comic book GRRR over my head when some proud parent throws a apologetic (not really) smile at me as his/her baby is screaming its poor head off, obviously saying, "Please take me 'ome. Poleze....." I am expected to say something along the lines of "Isn't his beet red face and nerve-jangling shrieks just as cute as.. as something cute?" In fact, I am thinking: You wanted this kid, not me. Why are you making us suffer!"
And these are the same people that worry about a bit of fresh air and a breeze??

Stranger said...

Nope, that happens in Istanbul too, Nomad. Drives me nuts. It seems to me one of the unwritten rules of child-rearing is "No more nice, grown-up, leisurely dinners out without getting a sitter." And actually, I can't even figure WHY people would bring their kids dinner. How is dinner enjoyable with a screaming kid?

The other thing that drives me nuts is when people let their kids loose in a crowded restaurant where they get in the waiters' way and disturb other people's tables while the parents are serenely having a nice dinner, pointedly ignoring their brats while expecting other people to look after them.

That's another unwritten rule of child-rearing: "There are no nice dinners out with the kids, unless they're babies who sleep the whole time." (LE used to sleep the whole time, in his carseat under the table. Bliss!) With LE, we go to the restaurant early before it's crowded, we try to stick to places with play areas and a glut of bored busboys who like the play areas as much as the kids, and we eat quickly, taking turns jumping up to chase, capture, or discipline, then get out of there in time for bedtime.

Okay, it's nice in a different way. But I was childless long enough to clearly remember how freaking annoying other people's kids can be when they're imposed on the unwilling.