Squinting in the bright sun and half-dragging my whining toddler, emotions are running high. I had the great idea to take my kids to Parque 93 after their doctor’s appointment. Normally not a problem, but Ingrid is a little sick and I haven’t slept well this week. More frustrated by the minute, I’m doing everything not to scream at her in the street as she drags her feet and moans.
If we can just get within sight of the playground, she’ll be OK.
All of a sudden, I’m stopped in my tracks by a man chasing us.
“Senora!” He cries, “Don’t you have a hat you can put on your baby? He’s going to get sun-burned!”
What on earth?
I don’t have a hat. And can’t he see how much trouble I’m having with the toddler? My baby is the least of my worries at this very second. And I’m completely taken alarmed having been chased by a total stranger.
On a normal day, I can ignore. I can smile and nod. I can be polite.
With a huge eye-roll and angry sigh, I turn my back on him and walk briskly away.
Arriving at the park, Ingrid perks up seeing all the amazing fun things to play on and runs off happily. I sit down heavily in the shade and plop the baby on the ground in front of me.
I’m so lost in my grumpy, frustrated thoughts and trying really hard not to think about the 20+ minute uber ride to get home from here.
This was a bad idea.
I realize David is putting sticks in his mouth. I haven’t brought any toys, but I hand him my water bottle to play with. After two minutes of pulling more debris out of his mouth, I move him to the bench next to me.
Next to me, a nanny speaks up, “He really should be on the ground. He’s going to fall off the bench.”
“If I put him on the ground, he eats the leaves,” I explain.
“Well, he is going to hit his head on the back of the bench,” she declares and puts her arm on the bench behind him.
If I could move, I would, but this is the only seat in the shade.
I begrudgingly move him back to the ground.
Two minutes later, a grandmother passes by: “Senora, he’s eating leaves,” she informs me.
I can’t win.
Unsolicited parenting advice is nothing new and definitely not exclusive to Colombia. I get my fair share in the US, but I find that there it’s more silent judgment, whereas here – there’s nothing silent about it. 😉
Maybe it’s because I’m young. Or foreign. Or I constantly look like I’m drowning. But there’s no end to it.
Most of the comments I get are related to my children not wearing proper outdoor gear, but one time a nanny advised me to bathe by baby in chamomile water every night. He’ll definitely sleep through the night, she said matter-of-factly, “my little girl has been since 3 months!”
And it’s not all bad! Colombians value and love children! I have plenty of conversations on the playground about my beautiful and sweet children. I commiserate with Colombian moms about teaching little ones to share. I hear my children called “muñecas hermosas” (beautiful dolls) about 1.2 million times a day. Lots of mamas and abuelas stop me on the street with encouragement – “I had three! It gets easier!”
The advice comes from a good place. The positive comments really do outweigh any criticisms. And, it has definitely taught a valuable lesson about my own silent mom-judgment. 🙂