Of the two skills I have, good parenting is not one. If intuition, forbearance and selflessness are prerequisites, I’m not in the running. It’s a good thing that I decided not to have children, because when women like me make the mistake of having babies, we end up losing them in the market or messing them up beyond repair. Either way, we have to rely entirely on the earthy wisdom of other, more experienced women.
A cousin of mine has just had her first baby, and although I just remembered that she might read this and would like to say that she is a peerless parent and nothing like me at all, she too has benefitted from being shored up by an ayah who delivers herself of the most riveting baby advice. Some of it is befuddling, some of it is impenetrable, but all of it is interesting. Here, in no particular order, is the list of sage nuggets that my cousin calls ‘Urmila’s greatest hits’.
1. If the child rubs her feet together, she will grow up to have a fiery temperament.
This seems to be based on some association between rose petal velvet and flint, both producing sparks of some sort.
2. Condensation on the baby's room windows is "dangerous water."
It sounds as if it should star Meryl Streep, but it’s just caused by rapid cooling.
3. If you leave the baby's clothes to dry overnight, she will catch a chill. If you wring them out hard, the baby will be wracked with pain.
I’m all for this one. You can discipline a kid with a scolding or a ‘time out’, but let’s face it, voodoo is just more fun.
4. If you wash your hair and use too much water while showering, the baby will catch a chill.
It’s the family version of pathetic fallacy; the sins of the father (mother) are the sins of the sons (daughters).
5. If you drink cold water the breast milk will get chilly and the baby will start sneezing.
Basically, whatever you do, that baby is going to catch a chill, and it will be your fault
6. It's because you're thin that the baby is a big girl. She had more room in the belly to grow.
And if you’d only sucked in all your internal organs for nine months, the baby might have had a bigger nose.
7. When the baby starts talking her potty goes wrong.
That happens to me.
8. The dimples on her bottom signify that the next baby will be a boy.
There they are, spending millions on gene research, sex determination and suchlike, when all they have to do is get toddlers to drop their pants.
9. The dimples on her bottom also suggest that she will grow up to be rich and successful.
Speaking of dropping pants, here’s a new way to scout talent early.
11. When the child pees, it's very auspicious and healthful to put some of it on her head.
This falls under the aforementioned ‘befuddling’ category.
12. On no account should the pee land on the mother, since that will make the child unwell.
Presumably because the mother will smack the child.
10. If she's teething, put a warm (not hot) roti on her head.
That makes sense. A hot roti would burn the tender skin of the scalp.
By the way, the two skills I do have are: one, I can do one of those really piercing whistles with two fingers in my mouth; and two, I can… well, okay, just the one skill, then.