Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Senhora, Your Baby Is Freezing To Death

In Brazil it is very common for total strangers to advise you that your child is dying of discomfort, hunger, or some other woeful act of motherly negligence. And top on the list of the Brazilian busy-body's preoccupations is whether or not your child is cold.

Most conversations of this kind start with lavish praise for your infant: "What a cutie", "The most beautiful thing in the world", "Is it your first?". You nod and smile with pride. Then, "He needs socks on!"

Usually, it isn't malicious. It derives from a very sincere adoration and concern that Brazilians have for children. (In what other country could you take a toddler to a smart restaurant for dinner and let him wander the floor chatting to all the other diners without generating a single bad vibe?)

Sometimes however, it oversteps the mark. On one 18 degree day, a man informed me that the supermarket vegetable aisle was not the place for my poor cold baby. (Said baby was fully clothed, socks aside, and gurgling.) I politely replied 'I think he's OK' and inched the pushchair closer to the overpriced imported grapes. At this point the man started screaming at me in disgust. He had been a pediatrician for 20 years and apparently had never witnessed such irresponsible parenting.

My stock reply in such situation is "In Scotland, where I come from, this temperature would be mid-summer", for in all cold-related arguments I claim to come from Scotland. Gives me the upper hand, don't you agree?

I remember going to Portobello beach in Edinburgh as a schoolgirl, and having to dig a massive trough for us all to lie in so that our goosebumps wouldn't get windburn. I also remember we ate a lot of ice cream. My Scottish grandmother had a freezer-full of the stuff, and famously boasted that she had never knowingly turned one down in her life. All those Scottish Italian ice-cream families, with successful businesses despite the cold climate.

In my opinion, there is no circumstance which disqualifies a day from the ice-cream or lolly-consuming calendar. Here in Brazil, you do not eat ice cream, let alone go out to the park, if it rains. You certainly do not eat ice cream if you have a cold for you will surely catch pneumonia and probably die. You don't give your children iced drinks or let them hang around the house naked or let them swim in months without 'r' in the name, all for the same reason. I have witnessed more cross-cultural couples bickering over these matters than anything else.

It's winter here at the moment, around 23-degrees in the afternoon. People here are donning their novelty jumpers and gloves. My children are still going to the beach to play in the sand, drinking apple juice on the rocks and watching TV in their birthday suits. (No matter how hard I try, my 3 year old Little Bear will not keep his clothes on).

The weekend before last I let them swim in a pool. Admittedly, they were in wetsuits, but still, it was cold.

On the Monday, Little Bear got a temperature. By Tuesday it was really high. He didn't go to school for the whole week. On Saturday he was diagnosed at the hospital with bronchial pneumonia, and I'm wondering if maybe the Brazilians know something after all.

He didn't eat for 5 days, the poor little mite. Finally, today he got his appetite back, and what did he want? An Ice Lolly. And did he get it? Of course he did. Just don't tell anyone.


  1. I loved this post Tasha because coming from Canada, I'm so with you ! Vivi is naked all the time here too, in SP, and we don't care really. One time, I got very mad at a girl that stopped me on the street to tell me that Vivi had vomitted. I knew she had vomitted and I was rushing back home to clean her up. The poor girl on the street was the 4th person to stop me and tell me Vivi was sick. I yelled so hard at here that I think I made her cry... I was so furious ! I told her to bug off ! Anyways, keep up the blog, I'm loving it !

  2. Vanessa Monzon10 June 2010 at 16:54

    Ha, so right on with the comments,it does seem to add a bit of extra pressure to the NEW parent. GREAT BLOG, love it!

  3. And be careful with the deadly "friagem" which for some reason is always on one's back.

  4. I posted on the same topic on the same day... neither of us is alone! Hope your little one is feeling better. Loving the blog!

  5. I love the blog, I just got to Rio with my two little ones and Brazilian husband and find the same super cautious child-focused attitude everywhere. "You're kids are cold, they can't help you carry groceries, don't drink hot coffee near the stroller..." Someone told me I had to watch my four year old more closely or someone would snatch her, THAT got my attention. I am used to letting them scooter away from me in NYC but I am more careful now.

  6. Came over from Daily Rio Life and I'll be following you now too. Great blog, you made me laugh tonight.

    I'm moving to Rio Das Ostras from the US in August, to stay with my Scottish man after about 2 years of long distance. I hope I do as well as you have!


  7. wow. AGREED! people in warm weather for their whole lives think that cold can kill. they would be correct if they made it out to Moscow.

    it gets chilly inside here i agree, but never cold enough to harm you. nobody seems to understand that...

    hey the guy in the grocery market--you didn't need to give him any explaination at all, that is such rude behavior. if i were you (oh and had a kid) i would probably just say good day and get on with the grape picking :) im in sao paulo and i haven't had to bump into rude people like that, maybe it's a rio thing...

    ok so ps. i run at the park in the evening with my husband everyday, and the other night i saw these two jogging in full suits and scarves. SCARVES to jog! i had to work reallllly hard to styfle myself from screaming "Go back to France!!!" :P

    thanks for the story, great laugh :)

  8. THanks for all the support guys! Hope you'll be patient as my blog takes a slight break since I"m back in the UK for the summer!

  9. I am a Brazilian who lives in Holland and finds shocking that they have ice creams even during winter. Favourite dessert for the cloggies, btw. Dutch parents circulate with their babies without socks by the beach during autumn months - my parents were so surprised when they saw that. Well, I guess each parent knows the best for his/her kids, based on his/her life experience. I have gotten pneumonia last year - so I will not take the risk with my kids.