Thursday, October 9, 2014

Raising a baby in Turkey - Part 2: Baby love

My last post about an American raising a baby in Turkey was about a diametrically opposed culture clash between Turkish and American ideas of what's best for a baby, so I thought I'd look at a more positive difference this time.

Turks love babies. I mean, pretty much almost every Turk goes gaga over every baby. It's amazing. They don't seem to lose their enthusiasm. When I go out with Moonpie I get stopped probably at least 10 times by people who just want to oodle over her. I can't just run into the grocery store "real quick" because the cashier will literally stand up, walk around the register and kneel down by Moonpie's stroller to play with her and try to get her to smile for a few minutes before checking me out. I am not even kidding, people.

Kids barely older than Moonpie come over to look at the "baby". Yeah, I don't like it when two-year-olds are touching her face, but hey. At the park last week a pair of 10-year-old twin girls wanted to slide with her down the slide and push her around the park by themselves (I said no, for the record). It's just hard to explain the universality of the baby love in Turkey. 20 year old men go crazy for babies. Moonpie's sock once fell off in an Adidas store and once one staff member realized what we were looking for we had 5 guys looking through the whole store. We couldn't find it, so we left, but then one of the guys came running out after us waving the pink sock and put it back on Moonpie's foot, all the while raving about how cute she was. True story.

We went to a restaurant with my parents and I wish I had taken a picture of the three waiters hovering around Moonpie's highchair, occasionally reaching in to give her a spoonful of food if I was otherwise occupied for a second. I think my parents were both mystified and horrified. People (friends and strangers) have given her chicken, cookies, pudding and ice cream without my permission, and a woman on the metro tried to give her a chocolate bar when she was like 5 months old. In America people would hesitate due to the possibly presence of allergies, or, I don't know, respect for the parents, maybe, or common sense? I digress.

I'm not even going to mention the over 50 female crowd. There is a word in Turkish - "Mashallah" - that basically is meant to protect the person spoken to from evil powers and such, and it's said to babies and kids (and me, not sure why, usually seems to be because I'm tall). Anyway, Turkish women say that word often and go absolutely nuts for my baby, even when they have their own grandkids. They just can't get enough. I think it's so sweet. I love it when people oodle over my baby.

The hard part about this for me is that strangers try to hold her, as in try to rip her out of my arms. Random woman at the bank, random woman in the checkout line, cleaning lady at the hospital, just people everywhere. This is the hardest part about this cultural difference. I know they aren't trying to be creepy, but it still creeps the heck out of me. I just say, "No, baby doesn't want you to hold her. She'll cry." They usually back off.

I'm not saying Americans don't love babies, but it's a different kind of love. Americans definitely don't go as crazy over strangers' kids. There's not really a concept of "stranger danger" for kids in Turkey, for better or worse. Americans admire kids from afar, with words like "cute baby" or "oh, look at the baby". There isn't a lot of reaching into the stroller, touching the face, giving of chocolate bars or grabbing out of the mother's arms going on in America. 

Sure, I feel protective about people touching her face (germs!) and giving her food, and we decided as a general rule not to let strangers hold her, but it feels great to have people making such a fuss. She looooooves the attention, too. She's such a flirt. Even at three months she was flashing her toothless grin around seeing what kind of reaction she could get. I just chalk it up as part of our multi-cultural life!

1 comment:

  1. Yes, it is true. I was amazed and horrified all at once! I thought we just had very attentive waiters and the whole while they were catering to little Moonpie. Of course she is the most adorable baby ever. Who wouldn't gaa gala over her.