But first, in case you're new to babushki, I'll try to explain a little of this basic part of life in Russia/Ukraine/former USSR. Babushki are grandmothers, the older women whose job is to manage all aspects of public life. They are usually very forceful and opinionated. Probably my most memorable and typical encounter with a babushka was when Jaan was two weeks old, one screamed at me, full volume, until we walked away, because I had him in a carrier that held him upright. (For those who don't know--as I didn't know then--Russian babies have soft spines. They have to lie flat, or they'll grow up to be hunchbacks.)
The most common babushka tirades are about health, and that usually means staying warm. Never, never sit on the ground (or stone or concrete), in the presence of a babushka. . . unless you have a layer of newspaper or plastic bag to between you and that dangerous cold; that makes it okay. No mater how hot it is, you'll hear about it, if you open a window. Drafts are deadly! Now, I do like this one: you know how the hot water goes off for long periods of time in Russian cities? Nursing mothers should not wash dishes then, because the cold from the water goes right up the arms and causes certain problems. Of course, the same problem with anyone walking barefoot, though. That cold goes right up and causes infertility, or just a cold, if you're lucky. See the theme? Don't get cold!
But that leads to an interesting observation. . . Ukrainian babushki seem to be obsessed in the opposite direction. I am used to just putting an extra layer of clothes on the children, so that I will be left alone. (A friend who works in Eastern Europe teased me in America: "You know, you really can take your baby's hat off here!") At first, I dressed our children here like I would in Russia, and everywhere we went, helpful babushki were peeling layers off of them and scolding me. Too bad moving air is still dangerous in Ukraine.
So, on to the best fussings I've gotten lately:
- Asya's bladder won't develop properly, because she doesn't drink anything. "She'll be going to the bathroom every 5 minutes." Who cares that most of her diet is liquid; milk doesn't count. When I offered my standard protest--that I've done the same thing with her older siblings, and they're healthy--the answer was, "This only shows up later on in life. They'll all have bladder problems."
- Asya is hyperactive, because I don't give her a bottle. I was struggling with her at church, and a babushka told me that if I would just give her a bottle, then she'd calm down and sit still. I had just nursed her, but again, that doesn't count. She backed it up with a long story about some kittens that she had saved. They cried when she gave them milk in a bowl, but once she got a bottle for them, they settled down and slept four hours straight!
- "What kind of mother would go on a 17-hour train trip and not bring a bottle?!?" Um, a nursing mother; my baby doesn't know what to do with a bottle. "Well, you should have brought one anyway!"