Long ago in my pre-mothering life I went on a solo trip to Mexico. I had set myself the goal of improving my Spanish and challenging my shyness by starting conversations with strangers. Being female and traveling alone I only ever approached middle aged or elderly women. They always turned out to be the best conversationalists.
Every evening all over Mexico a whole town will empty out into the main square and just hang out. One evening, in a small town with a gigantic church, I sat next to two middle aged women and politely interrupted them. At first they thought I was weird but then we warmed to each other. Within minutes the three of us were cackling like school girls and making jokes about our husbands. They were very keen to have me try their town’s delicacy which happened to be in season at the time.
Something got a little lost in translation as they pulled me excitedly to the night market because when we got there they presented me with a bag of small, green bugs – live bugs – and encouraged me to try them. A circle of women formed around me, seeing my hesitancy another lady passed me a warm tortilla to wrap my bug in. It was one of those moments that I knew would make for excellent dinner party stories but that I kind of wished wasn’t happening. Yes, I ate the bug. But I didn’t taste it I just kind of swallowed it whole in a chunk of tortilla. The women shrieked with delight and dragged me out to try enchiladas in bug sauce. We sat on the curb with our enchiladas and I closed my eyes and took a bite. They looked at me, waiting for my response “It’s so delicious isn’t it?” Ummm….yes I nodded and tried my best to eat as much as I could but quite frankly it tasted like….well…like bugs.
I was reminded of this incident when I saw the photos below by Connecticut Working Moms. I could have been disgusted, I could have shown my distaste for bug sauce to my new friends, I could have told all of my travelling companions and friends how gross this so-called delicacy was but I did not, because it was their heritage, their choice, their custom. And they had found their own beauty within it.
Other people’s parenting is a little bit like visiting another country. At a playdate, in the park, at someone’s home you are actually walking through a foreign land, and like any conscious traveller you respect the laws, customs and traditions of that land. We all make choices in the way we interact with our children and while our choices feel like the best to us there is no single formula.
On holiday we do not judge the locals for their choices, no matter how strange they are. We may not take those traditions home with us, I certainly will never eat bug enchiladas again, but we see them for what they are – other people’s journeys. So next time you see a frazzled mother speak sternly at her child, or a dad give his kid an ice cream before dinner or a family who let their kids stay up late; before you allow that judge in your head to pop out take a breath and say, wow, nice country.
By Danni Landa