Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bare Arms and Dirty Shoes: The Signs of a Horrible Mother, Obviously

Oh, winter in Belo Horizonte. If it weren't that the pool water is too cool for swimming, this might be my favorite time of year here. Day time temps up around 80, and much warmer than that in the sun, with cool brisk nights perfect for cuddling under the covers with my Sweetie.

Long sleeves are a good idea at night and in the early morning, but during the cloudless sunny days it is pretty much summer-clothes weather. Unless you're from here. In which case you pull out the heavy winter coat, scarf, gloves, stocking hat, boots . . . you certainly don't walk around in jeans and a tank top. But if you're a 6 1/2-month pregnant gringa pushing a stroller all over the hills of the city in the middle of the day and if you're a 1-year-old who is constantly hot and sweating, then you tend to opt for the latter option: jeans and tank top.

And if you opt for the more skin-baring option, especially for your child, you better brace yourself for the incredulous looks and incessant comments. It doesn't matter than you're having to put sunscreen on her little arms and any exposed leg because the hot sun will cook her otherwise. It doesn't matter that her feet and back are sweating while riding in her stroller. It's June in Belo Horizonte. Apparently, you are only being a good mother if you have her in a sweatsuit, hat, and under a heavy blanket.

We hadn't been here for 2 hours before the comments started. And they have yet to cease. But Monday's concerned citizen really takes top honors for minding other people's business.

We had been out for a nice, long walk, and I stopped on our way back to the hotel to treat myself to a R$2.50 double scoop of ice cream in a waffle cone. (I'm pregnant people, I need the calcium.) Two blocks away from "home", I was waiting to cross the street when I was joined by a well-to-do-looking middle-aged woman dressed in a wool-lined jacket and leather gloves. (I nearly had a heat stroke myself just looking at her!) She leaned over to look at Gabriela in the stroller and told her how pretty she was but that her mother was "doida" (which I would generally translate to English as "crazy" or "stupid". I certainly never hear the word used in a complimentary manner here.)

I quit licking my ice cream cone and just stared at the lady for a moment. Then the signal turned green, and I started to cross the street. Concerned Lady walked alongside of me. And proceeded to tell me how cold Gabriela was and that I should really dress her warmer in this weather or else she would end up sick and it would be my fault and so horrible for this little child to suffer only because her mother didn't have any sense.

I wasn't exactly sure how, or even if, I was supposed to respond to that. So I just went back to licking my ice cream cone and picked up my pace a little. Concerned Lady stayed right beside me and continued on her completely innocent sounding, pleasantly-toned rant.

She told me how she was never blessed with children of her own, but that she is passionate about kids and just cannot stand to see them mis-treated. Then she asked me if Gabriela was walking. But before I could stop licking my ice cream cone to answer, she answered for me: Oh, she must be walking because look at how dirty her shoes are. She proceeded to tell me that shoes are washable, and I really should do a better job at keeping them clean. Concerned Lady told me of a woman she knows with four kids and how this woman never even bothers to give the kids a bath and how she sure hoped that, even if I didn't wash her shoes, I at least bathed the little princess.

And for an entire city block she continued to talk. As I listened, shocked at how a complete stranger felt the need to criticize, with such specificity, my mothering capabilities, my ice cream cone became more and more delicious and I stayed focused on it. I only occasionally glanced over to Concerned Lady and raised my eyebrows from time to time. No response I could come up with seemed quite right. So I walked, and licked my ice cream cone, and listened, thinking about what a fun story this would be.

After we crossed another street, I needed to turn left, Concerned Lady was going straight. She leaned down to tell Gabriela goodbye and how she sure hopes that when she grows up she won't be as "doida" as her mother.

I laughed out loud the remaining 1/2 block to our hotel. And then I laughed as I told the story to Eric that night. And again yesterday as I recounted the tale to my friend, Megan. I have never in my life been happier to be able to understand Portuguese! What a shame it would have been to have missed all that!


Jane said...

Wow...that is down-right INSANE!!! And I thought my inlaws were bad....but a COMPLETE stranger!!! Let's all take a moment to THANK GOD that woman is not a mother.

You are an excellent mother. And that woman defines "doida".

Priorities are clearly confused when the cleanliness of a child's shoes somehow are an indication of good parenting???? Seriously!?!?

But as I am sure you know, explaining your position usually doesn't matter at all. That was a great story!

Vivi DiLopes Adams said...

Sou brasileira mas tenho que concordar com voce. A ultima vez que estive no Brasil, meus amigos e tambem pessoas desconhecidas, me criticaram muito. Quando estava no aeroporto com o Ian (ele estava meio irritado) sozinha com duas malas e o stroller ... usei o baby bjorn pra carrega-lo. Uma senhora me parou e disse que o fato dele estar chorando e irritado e' porque eu havia colocado ele dentro de uma mochila. E que eu deveria tira-lo e carrega-lo no colo.
Eu olhei pra ela, dei uma risadinha sem graca e sai sem falar nada. They don't deserve any explanation whatsoever.

Germano said...

Hmmm.... I think I have one drop to add here. In Brazilian culture, matriarcal in everything related to children business, "concerned old ladies" have a place. We let them talk and we don't argue much, and, many times, we comply. Its like they would have the right to talk and put their noses in this kind of situation.

Amanda said...

Well, at least you had that ice cream cone to keep your tongue from wagging back at her, haha!
GREAT story, it's so great that you saw the humor in such an "obnoxious" situation and even better that you shared it!

Katiebell said...

WOW! She has no clue, because I know you're an amazing mother of one, soon to be TWO! ; )

Anonymous said...

You are an awesome mother with a great sense of humor. I'm so proud that you just blew her off - although I was waiting for the line about you dumping the ice cream on her head (that would have been funny too). It's amazing how people without children are such experts on raising them. Your story truly made me LOL.

Rogério Penna said...

well, thats why she doesnt have any kids. She is so worried about everything that she avoided kids or else her life would be finished.

Rogério Penna said...

btw... how can someone use GLOVES or scarfs with temperatures of 80F?? (thats like 26C! Its HOT!)

Look, I am brazilian and I only put something more than a t-shirt when the temperature drops below 15C (59F). (this whole week maximum temperatures in the day have been around 50F, falling to around 42-38F in the night)

There mineiros must be crazy...