I remember being very young and taking a drag on a cigarette. It was given to me by a favorite uncle I believe and was considered funny in those days, just a bit of a laugh. I am sure some of you have the same kind of memories too?
Naturally, people in the UK are now well educated on the damage smoking can do and I’m sure none of them would consider giving a child a puff. Noooooo, quite the opposite, they would be horrified and straight on the phone to social services no doubt.
Skip forward far too many years than I care to remember and we find the same prank now being played in the village. Another child’s favorite uncle will hold a cigarette to baby lips that take a quick puff and then screw up their face before going back for more. They are feeding off the laughter in the room, not the nicotine.
There are certain guidelines for parenting these days, with plenty of information out there on what to and what not to do. There are magazines dedicated to the subject, clubs, groups and enough leaflets to fuel a soba for the entire winter. Well in the UK that is. Information on virtually any subject appears like magic courtesy of Google and if you don’t have a computer, there is always an internet cafe or library. Simple isn’t it?
But what if you are a closed Muslim woman living in a village? You’re not likely to have a computer or access to one, nor are you likely to waste food money on a magazine. Not that it would do you any good as you probably can’t read anyway. So what avenue is left? The time old tradition of advice handed down through the ages which remains just that; ‘OLD’.
Since I have been here there have been a lot of pregnancies among the aunts, some making it to term, some not. The age of the mothers varying from 26 to 49 or thereabouts.
A few years ago 49 year old Islim was rushed up to the hospital in Izmir and gave birth to a gorgeous baby boy. For me and Mu that meant a trip to the jewelers where we bought a gold coin on a red bow and it was this I pinned onto little Yusuf’s babygrow when we visited the village that night.
Of course, I got my turn to fuss over the new baby and eventually passed him on. As baby Yusef was passed around during the evening I found myself cringing as not one person there supported his head and it lopped back and forth in transit.
A while later, Islim is discretely feeding Yusuf and has turned her back on the room. Sitting alongside her is her eldest daughter ‘Ceylan’ who is waving black eyeliner (boya) around. It takes a second for me to realise what she is doing and then I am horrified. She has just run the eyeliner inside the eyes of a week old baby and everyone is laughing about it. Are you picking up the phone yet?
The only word to describe a tiny baby wearing eyeliner is ‘surreal’, a sight for sore eyes you could say and of course it begs the question ‘what should I do about it’?
How can I educate a village full of women that have got along very well without me for years. Is it even my place to do so? Would they thank me for it? And where would I start!
I am sitting in a room with four other women who, between them have raised 14 healthy happy children. 14 to my 1. You see my dilemma? I can’t go steamrolling this community like Anna with a Banner, I’m not a missionary.
When it comes to kids, I can’t fault the Turkish folk in their upbringing of them. The children I know are well mannered, well behaved, respectful and polite and most of all, they are well loved by the whole family. I think a large majority of Brits could benefit from the Turkish ‘raising a family’ guidelines. However, some of the basic dos and don’ts are missing. Things that we Brits have learned over the years thanks to progress, modern technology and a large network for information sharing both human and electronic.
For generations, not much has changed here in the village, which of course is one of its charms. There are no homeless children, no abused children and no disrespectful children that back chat their elders (or worse).
Where I come from, eyeliner on babies and toddler cigarette puffing is certainly wrong, but it seems to me, these villagers have got everything else right!