Thursday, November 21, 2013

It takes a village...of young Arab men

Parenting is such a communal task here. I've received all sorts of unsolicited advice from Arab moms on how to take care of baby Sterling, from covering him up from head to toe even when it's 40C outside, to eating lots of cakes and cookies to increase my milk supply (I kind of like that last one).

But I've also received parenting advice from the unlikeliest of creatures: young, unmarried Arab men.

First, the dairy aisle stockboy at the grocery store saw me putting low-fat yogurt and milk into my cart. He informed me, very kindly and earnestly, that I should be eating full-fat products because of the baby. He even pointed out to me where these full-fat products were located.

Then yesterday, I was walking with Sterling in the stroller to the little store on campus to get some orange juice. I was halfway there when a male student in a really nice car - so nice that I couldn't even tell you what kind it was - slowed down rapidly, turned around, drove back toward me, got out of the car, and told me not to go to the store because they had just sprayed for bugs (?) nearby and there were still fumes in the air there that would be harmful for me and the baby.

What could I do but say thanks and go back home? It was the most gallant thing to happen to me in a long time. So I turned around and went back home, as a symbol of my appreciation for his concern.

Maybe I should start asking these guys for their advice on how to soothe a colicky baby...

12 comments:

Suzanne Bubnash said...

So precious. I mean Sterling AND the young Arab men.

Susanne said...

Hahah...sweet!

Hannah said...

This post made my day. I think that's the sweetest thing I've read in a long time.

Julia Taylor said...

Made me smile. I'm glad that the experiences have been so sweet.

I have a friend who had her first baby about 8 months ago, and her husband was working in Saudi Arabia. She posted a few months ago, that often when she was out on walks, and it was hot, she would be offered a ride, (by both martied and unmarried men who knew her husband from work) to wherever she was going. She said that some were very insistent, and the biggest surprise was how many in unmarried men had car seats in their trunks.

It sermed really weird the first time she found herself and her baby in the backseat of a car, in a car seat that he pulled put of the trink, and he expertly adjusted the straps to fit her son.) She eventually realized that they tended to be younger siblings who were uncles, and they assumed that since she was a foreigner, that she didn't have an uncle or brother to drive her where she was going. She wears a headscarf, but otherwise tends to stand out, so it seems that she has been adopted by the entire engineering group, and her son has a lot of extra uncles.

I checked and her blog is set on private, but I put a link to the post here, so hopefully she will share some of her other adventures. She is a little more culturally lost, since she speaks English, Spanish and Japanese, but is struggling with Arabic. Her husband is the only married engineer on this specific project, and the housing for the group is all provided by the government. There is one Australian who is divorced and has a teenage daughter with him, who loves coming over to play with the baby, and watch Hulu shows in English.

Bridget said...

Yes, that is definitely part of it! Most of these students have very large families, so either they're an older brother to a bunch of kids, or they are an uncle to a bunch of kids. Either way, young men here know a lot more about babies than their Western counterparts. It's so fun to see teenage and young adult Arab males coo and fuss over babies. It's just not done in the US.

Jen said...

I wish the U.S. government cared about pesticides as much as your luxury-car-driving friend. =) But in all seriousness, THAT IS AWESOME!

Liz Johnson said...

(DUDE. The Land Rover ad is back.)

That is so awesome and sweet. I really love that they care so much and are looking out for you. I also hope you bought the full-fat yogurt, because that sounds especially delicious.

Sherwood family said...

SO TRUE! Every time I go to my local vegetable stand, the young men that work there immediately call Joseph over and pick him up, basically babysitting while I do my shopping. Then they put my bags in the car, and one even tried to buckle Joseph in his car seat. I really enjoy how it's cool to like kids in this part of the world.

Sarah Cook said...

How completely opposite from my experiences in America!

Sarah Cook said...

Though I must share the kindness of one middle-aged man and his teenage daughter. I had a cart full of groceries and was trying to carry Camri in her car seat at the same time out of the store and a sweet teenage girl came over and offered to push the cart for me. Her dad caught up after paying for their stuff and helped load all of my groceries into my car and told me to take care of the baby. By the time I buckled Camri in, all my groceries were in, trunk closed, cart put away, and they were walking off. I had to yell to tell them how much I appreciated it. Made my whole day

Glenda The Good said...

That baby is adorable!

Matthew said...

I really enjoy the communal parenting approaches in the Middle East, particularly the roles for Fathers.

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