Mummy Diaries: The Truth

  1. First thing first: you will NEVER be as tired as you are with your first newborn. The good news it that they WILL eventually start sleeping, and so will you.
  2. It’s not over once baby is out. You still have to pop out the placenta. And the contractions keep on coming. After-birth contractions are PAINFUL, constant and get worse with each baby. But by day 3 they will be a thing of the past. Massaging your tummy and a hot water bottle really help.
  3. When you breastfeed for the first time it can be pretty different to how you expect. It might not come naturally, be painful or make you feel icky, but honestly not everyone does it like a pro first time – in fact, nearly all of us suffer in the beginning. The trick is to just get your boob in their mouth anyway you can and aim for your whole nipple to be in there. It hurts like a b**** those first few days but there are things you can do to help with the pain. Cabbage leaves for engorgement, soaking nipples in warm water with a little salt if you’re bleeding, lanolin creams (or even olive oil), and nipple shields are a godsend!
  4. When your milk comes in around day 3 or 4, your boobs will swell up to become ginormous, achey rocks and EVERYTHING will get covered in milk. You may even get flu-like symptoms. Don’t panic! Everything will calm down soon (but if it doesn’t check with your doctor or midwife).
  5. Babies love to be with their mummy especially in those first few weeks. Although it feels like you might never get a break I repeat to you that IT DOES GET BETTER!
  6. When you leave the house, bubs will really enjoy emptying his/her bowel. Over everything. And then again. Take a few extra outfits just in case!
  7. When you breastfeed in public it can feel like everyone is watching but trust me, they really aren’t. Just tune out, focus on baby and do what you have to do. Bubs will probably choke, vomit and you may squirt everywhere in a few directions but hey – at least they’re not crying!
  8. When bubs does cry nothing soothes them like cuddles and booby. Seriously, you will never spend so much time sitting down, laying down or even standing up, with your knockers out. Just remember to pop them  back in when the doorbell rings.
  9. You will find yourself eagerly analysing bubs’ poop. The colour, consistency, the smell … Oh my gosh why is it green today? What is THAT?! And what on earth does diarrhea look like in a breastfed baby??? So many questions …
  10. Feeding time. What is the point of spending all of my valuable time preparing deliciously runny baby food concoctions if they just refuse the spoon, spit it out or play with it? Like seriously!
  11. I.am.completely.over.sterilizing.everything.
  12. You’ve just given baby a lovely (not)relaxing bath. They are now all snuggly and clean in their pj’s.  It’s looking good for bedtime. And then the explosion happens. I don’t quite know how something so small and innocent looking can unleash so much poo that it ends up in their HAIR! How does that happen?!
  13. You will eagerly devour mummy blogs, What To Expect books, buy everything the magazine tells you to buy, sing songs to your tummy etc while waiting for your firstborn. Then you will delight in reading your newborn endless stories they are not the slightest bit interested in and probably take too many photos. With your second all of that is a thing of the past. Dirty old hand-me-downs and a couple of snaps will suffice!
  14. You will eagerly fill in the first bits of the Baby Record Book. And then you stop. Who has time to remember to write in it when all they do is CRY?!
  15. Showering becomes a few quick minutes while they watch you from the bouncer chair.
  16. Everyone will love to look at your baby. Touch your baby. Tell you that baby is cold. Or that something is wrong. Get ready to adopt ninja abilities because people will try to randomly take your child from your arms or pushchair.
  17. People have no idea how much time or effort it takes to get baby to go to sleep, hence why they think nothing of waking your baby up once they are FINALLY asleep!
  18. Gone are the days of lunchtime banquets and four course dinners. Lunch is a quick spaghetti bolognese. Every day. Spice it up with different pasta shapes. IF you have the energy, that is.
  19. Your child is a loving, delightful angel it really is true … until the day they start at kindergarten. Yep, those days are long gone.
  20. You think a 2 year old can have a tantrum? Wait until they turn 3! Literally everything you say they will either disagree with, cry over or not want. Henceforth you become a jedi knight, mastering the art of suggestion, until it reaches bedtime, when all hell breaks loose. EMILIO NO MORE IT’S BEDTIME I’M NOT TELLING YOU AGAIN!!!
  21. If you’re pregnant and reading this, I bet you are stressing about the birth and you haven’t even THOUGHT about feeding solids or potty training yet. Well you should! Birth is a piece of pie compared to the sheer stress and panic that these two things cause. Good luck and get ready to learn a whole lot of stuff about your child’s sphincter!
  22. Your toddler WILL amaze you every single day (especially when asleep and inert). It’s just miraculous how they soak everything up like a little sponge. They will amaze you with their stories. Their imaginative games. Their songs. Their ability to remember whole passages from books by heart. And their ability to instinctively know that the F-word is naughty and that they shouldn’t mention it in company, right Emilio? Oh wait ….
  23. We have a saying in NZ and OZ  about things being “shits and giggles”. Life with your children really is a series of alternations between the two. But pooz you can just wipe up and forget about (maybe soak and scrub a bit first) and as for giggles, there really is NOTHING that will prepare you for your baby’s first laugh which is literally like a burst of sunshine. And that is honestly how life will be from now on: a bit shitty at times with bursts of pure happiness. NOTHING will prepare you for the love you will feel for your children whether they are first-born, second-born or number 5 (or even higher!). It is true when they say that once a mother, always a mother and it really is worth every stinky, sticky and wet moment 🙂

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Mummy Diaries: Tribe of Support

All of us know what it’s like to be sad, but not all of us understand what it’s like to be so sad that you want to give up.

Everyone has an opinion about extreme sadness. I am going to call it that because I loathe the term “depression” – there is nothing more limiting to complex human beings than labels. “Why is everyone so depressed here? It’s ridiculous!” a friend once exclaimed to me in New Zealand and I guess it’s true. Did people even have time to be so down in the old days, what with all the washing and chicken plucking and trips to the dunny outside?

I’m actually not depressed. There’s nothing wrong with my seratonin levels or my hormones.  What I have is overwhelming anxiety but the line between the two is fine, and I have been depressed before. What is it like? Imagine waking up every day sad that you did, or looking at the most beautiful things in creation and thinking … nothing. Imagine dreams filled with murky doom and worry causing you to wake up constantly, or sleeping your life away because you just cannot bear it. Smiles would stretch too thin across my teeth and my body would be tense like a violin – this, coupled with being anxious, would make me seem to the onlooker like a crackhead flying higher than some of my neighbours.

Why am I so anxious? If you’ve been reading then you will know I’ve been suffering with my health since November. This is all nothing to new to me – since I was a girl I’ve been suffering in my body, mind racing to a thousand and one planets when it should be in the moment. I’ve always been unsteady on my feet as if my thoughts were weighing my head down to cause me to be lopsided. Doctors can’t help – my ear drums are just the wrong shape – and so I have to push through the Annapurna Circuit just to achieve the simple things.

Depression sneaks up … but with force. Life throws curveballs and unless your steady it can be hard to catch them. My pregnancy came at one of the most awful periods of my life, the details of which I won’t bore you with. If you remember my blog about drawing strength from my son, then you will understand it was the same principal that kept me hanging on when I was pregnant: my swollen belly.  That always-the-wrong-size pregnant ball on my front that kept me awake all night long (hello for the 8th time this hour, toilet!), and that gave me a purpose even when I felt as though I was all alone in the world. I lived way out in the bush – in the middle of nowhere – and with one friend a good hour away. I faded into myself and when Emilio was born I no longer even remembered that I had a personality. I was a mummy drone, changing nappies and breastfeeding day and night, through sickness and sadness. I don’t even remember much of those first 9 months with Emilio but I do remember that I struggled, and that I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

But something really helped me during the 18 months of unbearably conflicting emotions.  I can’t believe I’m going to write this but it was … Facebook. It actually pains me to admit that given all that it represents, but when I was all alone and struggling to process overwhelming family drama with the pressure of being a new solo mother, and I have to admit that it really helped me. So when I was holed up in my cave, still horizontal from all the breastfeeding, the connections I made with people known and unknown gave me a sense of normalcy.  They were a band of mummies reaching out across the distance to form a tribe of support.

When I finally reconnected with Luis again it felt like a punch in the gut.  I couldn’t figure out how to pull myself out of the mummy role to be a seperate person. I had forgotten things like sexual attraction or what it meant to laugh at a joke. We faced some hurdles falling back in love and learning to live together as a family. We are getting married in March – how far I have come since moving back to Chile more than a year and a half ago.

Now I am struggling to find the confidence to be alone again after the last few months leaning on Luis entirely. I am anxious and I am still struggling to look people in the eye but I am not sad. I have a wonderful support network in Chile (and I get lots of Emilio cuddles) and I still have my Facebook tribe, which has grown immensely since I started this blog, but it’s a delicate situation, especially when money rears its ugly head (made worse by my difficulty working). So I am baring all today because the connection between your health and your actions is so tight – they must be in balance. When the balance is off life can become really, really difficult, and unfortunately people cannot help what they don’t understand. So I wrote this to draw attention to all the people who struggle to do the everyday things (I am so jealous of people who can walk up stairs properly), or the people who look normal but who are actually fighting a battle inside. Or the people who are really, really sad and who need our kindess, not our cruelty.  Instead of pulling apart, band together. Make a tribe of support – even if all you can offer is through Facebook.

It sure helped me.

If you are suffering with Meniere’s Disease, anxiety or depression and need a friend, please send me an email. Do not be afraid to ask for help and seek medical assistence.

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Our family in 2016

This blog is dedicated to my friends who reached out when I needed it most, Amanda and Melissa.

Being a Minimalist Mummy in Chile

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Nature is the best gift for your child

Last year I read a book that I really loved. It was called “Thrive” and it was written by The Huffington Post’s Ariana Huffington. It spoke about disconnecting from technology and the importance of being present in the moment.  Decluttering my life has been one area that I have really concentrated on, from downsizing my friend list to using my time effectively. I have also removed all the clutter from my home (especially as its tiny!) and donated everything we do not use. This is called “minimalism” and it has been the best decision I have ever made since becoming a mother. These are my suggestions to becoming a Minimalist Mother but in no way am I telling you how to raise your child!!

Guide to Becoming a Minimalist Mother

1) Do not be lured into the “must buy” trap and instead try borrowing before you buy.

2) Buy second hand everything! From breastpump to bassinet, everything for Emilio was used except for a new mattress for the bassinet.

3) Throw the baby books out the window. Watch only calm birth videos (no One Born Every Minute)  before the big day as preparation for how not-scary labour is,  or read the work of renowned midwife Ina May Gaskin. All the books, all the conflicting advice … it all made me feel terrified!

4) Toys and books – are they really interested? Don’t buy alot, and don’t buy anything with gadgets. Keep it simple and let their imaginaton grow. All those black and white special books for newborns was a waste of time.

5) Special bags for nappies? Special toys for brain development? Special clothes? Don’t overcomplicate something that we have been doing for generations. These are all things that companies pitch you to buy their product. Just use a normal bag you know?!

6) Don’t automatically give your child a dummy for no reason because you start a habit that they may be perfectly capable of working out on their own.

7) We co-slept for the first three weeks and then Emilio moved into a bassinet beside me. He began sleeping in a full-size bed at 9 months, and sleeping in his own room in a bed at 1 year and 2 months. He never used a cot and the only reason he now has a toddler bed is because his room is about the same size as most walk-in wardrobes. What I’m saying is work out what works for you, and don’t do things just because everyone else is.

8) Feeding. We say in NZ “food before one is just for fun.” Don’t stress if they don’t like potatoes or if their tastes change – that’s normal. Just lead by example and eat your veges and soon they will follow suit – especially if you don’t offer other choices and limit snacking between meals.

9) Donate all toys and books that your child is not interested in.  There are plenty of organizations that will put them to better use. Plus kids are not interested clutter

10) Do not feel bad about requesting what you need as presents

12) Rotating toys and books is a great idea to keep toys interesting.

13) Buy what is age-appropriate for your child unless they show an interest. So don’t buy toys for big kids if your child is a tot unless you want it to collect dust.

14) Designate certain areas for toys or reading. This helps keep areas tidy and children love order (deep down – you will be surprised).

15) Try making your own toys! Emilio had no interest at all in toys with lots of lights and buttons, but he did enjoy a bowl of pegs and my keys.  When he got older I made him a busy board with locks and latches, and I attached two wheels on something so that he could spin them to his hearts content (he was obsessed!). I also liked looking up Montessori Busy Basket ideas.  Other ideas: a bowl of rice or pasta, water and ice cubes (supervise), water bottle or container filled with things they can push inside.

16) We did reusable cloths as baby wipes and just washed them when they were dirty. We had no changing table, just a mat on the floor.

17) Lay your baby under a tree – they will be amazed by the leaves and branches.

18) Stick to a routine especially at night time but don’t freak out if it breaks from time to time.

19) Enjoy time away from your child regularly for sanity of mind

20) Do not overwhelm your child with toys. We do one special present for Christmas and birthdays, and a special Family Fun Day.

21) Same goes with clothes. Just what they need. Especially when they are babies – who really cares about the label or what the tshirt says when its covered with food or saliva or spit? Or worse?!

22) Emilio loved chewing on watermelon when he was teething and wasn’t much interested in any other remedy. Think outside the box if nothing else is working!

23) We never really used a highchair! He ate on a mat on the floor and when he was older he sat on his own little table, and now he sits at the big table with us. We also only used the sling until Emilio was 9 months, when we got our first pushchair.

24) Make your baby food! Put aside a day to do lots of cooking then freeze. When they get older, just make sure there are always leftovers so you are always prepared in an emergency!

My Must Buys for Baby:

  1. Co-sleeper
  2. play mat
  3. Moby wrap
  4. Bibs that cover as much as possible
  5. reusable cloths
  6. Toys: blocks, a wooden walker, a rattle
  7. Books: Dear Zoo, Hungry Caterpillar

For the Toddler:

  1. Giraffes Can’t Dance
  2. Train Set
  3. Shape sorters
  4. Ball
  5. Thomas the Tank soundtrack (a choir of children singing lovely songs)
  6. A special mug or plate – helps them
  7. Anything that makes music – Emilio LOVES the harmonica
  8. Paper and pencils!
  9. Pushchair

More Information

Read: In Praise of Slow by Carl Honore

Stores: Donde Estas Pudu (handmade and organic supplies), Kindertop (Hape and wooden toys in Chile)

 

Different play areas I made for Emilio with everything easy for him to reach, and roated toys in his tray.

 

 

Mummy Diaries: The Rules (Part Two)

  1. You will never pee in silence again.
  2. During said action always be prepared for the door to open.
  3. Just when you think they are asleep … “mama?”
  4. Sex becomes quickies
  5. During said endeavour expect your mind to be otherwise occupied: will we wake him up?  Is there meat out for tomorrow? Did I organize a babysitter?
  6. The floor is now a suitable resting place for food. Just walked through banana? Oh fudge it – have a cup of tea. They will eat it anyway.
  7. Leaving a crying toddler with a babysitter? They will forget you in 5 minutes. Sorry!
  8. TV  the ENEMY … until you have a child! Or a second one.
  9. Boys love anything with wheels. It’s in their genes.
  10. That beautiful nursery you admire? It NEVER looks like that. Trust me.
  11. Everything you don’t want your kid to eat, they will eat.
  12. Brushing teeth and brushing hair – is it really worth the battle? I feel like I’m at the Wall every bedtime (GoT reference!)
  13. Those wonderful perky boobs you have always taken for granted will disappear after breastfeeding. Make the most of their symmetrical shape while you can!
  14. You will never feel shame showing your body in public again once you’ve popped out a baby and then spent a few months popping out your boob.
  15. When baby is asleep its party time!  That means a bar of chocolate and an hour of reading mummy blogs/How I Met Your Mother
  16. You know they say you always have one ear listening for baby at night? Yeah nah, once they start sleeping through you will stop that pretty quickly … SLEEP how I love you!
  17. Pooz is always interesting.  Hello Quinoa!
  18. “Kaka” “poopoo” “peepee” “weewee” during potty-training you will be unable to utter a single other word.
  19. When your child begins solids you will develop an overwhelming interest in nutrition.  Until they become a toddler, at which point you are just happy they eat at all. Even biscuits – oh the horror!
  20. Your bed will become the ultimate playground for your wee churab. That expensive toy you just bought? It will be collecting dust after 5 minutes, or broken.
  21. Playdates will bring out the mamabear. Who will hit your angel child? Wait – he hit your baby? Emilio, Emilio – EMILIO COME BACK HERE NOW!
  22. You will suddenly lose control of your child when all other mums are watching. It will play out a little bit like “Say sorry to the baby Emilio. EMILIO STOP PLAYING WITH THE CAT POOP NOW! Emiliooooooo!!!!!!”
  23. Do not put THAT in your mouth!
  24. Never leave your child unattended with pens, crayons or paints unless you are in want of a new mural.
  25. Alone time with the husband? You’re never really alone. You will spend the whole time talking about the baby.
  26. Babysitters will never match up to your parenting skills. Nor the knowledge of other mums.  Or even the husband, for that matter.
  27. People who offer you advice and do NOT have children will receive an eyebrow raise and a look of disdain. Sorry, did you push a baby out your vag? No? Then shuddup.
  28. In Chile, you will live at the doctors. Or (in our case) hospital ER.
  29. Your child is never quite enough. They are always too: regalon, mamon, big, small, light, heavy, not eating enough greens, not enough junk, breastfeeding, NOT breastfeeding, not sleeping enough, sleeping too much, not talking, talking too much … the list is endless.
  30. They will never look at the camera when you want them too.
  31. They will never have enough woollen layers. Even in summer.
  32. Christmas. You will either be so excited and put the tree up early only to find they aren’t the slightest bit interested, or they like it too much and pull it down *sigh*
  33. Summer in Santiago means only two things: overcrowded swimming pools and SUNBLOCK.  Ahahaha good luck with that!

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Mummy Diaries: When You Do It Different

“You WHAT?!!”

The force behind these two little words had the power to do two things. The first was to make me physically move away from Alejandra, my colleague, and the second was to make me doubt every single thing I trusted about myself.

“Yes. I still breastfeed Emilio.” I replied hesitantly.

“But how old is he?”

“He’s a year and a half.”

Now Alejandra’s mouth was hanging so far open that I could count every silver filling.

“But why? What about his health? You do know breastmilk is not good after so many months … ayayay”

Now my mouth was hanging open in shock. Alejandra continued to talk, telling me the all the bad effects of extended breastfeeding, upon his bones to his ability to be independent and his inability to be comforted unless there was a boob around. Suddenly I had a shocking thought: was I terrible mother for still breastfeeding?

Time for me to back up and admit that the road to breastfeeding hasn’t been easy. Like all mums, I wanted what was best for my new family and that just happened to be breastfeeding (especially as New Zealand supports it quite strongly these days). I’d had an all natural pregnancy and birth, and it seemed like the most natural next step. The reality, however, was a little bit different because …

I hated it. Every single moment of it. I gave birth peacefully in a pool in a rural hospital in the middle of nowhere, that basically consisted of a couple of rooms and a few nurses. After an exhausting birth I lay with my newborn son barely able to open my eyes, trying to get him to latch. He wouldn’t. My boob was twisted and turned every such way to get inside Emilio’s mouth but he just screamed. When he finally latched it felt like I was dying. Bizaarely, the famous contractions that plague the early days of breastfeeding were not an issue because I seemed to be in a constant state of that pain except when I breastfed. It was everything else. I didn’t feel that “bond” some mums rave about, I didn’t lie there in raptures gazing into my son’s eyes and saying the moment was the happiest of my life. In fact it was the opposite. I felt bloody awful. It just didn’t feel right to do it. It felt icky and unnatural, and when he let go my nipples were bloody and raw.

A few hours later and we were back at home. Getting him to latch on became an ordeal that was physically and emotionally tormenting. I started avoiding his calls for milk until the last minute, and then I’d cry the whole time he fed. By this time I was so stressed and exhausted that when I’d try to sleep it would be impossible, and I’d just lay there and stare at Emilio, terrified something would happen before I’d had a chance to finally enjoy the moment.  I wanted to quit but I didn’t, partly because a part of me wasn’t quite ready to give up, but mainly because my midwife was unrelenting. I was on my last ounce of effort when a friend told me about her success with nipple shields, and the moment that I attached that plastic condom to my boob was the moment the world finally calmed.  Emilio stopped his unrelenting screaming and latched on, and I could finally – for the first time in a week- relax.

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My one and only breastfeeding picture! Emilio at 12 weeks, using the shield.

I later found out that Emilio had had a tongue tie, that stretched enough on its own to breastfeed properly by the time he was 8 months old. Our difficult journey has nothing to do with why I continue to breastfeed, and I’ve never had a goal in mind to reach. Emilio is now two years old and we are still going because it works for us, and I tend to believe most of the hype around its benefits.

Here in Chile, where I have been since Emilio was 9 months, this decision has caused nothing but grief. From a mother-in-law who constantly insinuates that he is not eating properly to family members who tell me I am raising a son to be “mamite” and “mamon“, and nurses and nutritionists who tell me Emilio’s health is being adversely affected (and who needs sugary juices instead!) to friends who regard breastfeeding as something “for the poor.”  Or opinions such as Alejandra’s, which at the time were so disapproving and negative that I wanted to quit my job.

When Emilio was smaller I breastfed everywhere  discreetly, including the metro and even restaurants (what’s better – the sound of screaming or bad jokes when you eat?), but now the looks have started. The raised eyebrow. The pursing of the lips. The “your still breastfeeding?!”question  – even from complete strangers.  Now I disappear to sit upon toilet seats or in abandoned corners of the room to avoid hearing veryone negative opinions.  Because its just so personal isn’t it, this decision to use our boobs or not? I don’t get the fascination –  when I feed Emilio it’s not like you see nipples flying about!!

My doctor thinks I should stop but it doesn’t feel right. I certainly don’t want to do it because someone else thinks I should, particularly when in my culture its considered to be normal.  But in saying that, the decision when to stop or how long to feed – if at all – has so many influencing factors (which given my own difficulties, I know all too well). Without that nipple shield I would have almost certainly stopped.  I also didn’t have to think about work or sharing feedings with someone.

But I am not a breastfeeding nazi. It doesn’t bother me one iota if someone chooses to use the boob or the bottle.  Why should it? I know how much I love my son, and I know that other mums feel the exact same way about their own children. Why on earth does it bother other people so much? But the big question is why are so many profesionals telling me its bad for my son? Does breastfeeding now honestly paint me as a bad mummy in the eyes of others? Does that matter? Or does it matter more how Emilio, and Luis, see me?  Something to ponder over the festive weekend I think – particularly as the recent earth wobble helps give life some perspective!

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Emilio at 9 weeks, in his Chile outfit
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Emilio at age 2, ready for las Fiestas Patrias.

Please share your story if you have one – this blog is merely my own experience and is not a statement about Chile as a whole

The Mummy Rules: A Guide to Raising a Child in Santiago

Just moved to Chile? Or maybe you have a child with a Chilean? It can be difficult navigating the cultural millieu of any country, let alone as a new parent. Allow me to assist you by providing this most-excellent list of the Top Ten things you should quickly learn and accept in order to survive in the Chilean Mummy Jungle.

NOTE: This post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek and in no way is attempting to be derogatory about any Chilean customs. These are merely my own experiences. My partner could easily write his own list about my crazy NZ habits, most likely starting with “Helen, you don’t even wear SHOES in New Zealand!”

  1. No matter how hot it is outside, your child is always cold and on the verge of catching a deadly illness. A trip out of the house should always include snow gear.
  2. Any cough or droplet of beautiful snot is a sign of terrible contamination and requires urgent medical attention. You should thus make sure that your first-aid kit is large enough to store a small elephant.
  3. (continued from point 2) 37.5c is already fever. Intervene immediately.
  4. Breastfeeding past age 1? Toughen up your layers Mummy, your going to take a knocking!
  5. Winter is, and always will be, a hellhole of multiplying germs, particularly if you live in Santiago and your child goes to Day Care. You must get out of the city Mama, or suffer the consequences!
  6. Jardin is a requirement as soon as is financially possible. If your child can walk but does not yet attend, your playgroup mummies will think you so very, very odd.
  7. The staple food of you infants diet (according to professionals) should be sugar in the form of processed foods, or the chocolate that strangers kindly offer your child when you are not looking.
  8. The general requirement for girls is long hair, pierced ears and perfume. Boys must never appear “mamite” or “mamon” by showing timidity or an attachment to the mother.
  9. Your child should avoid crying as much as possible.
  10. Allow total strangers to touch, kiss and hug your child. And then remind you that they are cold.

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