Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Parenting Styles

I am not a perfect parent by any stretch of the imagination. I run out of patience after the third or forth time Ilya pours everything she owns on the floor and refuses to pick it up. I let her eat dirt, small bugs, things covered in dirt, food off the get the idea. My point is: I am the last person who should be judging other parents and their parenting techniques.

With that said, I am going to "discuss" some "interesting" parenting styles I've noticed here in Germany.

First, there is the "absent" parent. Now, I am the first to admit that American parents can be a tad...overprotective of their children. Circling around them constantly like a bumble bee. Applying gobs of creams and bandages for every little scrape and bruise. Never letting them out of their sight for an instant. The "absent" parents in Germany are pretty much the opposite of that. Children just walk around all the time. Unsupervised. Alone. All the time. I'm not talking about older children either. Little kids - 5 years old sometimes. I caught one of these children decorating the sandbox with his pee at the park. When he noticed that I had noticed him, he quickly put himself away and proceeded to play with the wet spot.

Second, there are the smokers. Apparently, the whole, "cigarettes and can kill you and your children" campaign hasn't quite reached these German people. I swear, 90% of the population smokes - all the time. Mothers will plop their babies down in the sand then sit right behind them and light up. It hurts to watch. Its not just a couple of random, uninformed parents either. Almost every time I take Ilya to the park, there is at least one group of parents smoking right next to their kids.

Third, there are the givers. When Ilya was born, I was unofficially invited into the very exclusive "mothers club." I instantly shared an incredibly personal experience with millions other mothers all across the county. This would manifest in knowing glances as Ilya had a meltdown in public as well as unsolicited advice about everything from breast feeding to preschools. Germans take this club much more seriously. When I take Ilya to the park, random parents will pick her up when she stumbles, lend her toys to play with, and try (unsuccessfully) to talk to me. Parenting is seen as much more of a community activity. I like that. What I don't like, are the parents that take that a bit further. On three separate occasions since arriving here, random parents have shoved (not offered, mind you but SHOVED) candy into Ilya's hand then smiled like they had done their good deed for the day. Have you ever tried taking candy from a baby? Because it is NOT easy. Thanks for being nice, but stop giving my child sugar!

Enough ranting and raving. Ilya and I bought bikes yesterday and I can't wait to ride around exploring the city. Everything is flat and bikers get their own lane ON THE SIDEWALK. How cool is that? As soon as Ilya's seat arrives and Adam gets his own bike, we're never going to use the tram again!

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