Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Baby, it's cold outside

I took the Kid* out yesterday for some shopping and general merriment. Yesterday it was chilly…ish. To put it in perspective, I was wearing a t-shirt with a sweater. Now, I have noticed from the beginning of my time here in Norway that I dressed in quite a few layers less than everyone else. I attribute it mainly to the fact that my ‘outside time’ was comprised of a walk from the house to the car and from the car to the office. Who needs Helly Hensen when your skin is exposed to air for approximately 30 seconds a day?

Fast forward to now, where I often find hauling the Kid and all his Kid gear into the car more hassle than it’s worth. It’s a lot easier to just sling the stroller down the stairs of the house and hit the road. But yesterday we were venturing further afield so we loaded up in the car.

When we walked into the shopping center, I started eyeing up the other babies. I do this as a mental check. You learn from watching, and I always like to see what other moms are doing. It either makes me realize I am the worst mother ever and must repent to the great Fisher Price in the sky, or it makes me feel like a maternal rock star that should be duly rewarded with chocolate. I noticed that the Kid had a significant difference from the other babies (other than his abundance of hair, but that’s another issue). The other kids were BUNDLED UP. I would guess it was in the mid-50’s (the car temperature said 15 C, but sometimes the Volvo lies like a drunken sailor, so we can never be sure). These kids looked like they were ready to hit the slopes.

Norway kids:
My Kid:

I am sure you can see the disparity.

An American friend who experienced motherhood for the first time here in Norway used to say that people were constantly hassling her about the fact that her baby wasn’t dressed warmly enough. I get it now. People around me seemed surprised that Kid was in a cotton one piece (there were socks involved, too, if that makes it any better).

Here’s my theory: I am from a hot place. Not like traipsing across the sun hot, but pretty darn hot nonetheless. I never owned a coat myself until I moved to Scotland in my mid-twenties. Gloves and scarves and hats… didn’t ever need them until my third decade of life. So when I picture what a baby wears, it involves cute footed PJ’s and little t-shirts with matching socks**. Snow suits never enter the picture.

So today I am headed back to the same baby shop, intent on getting a grip on why wool is wow and the finer points of layering. I am beginning to suspect that the ‘fashion’ hats I purchased at Baby Gap are not actually suitable winter wear. Nor will slapping a onesie under any outfit somehow winterize it.

I am going to try my best to get on board with the bundling up brotherhood, though, as winter is a comin’ and I don’t want the baby to go all popsicle on me. That’d be an embarrassing facebook status update.
* Soooo…. here’s the deal. I have tried really hard not to descend into the realms of being a ‘mommy blogger’ as that's a pretty drenched market of people that are both funnier and mommier than me, but the truth is, being a mommy is the main thing I’ve got going on at the mo. So I’m going to break my own rule and share a little from time to time about the us and them differences I see as a new parent here in Norway.
** Really, when ‘where I’m from’ pops into my head, I think of babies in nothing but diapers running around a yard with chickens in the background, but even that’s a bridge too far for me. It’s not even that I have ever seen a baby doing such a thing, but perhaps I am buying into stereotypes of my own people as it’s been too long since I’ve been home for a visit. Husband, take note, unless you want your baby buddying up to poultry.


  1. I think that you should definitely make a point of going "back home" during the cold season, if you're as adapted to the cold as I believe you'd be by now. We had the rude shock of visiting California in June, and again of visiting Washington, D.C. in July. After living in Scotland for 3 years, it's quite a shock, let me tell you!

    I wonder if you stood out because your clothes were different, or whether they were viewed as inferior. I mean, was it because you were merely different?

    As to being a "mommy blogger," I think you're missing out on one of the major criteria: you'd need to accept product samples and then talk about how good they were. Otherwise, you're just a mom who's blogging, and I doubt anybody would mind, really.

  2. David, the last time I visited Houston in July I was convinced my eyeballs would actually melt, so US visits are now scheduled for the more temperate climes in November. I think that somewhere in between growing up in 100 F summers and now hibernating in 0 C winters I have decided that the perfect temperature is the one that does not require either SPF 50 or 50 extra layers of clothing.

    In terms of standing out due to the perception of inferiority, I am sure what you meant by 'inferior' was actually 'so super snazzy'. ;-) To be honest, I have very rarely felt judged here for being a little different. I think the moms were eyeing up the lack of snowsuiting in the same way I was eyeing up the plethora of it - with uncertainty. When we see someone doing something different than us, we wonder if they're right and we're wrong or vice versa. We never stop and think that there's room for both solutions. This obviously applies to issues greater than wool layers on the Kid as well, but that hurts my head to think about at the moment.

    And while I have no intention of providing any sort of product reviews in my newly accepted status as 'mommy blogger', I will happily accept free samples. I would prefer these to be either Pampers size 3 diapers or chocolate (any type accepted). Send to JT, c/o Us & Them, Stavanger, Norway.

    Thanks for reading, David!

  3. Yes: we only go back to California in the Winter, because that just feels like everyday in Glasgow.

    Good to know that they weren't looking down on you! I've worried about whether they'd expect that you 'conform' to how things are done locally; glad to hear that's unfounded. :)

    As to the Pampers ... well, I wouldn't know where to begin, but I'd suspect that UK sizing is somewhat different? ;)

  4. I found I became progressively more Norwegian with regards to baby-dressing habits with each passing kid. I remember my mother-in-law being horrified that I took my first daughter for a walk through town without hat, gloves, or wool underclothes. "Det er jo vinter!" She kept whining at me. "No, it's autumn. And even if it is a bit crisp, she won't freakin' die of it!" I'd snap back.

    And lo, she didn't die. Oh, she got neglebit a time or two, but she got over it soon enough. By and large, she was fine.

    But by the time I had my third kid here, I'd pretty much caved into Norway's cultish devotion to wool underclothes. And everytime I swathed my new baby from head to toe is soft, pink lamb's wool, I felt a pang of guilt that my first baby never knew such cuddly, warm fuzzies.

    It was 16 degrees (Celsius, of course) in Bergen yesterday. A gorgeous day. Mild, not a breath of wind. My kids were larking about it t-shirts and capris. Yet 90% of other kids I saw had jackets, boots, and hats on. I don't get that. It's October. Ergo you WILL where winter attire. Nevermind the actual temperature. Det er jo vinter!

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