My journey to parenthood is different from that of some of my friends and not so different from other friends. As a children’s librarian, I’ve been fascinated by the not-so-traditional books about childhood development, such as Nutureshock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, and books about kids, such as Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood by Susan Linn.
My husband and I are new parents through adoption. When we started the adoption process, I didn’t want to read many parenting books for fear of jinxing our chances of becoming parents. Once in a while a book would come along and it would pique my interest. Shortly after we brought our daughter home, a friend recommended Mei-Ling Hopgood’s How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting . I wasn’t prepared for what a fun and wild ride I was embarking on with this book.
I was intrigued by Hopgood’s book and How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm didn’t disappoint. It has the right amount of information about different countries and cultures without preaching that this or that culture does it so much better. The author also tries out each of the different things she learns with her own daughters its mixed results.
As Hopgood states: “We may or may not adopt what another family in another culture or place does, but we can take comfort in known that there is more than one good way to get a baby to sleep, transport her from place to place, and feed her....[T]here are many ways to be a good parent in the world.” Something all new and established parents need to be reminded of on those worst days.
I found it fascinating to travel around the world with the author learning about Argentinian children who stay up quite late and don’t seem to have some of the sleeping issues I hear about so much from friends. Children in Argentina stay up until midnight, are welcomed at adult parties and even the fanciest restaurants. It’s not unusual for a child to fall asleep on the couch at a friends’ house or while out at a nice restaurant. Then they wake up around 8 a.m. and are off to school without too much fanfare. The author was concerned that this schedule might not be best for her daughter. She consulted experts who said that Americans could stand to be a little less concerned about getting their children on strict sleep schedules. With an eight week old, I decided to try to be more relaxed about getting our daughter to bed at night and it’s made our whole family less stressed.
Most parents want their child to eat well. My husband and I hope to pass on our love of food to our daughter. She may be the only child at school who has Indian food for lunch one day and Thai curry the next. I seriously doubt she’ll be eating quite the same foods the French children eat at school. The French have passed on their great love of good, rich food to their children. There are no kids’ menus in France, the kids eat what is placed in front of them and there isn’t a fight about it. Even at school, kids eat fresh vegetables and exquisitely prepared meals.
Two of my favorite chapters were about Kenyans not using strollers and how the Chinese potty train their children. Kenyan streets will not accommodate a stroller that’s become almost a necessity in the U.S. Most parents of young children don’t think of leaving the house without a stroller. Many new American parents research the best stroller to meet their needs and lifestyle. Instead, Kenyans and many traditional cultures are the masters of baby wearing. They use long pieces of cotton tied into slings to carry their babies, very similar to some of the baby carriers available in the U.S.
The chapter on Chinese potty training was one of the funniest chapters of the book. I had no idea that Chinese split pants even existed. They are how Chinese parents begin to potty train their children at six months old. These pants are literally split in the crotch allowing for children to squat and use the bathroom almost anywhere. (You must look them up!) The pants are very environmentally friendly but are losing their favor for disposable diapers as China becomes more of an industrialized country. Hopgood tries out the pants with some success. I’m intrigued but not sure our house or us are prepared to try them out.
And, how do Eskimos keep their babies warm, you might ask? The traditional Inuit carrier is made from animal skins and the baby is cradled next to it’s mother in a large, furry hood-like compartment. Mothers are able to nurse their babies in this carrier just by moving them from the back to the front.
About the Author
Erica Voell  is the Youth Collection Development Librarian at the Kansas City Public Library. She enjoys gardening, sewing, knitting, seeking out gluten-free vegetarian cuisine around the city - and yes, being a good librarian, she is owned by a cat.