You know how delivery trucks are equipped with the sticker: “How’s my driving? Call 1-800-NUMBERS”? Well, taking a baby out in public in Israel is like wearing one of those signs: “How’s my parenting? Don’t call—just come right up and tell me!” Or better yet, “What do YOU think I’m doing wrong?”
What an amazing place—it’s full of child-rearing experts! And I mean, they’re everywhere. Baby girl was raging against her stroller in the park. But according to the park’s maintenance man, I shouldn’t carry a baby on my shoulders. It’s dangerous. I could bump her head on a doorway or a tree limb.
I am approximately five feet tall plus three fifths of a single inch (give or take). My daughter is twenty-eight inches tall. I’m pretty sure I could jump up and down underneath any doorway with my daughter on my shoulders and we’d be safe. At least this expert had smiled at me, one hand holding his green garbage bag, the other on my arm.
Some experts aren’t so nice. Once I’d stepped out with my daughter, the sky clear, only to reach the Carmel market at the beginning of a cloudburst. This time I was yelled at—how could I take my daughter out without a woolen hat, and me not even wearing rubber boots! I guess the lined, hooded raincoat and umbrella weren’t enough. What do I know? I’m just her mother who took her from the balmy Washington snow to the frigid 65 degree beach town.
For better or for worse, I know enough Hebrew to understand the complaints, but not enough to respond. And how would one, if one could? Is it most acceptable to (A) suggest he loose 50 lbs and quit smoking before he gives me heath advice for my daughter, (B) inform him that his country’s airport screwed up my BOB Revolution stroller, which has a fitted plastic rain cover, or (C) shrug: “survival of the fittest”?
Sometimes I answer in English. To the woman who complained that my daughter wasn’t wearing tights under her jeans: “she wears them when it’s cold.”
You’re thinking, “Maya, people just want to make conversation, and babies are a beautiful commonality.” And I’m sure that’s true, too: “Why are you standing up with the baby on a bus? You should sit down,” said a woman. “Because she screams until she turns blue when I sit down.” “Oh.” Then thirty seconds later: “Try sitting down again.” But it was my stop, and so ended our charming tête-à-tête.
Before my daughter’s meltdown we were sitting nicely in our seat when the gentleman behind me told me NOT to let my daughter sit down. She could fall and fly out the bus. Dang, I just couldn’t figure out why all my other babies kept flying out the bus! Now that I’m down to my last one, maybe I really shouldn’t leave her standing unattended on the seat while our bus driver pretends we’re in a video game.
I’m lucky—I can’t even understand half the unsolicited advice I’m given if it is unaccompanied by gestures. I’ve only studied Biblical Hebrew. I can tell you how David dressed himself to prepare for battle with Goliath. But unless someone is telling me to gird my daughter’s loins and put a helmet on her, I’m not quite sure what they’re saying most of the time. But that little bliss will disappear once I begin ulpan, I guess.