Is Latin Style Parenting better than Gringo Style?
My first close encounter with gringo style parenting of the third-kind was about 9 years ago at the local dog park in Mill Valley, CA. Yes, I didn't even have kids back then, but I had my puppy Fidel (as in Fidel Castro), who in the Bay Area was considered "human". I had no idea what to do with him or how to train him. The best thing to do was "do as the Romans do" and take Fidel to the dog park. In Argentina, dogs aren't viewed as family like they do here in the U.S. They're loved and respected, but as companions for hunters, horsemen or ranch-men. They work with their master during the day, and sleep outside at night.
Dogs don’t have special beds, groomers, shampoos or perfumes. Dogs are dogs.
The first day I walked into the dog park, I was shocked at how people talked to their dogs. I had never seen something like it before, let alone where I came from.
“My baby loves to play with friends.”
“My boy would love to have your boy over for a play-date!”
“Please watch your boy’s manners, he is not sharing his toy with my girl.”
“My baby just got a haircut, isn’t she lovely?”
“You should change your baby’s diet, he must be allergic to grain.”
“You boy needs etiquette lessons. I can recommend someone fantastic who only charges $50 an hour.”
I couldn't believe what I was hearing! And to make matters worse, Fidel loved to swallow his “friend's” rubber toys and balls. I ended up giving money to panicked owners for the lost toys and apologizing profusely for my dog’s horrible manners. After all, he was a Latin-raised dog. I decided to quit the dog park scene and hit the trails. It was easier! I did not have to deal with other angry and hurt parents, and Fidel could now chase real squirrels and not fake rubber animals.
But then came the day when I had two human babies. They were only one year apart. I had no choice but to go to the local playgrounds. Hitting the trails everyday with an all-terrain double stroller would've been exhausting. I then had the pleasure of witnessing the ways of Gringo parenting.
Gringos are “helicopter” parents
I'll never forget the face of a fellow mother when she saw that one of my babies, who was trying to climb up the playground steps, fell flat on his back and I did nothing. I didn't even blink. I didn't stand up or run up to him. My Latin instinct told me to let him try again on his own. To let him learn the lesson. I keep applying this same theory until today, but it has its risks. Kids will get hurt, will cry, and will make a mess. But that’s okay with me. I want them to be self-sufficient.
Gringos are “well mannered” parents
Another interesting episode at the playground: My 2-year old didn't want to share his truck with another unknown boy. Why would he? Would I share my car with an unknown stranger? Most likely not. The mother of the other boy was horrified at my kid’s horrible manners and, to her dismay, at my attitude. I told her to let kids be kids and to let them figure it out. She was ready to call 911 and have them arbitrate the situation.
Gringos are great “schedulers”
I live in Miami now and 80% of my kids' friends are Latinos. They all ride the bus home from school, walk home on their own, and as soon as they get off the bus, they run around from one house to the other looking for the best treats, food, and most fun things to do. They're smart and resourceful. I don't need to entertain them anymore. They have fantastic social skills. I think I saw their parents once or twice, to give "a face" to the mother of the kid who ate all of their popsicles. And that was it. Everyone is relaxed and non-intrusive. Kids do their own thing.
But things were different back in the Bay Area, where my kids grew up from age 0 to 5 in pure American culture. Play dates needed to be scheduled 30 days in advance, formal introductions needed to be made and kids needed to be catered to. It was exhausting. Of course I had no time whatsoever for myself. My adult life was non-existent. Being a parent was a full-time job, and I was always being observed and judged.
Gringos are amazing at following “the right agenda”
I was always confused about hitting certain American milestones or activities with the kids. Just in the last 5 years, I learned about: