Could I Roll My Eyes any Harder at You?


One of the things that I find hardest about living in Bali is the differences of opinion when it comes to raising children. Particularly as I live with my in-laws so there’s no opportunity to run off home and do things my way with nobody tutting and looking at me with disapproving eyes.

Kiran was in a mood yesterday. I think he’s teething and he’s got a bit of a cold so fair enough. He was wingeing, crying and I just couldn’t keep him happy. Eventually I just took his clothes off and plonked him down on the bathroom floor so he could ‘help’ me wash the clothes. This he loved, just pouring water with a cup from one bucket to another. After a few minutes Made’s father walked past and gasped seeing his poor defenceless grandchild naked and wet in 30 degree heat and shouted something like “quick Kiran, come here before you get a fever” which we both ignored, obviously.

After another couple of minutes I’d finished the washing and decided to get Kiran dried off despite him still having lots of fun playing in the water. Generally I don’t like to rock the boat and prefer to keep everyone relatively happy and then go and rant about it on facebook later. But Kiran was having none of it – thrashing in in my arms, screaming, flying snot, we’re talking full-on tantrum. And sorry, the happiness of my children trumps ridiculous ideas about what causes illness so I filled him up another bucket of water and let him get on with it. Made returned home 5 minutes later and I could hear my father in law saying something to the tune of “do you know your wife is trying to kill your son?”

This is why I love it when my parents visit as we can set up the paddling pool over at our other house and let them splash and play and frolic to their heart’s content. Guess what? They don’t get sick! Or maybe they do get sick because surprise surprise, kids pick up bugs and get sick sometimes. They get sick if they don’t play in water. They get sick if they do. THERE IS NO CORRELATION BETWEEN PLAYING IN WATER AND GETTING SICK.

I grew up in the UK and have fond memories of splashing around in the paddling pool in the summer. My mother is an experienced early years educator and understands the importance of letting young children play with water so they can learn the basic concepts of science, the environment and get sensory stimulation. In fact she’s suggested on a number of occasions that I invest in sand and water table for them to play with. Bali is after all the ideal place to play in water – it’s hot every day, we live outside most of the day so there’s no need to worry about mess and cleaning up spill. Of course my kids are happy playing in water on a hot day.

But oh no, this is Bali where apparently playing in clean water in your own house on a hot day makes you deathly sick. I am wondering if this water is really so dangerous, why are they happy for Maya and Kiran to bathe in it twice a day? And I’m pretty sure it’s a hell of a lot cleaner than the river at the bottom of the street that they all like washing in where everyone washes their clothes, dumps their rubbish etc. Meme came back from the river with Maya early the other day “Oh you’re back so soon?” I say to Maya “yes mama, dead dog in the river” says Maya. Lovely.

I can understand where this fear of playing in water comes from. Yes, contaminated water can harbour typhoid, cholera, parasites and all sorts of other nasty things. But I am not letting my kids play in a dirty puddle on the side of the road. This is CLEAN WATER IN OUR HOME.

I’ve given up on repeating that illness is caused by viruses and not by wind, rain or playing in clean water. I find it ridiculous that the kids are whisked inside at the first drop of rain and yet they’re happy to keep drinking out of the same cup without ever washing it and eating meat that’s been sitting out for a week. I fully accept and appreciate that western methods and ideas are not always correct, or at least not always the most effective. I have experienced first-hand the wonders that a balian (traditional healer) can perform. But please, do me a favour and learn some basic germ theory. Oh and by the way, bundling kids up in big jumpers, blankets and a hat when they have a fever isn’t very helpful either.

There are some parts of Bali life that just continuously frustrate me day after day after day. And I think it might be time to buy that sand and water table.

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7 Responses to “Could I Roll My Eyes any Harder at You?”

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  1. Ahhh Eva loved playing in her paddle pool back in Hawaii. We don’t get clean water in our homes, here, though, so we haven’t been able to let her play like that… although, people always warn me to not let water get in her mouth during bathtime, which I find impossible, and she hasn’t fallen ill yet. Maybe it builds her immunity in a way? At least we have a purified pool nearby. It would drive me crazy to have in-laws telling me what to do all the time… Sorry, hun.

  2. Oh my, this sounds like Chilean mentality!! On a hot day, if there’s a draft after the kids come out of their bath, the hubby will immediately assume they’ll get a cold from the draft…and all those poor newborn babies who have to wear socks and hats (plus blankets!) even in the summer…and don’t ever let your kids let their hair dry naturally or they’ll get the flu. CRAZY!!!

  3. Rachel says:

    The water here is not always clean enough for drinking but ours is from a private well and I was drinking it right up until I got pregnant and decided I should be a bit more cautious with no problems. Anyway they don’t think they’ll get sick from bugs in the water, they just think that getting wet gives you flu or something. They do drive me crazy but it could be worse I guess :p

  4. Rachel says:

    Hehe, yes the poor babies! I don’t know how most of them survive infancy!

  5. Preach!!!! Also, I don’t know if it’s the same in Bali, but apparently if you get your hair wet from rain the only cure is to wash it. You know, with water. Otherwise, you’ll get sick. Huh??? And I’m pretty sure that my (beloved) nanny thinks I’m the dirtiest human being in the entire world because I don’t shower twice a day. Sometimes, when I haven’t ben to the gym or been outside much, it takes me a few days to get around to a shower. And I certainly won’t bath my kid twice a day. Because, who has the time???

    I only have to battle this one out with our (beloved) nanny. I don’t have to fight the in-laws, so I consider myself lucky and maintain my sanity. So, I admire your strength and restraint.

  6. Rachel says:

    The wet hair thing is a new one to me – I won’t mention it to them because I’m sure they’ll decide it makes perfect sense! Twice a day baths/showers for all round here. Sometimes I have 3 but we have no aircon so you get rather hot and sticky over the course of the day. I do think it is a bit over the top for the kids though – even if we’ve been somewhere and get back really late I still have to give them a ‘bath’ with babywipes, haha :p

  7. Emma says:

    I don’t know how you can live with family here! I would of gne insane already! Dillon is just getting over a fever which also caused a seizure and i’m shocked at how the family dealt with this and the medical advice i recieved! How does wrapping a baby in blankets stop a fever? Its causing me to rethink living here if i have to argue with my husband and his family to get my son the treatment he needs to get better!