Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Two postings inspired by my dad. Part I- Survival of the fittest.

Tonight, we are watching the Brit Awards 2010. Can’t believe JLS won the breakthrough act of the year. And Lady Gaga...I just can’t decide, to be honest, whether she is an extremely cool singer or a very annoying transvestite.

I was talking to my father on Sunday. Just decided it has been a long time since I heard his voice. And my father has a beautiful voice. A lot of very young and very pretty girls back in the sixties fell hopelessly for that baritone, accompanied by some impressive guitar skills, over and over again. Who knows? I might have some illegitimate half-sisters or half-brothers scattered all over ex-Soviet Union.

There is however, one official half-sister that I know of, which my father produced at the ripe age of 64.

I felt obliged to ask how she was. She was fine, he said. Growing up and climbing everywhere. She pulls the computer chair to the piano and climbs on it, so that she could get on top of the cupboard.

I expressed my concerns about the two year old climbing on top of pianos and cupboards with glass doors. My father dismissed them by moving on to another topic.

He then stopped briefly, to tell me that the girl was now trying to repair something with his screw driver. Ha-ha, he laughed.

Papa,- I said politely- should she be allowed to play with screw drivers?

Oh, we tell her not to,- he says- but she takes it anyway.

Right,I said, right.

After a few minutes of discussing my dad’s killing smoking habit, we had to stop once again, this time because of a loud cry.

Oh,-my father said very calmly- this was going to happen. She must have got an electric shock. I told her not to stick that screwdriver into electric sockets. See what happens? - He said to the screaming child- I told you not to stick that thing in the socket and you keep doing that!

Dad!- I say loudly- she can die from that?!

Well...- his beautiful voice sounded calm- she will learn now, wont she. Come, he adds happily, speak to your half-sister in London.

I hung up in a stupor. How do Azeri children survive? Without car seats, socket and sharp corner covers, stair gates and door stoppers? Drinking caffeinated tea from the toddler age and breathing in clouds of cigarette smoke... I am not sure how I have ever survived, to be honest. Maybe, I am like a ticking bomb. Maybe, I am quietly rotting inside.

But back in the UK, at work, we studied safeguarding today. Do you remember me telling you how important sustainability was in the UK? Well, forget that one. It is no longer the ‘thing’ to get obsessive about. The thing of today is safeguarding.

You are probably thinking what does this 'safe-guard-ing' have to do with the price of fish? Well, it made me think about protecting children, about neglect as a form of abuse, about worrying too much and not worrying enough..…..about lots of things.


  1. I love your dad's attitude. Poor little girl... but she'll learn the hard(est) way.
    I'm intrigued about your dad's voice. Something like Keanu Reeve's? I simply love his manly voice.

  2. Neglect IS a form of abuse. I had the misfortune of observing a mother ignore her two kids for a week at my house over the holidays. She sat there and told stories about parenting & who knows what while her toddler was trying to commit suicide in 1,000 different ways. She would throw a slice of meat or bread from the table onto his tray and turn her back to him. He would take a bite and throw the rest of the food on the floor. His mother wouldn’t move a muscle to pick it up or check if he ate anything. He screamed every day all the time non-stop. He was hungry. I kept asking her what to feed him and she would just give me a blank stare. Anyway, we finally figured out what to feed him and he stopped crying. His mother didn’t notice either way. All of these characters are American, btw. And even though they are only few years younger than me, I feel 100 years old next to them.

  3. Your dad's approach to babysitting is definitely unorthodox! You are very lucky to have survived it :-)

    Speaking seriously, I think Azeri toddlers on average are being more protected than their western counterparts: they always have their mothers, grandmothers, and aunts watching their every step and preventing their contact with anything not deemed sufficiently safe or sanitary. Another day I watched a kid in public park roll downhill on wet grass 4 times, his mother smiling at him. Azeri mother would probably had a heart attack...

  4. @Riyad: Funnily enough, I was just talking to my mother, who demanded I added a paragraph where I would explain that I'd survived due to her and my grandmother's watchful eye. :)

    So... yes. Azeri mothers and grandmothers do watch every step a child makes. However, I find the approach to what is safe and what is not very different. There are lots of examples, but even your wet grass is a good one. :) It would be considered exploring the nature here. :) Whereas Azeri mothers would see it as "get wet-catch cold" event. Things that every mother knows here- even before she becomes one- like dangers of unpasteurised milk in pregnancy, folic acid, etc...I doubt are of any concern back home. As I said, just very different. When you raise a child in this country, looking back at how it is done, or used to be done? in baku just amuses me. The number of layers kids in Baku wear on a warm day is the most bizarre way of “protecting” them.

  5. @Nata...We could talking about which way of growing children is better,but I know, by my own expirience.Trust me,neglected,ignored children will grow up /if survived :-)/in independent,with strong personality adults ...full of love and respect to their nedodelannih,Moms.

  6. @Anonymous. OMG, yes! You are absolutely right. These kids will be loving and protective of their mother, no doubt. Meanwhile, more doting mothers will be deemed overbearing and annoying :)
    I gave it a lot of thought. I think the reverse psychology is at play here. Our biggest fear as children is a fear of abandonment. So if our Mother is ignoring us, we cling to her with all of our strength for the rest of our lives even as adults. And if our Mother is protective and is always there for us, we take her love for granted and move on. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  7. I used to be so laid back. Now that I am a mother, I've been getting anxiety attacks!

  8. @Scary: Agree, western approach is more scientific, and I support it 99%. All I'm saying is that people have been raising children for thousands of years, and the culture has distilled this common experience into a set of "do"s and "don't"s. This works most of the time - but it's inefficient against the evils created by the technological progress (cellphones, internet, etc.).

    Countries that don't have a common culture (like USA, for example), tend to rely too much on science. Well, guess what: there are multiple scientific theories that contradict one another... This isn't limited to child safety, by the way. Dieting (and eating in general) is another great example.

  9. @ Gabriela: No, LOL not quite like Keanu's. Just a very good singing voice.

  10. I think nowadays we tend to over protect children. Children should be allowed to fall over and skin their knees, should be allowed to get their hands and face dirty and climb on chairs. It is all part of growing up you have to take the rough with the smooth. Of course I am not suggesting that they should be allowed to do as they please and there must be a clear list of can and cannot do's. but you cannot wrap them in cotton wool.

  11. I demand a carseat law in Azerbaijan!!:) And a seat belt law, too. Well, there is one, but who cares about it there? Living here and abiding by all these laws, and actually understanding that these are for our own safety, I have become a worry frick. Especially worrying about kids. I don't know how to behave when I go back to Baku:))

  12. Science-based care maybe not perfect but it just makes more sense than many child care practices that are based on old fears, ignorance and traditions. I remember having an argument with a relative who was insisting that my newborn should be wearing MORE clothes in a 38 C degree heat because there is "skvaznyak" (another obsession in many cultures. Whereas I was worrying about my child being overheated which can increase the risk of dying SIDS. Another relative was asking me why I don't start giving dolma meat to my kid who was three months old at that time:-) She said she gave it to hers:-)