There’s an awesome French documentary out there called “Babies,” which follows four children from different parts of the world–Japan, Mongolia, Namibia and the U.S.–from their births to their first steps. The point of the film is to document the universal love and joy that surround birth and babies, but I couldn’t help but notice a few interesting contrasts, such as the African baby lying in the dirt versus the American baby floating in a plastic ducky in a bubbly jacuzzi surrounded by balloons.
Of all the mothers, I related best to the Mongolian one. For example, after the Mongolian mother gives birth in some sort of medical center, she carries her swaddled baby outside where her husband and toddler are waiting on a motorcycle. The husband revs the engine as she struggles to lift her leg over the bike while holding the newborn. Finally she gets her leg over. She puts one arm around her husband’s waist, the other arm firmly clasping her bundle of joy, and the family of four takes off together, cruising over dirt roads back to their yurt.
Whenever I break seatbelt laws, I feel a real kinship with this Mongolian sister.
Then there’s the time that she tethers her baby so that she can get something done outside of the home. The film doesn’t show where she goes, only that the baby is left behind, tied to a stake so that he can’t reach anything dangerous in the house. I’m sure the woman wasn’t headed to Costco, like I usually am, but her situation reminded me of my own life. When I really need to get something done, especially when I need to take a nap, I tether my children to a screen. I’ve also been thinking about safety pinning my son’s pajamas to his bed sheets.
If you think that I am unsafe or inhumane, well, my Mongolian sister and I think you are ethnocentric.