In the deep end

I remember seeing a parenting book with a title along the lines of “I was a great mom until I had kids”. It is so true that the lofty ideals of who we want to be as parents often do not stand up so well to the messy reality of actually having children. And of course along with the long list of things that we will do comes an often equally long list of things we won’t do.
I had never understood the madness surrounding getting your child into the right preschool. It seemed to me far too early to be worrying about such things. Still, the local school that Baki went to turned out to be a far cry from what could have been called “the right sort of environment.” Baki went to school willingly enough, and it was good for him to be among his peers, since there are no kids his age out by us.
I began to notice, though, that Baki never wanted to talk about school; he evaded my questions by either ignoring them or running off. And his teacher complained that he wasn’t joining in during class. One day he was watching Sid the Science Kid and he marveled at how the teacher was always smiling and never yelled.
I realized that I had not been looking the situation in the face: Baki was really unhappy at his school. I hated the idea of him disliking school, especially when he is so curious and eager to learn by nature. Suddenly, I found myself desperate to find him “the right school”.
I felt completely out of my depth for the first time since I hit rock bottom when Baki was about a week old (I was in the shower trying desperately to relieve the insane pressure building up in my engorged breasts and Baki was on a sheepskin on the floor screaming). It was such a huge decision to make for Baki, and I wanted for him to be happy so badly, I felt a sort of madness gripping me.
My mother said, sensibly, “Go see a school and you’ll feel better.” How true. Baki and I went to see a school in Antalya (though he only conceded to join me after I promised him that he would not be going to class, just looking around). He liked it, and seemed to want to go there, and it seemed great to me. A weight lifted from my shoulders; as trite as it sounds that’s just what it felt like.
Now we are looking for a flat in Antalya so that Baki won’t have to commute 3 hours a day to school. I’ll go there with the boys during the week and we’ll come home on weekends. He will start first grade on September 12.
It must all sound pretty drastic. So I have promised myself that next time I hear of parents going to seemingly extreme lengths for their kids, instead of rolling my eyes I will remember that I’ve been there too.

Unwanted attention

“Why don’t you have a nazar bead on your son?”
I never put evil eye beads on Kaya, just as I failed to put them on Baki. Moreover, Ali is adamant in his belief that pinning tiny beads (choking hazard) on to a baby using a cheap little safety pin (poking hazard) is nothing short of completely idiotic.
The question had come, as it always does, from a complete stranger, while we were in Istanbul last week. I am always amazed at how forward people are about how wrong they think I am in how I dress/carry/protect my baby. I usually carry Kaya wrapped in a Didymos wrap-style sling, sitting upright with his face towards me. I know these slings aren’t all that common in Turkey, but I have had people actually come up and pull the fabric aside, asking me if he can breathe. Other times, it’s that he’s wrapped too tight, or else he’s sure to fall out, which presumably means he’s wrapped too loosely. He’s too cold or he’s too hot. He’s not wearing socks. Or, simply, I have made the grievous error of leaving the house without pinning the ubiquitous blue-eyed evil eye bead on his shoulder to ward off malignant wishes.
While in Istanbul, I decided to try pushing Kaya in a stroller. Kaya adored it, though he was pretty much overstimulated by it all; it took lots of nursing and holding to calm him down for sleep at night. At least no one had any comments about it like they did my sling.
On our fourth and last day in Istanbul, though, I went back to my trusty old sling because it was cold out, and I had to move quickly to run a few last errands. It felt great to have him all bundled in front of me, and in spite of the weight of him (7.8 kg/17 lb) it was so much easier on the metro to just walk through the turnstile and onto the escalator instead of all the rigamarole you go through with a stroller.
The previous day, a friend had given me an evil eye bead for Kaya, and as I got ready to leave the house, I pinned it onto pthe sling. It may or may not have kept away evil thoughts, but I can attest to one thing: it gives the dispensers of unsolicited advice one less thing to chastise me about, and that is worth a good amount of peace of mind!

Old habits

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Kaya found his thumb, and it’s been a very happy union. I’ve never seen someone suck a thumb with such abandon, although if my mother is to be believed, I might have given him a run for the money in my day.
My father loved to tell people that when he was reporting in NY in the late 70s and early 80s, if he were on the subway late at night and felt himself attracting unwanted attention, he would suck his thumb while smearing his saliva on his face with his free fingers. What he charitably left out if that story was that he learned this disgusting trick from me. It is one of the many things that I look back on and wonder how my parents managed not to freak out. I think I might have if it were Baki. Well, they may have been content to allow my quirks to resolve themselves, but they didn’t forget them; when I told my mom about Kaya and his thumb meeting at last, she said with a laugh, “Ah, well pretty soon he’ll be rubbing his spit all over his face!” I should hope not!