When I was at my dad's a few weeks ago, I gave the kids milk in their sippy cups in the afternoon. Maureen, my dad's wife, said to me, "Those are the first Cuban babies I have ever seen drink milk out of cups." It dawned on me that she was right...Cubans are not big into weaning. Babies get milk in bottles until they are practically adults. I drank milk from a bottle every morning until first grade. Yes, FIRST GRADE! At that point, my bestie, Amanda, informed me that bottles were for babies when she spent the night over. I had no idea. However, she was intrigued by the bottle thing and requested her own when she spent the night over after that. My grandma, Nata, was oh so happy to oblige because Amanda was entirely too skinny for her liking so any extra calories she could pump into Amanda made her feel better. Amanda's nickname at our house was "La Flaca" (the skinny one). See American kids feel deprived when they get weaned to early and revert.
Along those same lines, Cuban babies are overindulged at an early age. I was looking at my baby book when I was pregnant to see all of the stuff I did at certain ages. Around 6 weeks, I started eating cereal, and then, quickly progressed to pureed black beans. Would an American parent even think of giving their child solid foods before the magic 4-6 months window? NEVER. In my household, though, having a fat baby was key. If that meant stuffing our little faces with black beans, that's how it was going to have to be. Also, those bottles of milk I mentioned in the previous paragraph...well, they were laced with a whole raw egg. Did my grandmother consider salmonella when she made those for us? Of course not. Being a fat child was the most important thing.
What good is Cuban fare if you don't have traditional Cuban drinks to accompany it? That's why when we became toddlers, we began to indulge in an afternoon Cuban coffee with our grandma. She would make it super sweet for us, and we would get a few saltine crackers. We would then dunk saltines in the coffee for our snacks. It's like a biscotti and latte pick me up, but I was like THREE YEARS OLD!
It's only now that I recognize how crazy all of this was. Growing up, I thought it was all just normal. My sisters and I turned out fine, so I guess it's not too bad.
Cuban babies could sleep in the bed with mom and dad (or grandma and grandpa) whenever they wanted. Alice and Liane continued this tradition, and I have tried, but Billy kicks the babies out of our bed. Also, 3 babies don't fit in the bed with us, and it would be mean for me to play favorites....although Abby ends up in our bed just about every morning. ;)
I think Cubans just a have a more relaxed attitude about child-rearing. It's just like, it will happen when it happens. Alice, for example, didn't potty train Drew until he was quite mature. However, she reasoned that she had never seen a normal 16-year-old in diapers so eventually, he would just get it. What made them just do it already was that they had reached the largest size diapers, and Kibby said the next box of diapers they would have to get would be Depends. It was time.
The most wonderful thing about my Cuban family is the sense of love and collaboration between us all. Whenever I have a problem, it becomes my entire family's problem and everyone pitches in to help solve it. They are there for us through everything. I love them so much for that. Well, that's not just my Cuban family, the Gringos on Billy's side are also beyond wonderful. How did I get so lucky?
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