this great post at the (always beautifully written) golden papaya really strikes a chord with me, and in an effort to build a conversation around these issues, i am going to force myself to put pen to paper, so to speak. (plus, i promised a whole series of these posts, so i better get started).
obviously, things are different here than where i grew up. there are many levels to these differences - some are differences between argentina and canada:
a latino culture instead of a largely anglo-saxon & multi-ethnic one (with all the caveats about the diversity that is also present in argentina and is also invisibilized in canada); a 'developing' country instead of a 'developed' one; a hotbed of social and political activism instead of a breeding ground of exasperating apathy and complacency...and some are differences between macondo and toronto:
a small town in a small province instead of the very centre of the universe itself; a poorly educated population instead of a highly educated population; rural poverty instead of urban affluence (again with all the usual caveats)...see? i'm already bogged down.
back to my parental culture shock. i knew that one of the hardest things for us would be the racism, sexism and homophobia that is so present in the media and in the many kinds of everyday conversations we are bound to have here.
i've learned that we can and will stand up at times to speak out about things. racism, sexism, homophobia are not ok. i'll do what i can to teach that to my kids and to say so to their teachers, friends and relatives. it will still really upset me, and it will be a challenge to identify when it is worth the angst and who isn't worth the energy. but f. and i are both on the same page about this, which makes everything a lot easier.
other things no longer seem as important as they did even recently. nobody here worries about sugar in kids' diets, for example. bring on the medialunas con dulce de leche and the chocolate birthday cake. i admit to having fretted about this, but really, i've chilled out. we have no fast food, no soft drinks, in fact they almost never eat anything packaged at all. so sugar? yeah, okay. they get lots of exercise. they're not particularly hyper. i can live with it. i think (see below).
when i see the cheesies and coca-cola and lollipops and endless other crap many kids here have as regular parts of their diets, i wonder how long it will be until our little guys start begging for junk food. but this is a concern that i can safely tuck away until later.
for now, they're only exposed to junk food at birthday parties or when their cousins come to visit. we (selectively) let the monster indulge a little bit (a tiny bit of coca cola mixed with water, a free-for-all on potato chips since he only sees them a few times a year), and so far, he's okay with that. he will even just ask for a few sucks on the lollipop that the señora at the local shop gave him before asking me to put it away for later.
i regret that i can't get anything organic unless i go to walmart, of all places. and even then i can't get the organic stuff i really would like: milk, cheese, yogurt (i can't even get plain yogurt here, it's all flavoured and sweetened), apples, pears, green beans. but i can't do anything about this, so that's that. we get local honey, fresh eggs, and i have a little fantasy of myself making my own yogurt one day, but have yet to make it a reality (along with lots of other ways in which i'd love to be a little more domestic...)
what i find hard about all of this is not so much what the kids end up eating, which i have more or less come to terms with.
(credit has to go to my partner f. here for helping me to let go of a lot of worry about all this. cookies for snacks, so much sugar in everything and all the white flour stuff just made me feel like a Bad Parent. but f. is good at that thing called The Bigger Picture, which i highly recommend looking at every now and then.)
what i find hard is that sugar isn't even on the radar here as something to try to minimize. some people (very few) do shun soft drinks and cheesies and other types of junk food, but cookies and dulce de leche and ice cream and cake and tablespoons of extra sugar in the kids' chocolate milk are just yummy, and their intake is not limited.
this is the culture-shock part of it.
because in canada, people eat lots of sugar too. but there is a general consensus that it's not ideal, that it makes kids too hyper, that it messes with their sleep, with their teeth, with their health. but here, when asked why i want to keep sugar out of their diets, to the point of wanting to make sugar-free treats and snacks, i stumble to find an answer. we take good care of their teeth, they're active and not at risk of obesity - why indeed does it seem so important to me?
i don't know.
i never ever questioned it before, and now i'm at a loss. (even google couldn't help me this time). it's these kinds of speechless moments when i really feel the parental culture shock. how seriously should i take this? by letting go a little and going with the flow, am i not doing the best i can to protect my kids' health?
i lose my bearings all the time over issues just like this.
some of the topics still to come:
- argentina-time (10pm dinner; no bedtime (gasp!))
- dealing with lice & parasites
- angst about hiring some help around the house
- teaching diversity
- insisting on bilingualism
- can you believe that they (meaning moms or the hired help) IRON the kids' t-shirts??