As the country that invented Toddlers & Tiaras and crack babies, the U.S. doesn't always have the best track record when it comes to raising our kids. But if you want to freak out a set of American parents, just let them see some of the habits that are considered routine in other countries. Because somehow the world's kids do just fine despite the fact that ...
#6. Europeans Park Their Kids on the Sidewalk
Americans -- even ones from New York -- tend to freak out at the sight of unattended children, as a Danish tourist found out in 1997. While visiting the city, Annette Sorensen and her husband decided to eat at an East Village restaurant, but instead of hiring a babysitter or ordering takeout or, we don't know, maybe taking their child into the restaurant with them, they left their daughter parked in her stroller on the sidewalk.
Not one, but two different worried New Yorkers took the time to walk into the restaurant in hopes of finding the abandoned toddler's parents, begging whoever owned this child to just get her off the street. "The stroller alone is worth at least $30 in Times Square," they probably argued, New Yorkerly. The couple refused, leaving their baby outside for a whole hour while they enjoyed dinner. The locals called the cops, which was why the couple was arrested for child endangerment and lost custody of their kid for a day.
"If anyone tries to sell you crack, just make sure they don't rip you off with bunk shit."
Here was their defense: It turns out that in the mom's hometown of Copenhagen, leaving your kid outside while you grab some dinner or a latte is as normal as not leaving your kid outside while you grab some dinner or a latte in New York.
The restaurants are small and smoky and crowded, and the sidewalk is as safe and unattended as the Muppet Baby nursery, apparently. Parents all over Europe have no problem littering the streets with the fruit of their loins.
But just to be on the safe side, they usually strap a bomb in there as a deterrent.
This also explains why the New York situation wasn't an isolated incident -- a Swedish mom was gobsmacked (or whatever the Swedish version of that word is) when she was busted for leaving her kid outside a Tex-Mex restaurant in Massachusetts. Not only do European criminals not kidnap babies or their high-end strollers willy-nilly, European police are totally used to seeing kids out on the street unattended. "The child wasn't in danger and the mother claims she had an eye on things," one Stockholm cop told the press. You'd think the people who were the inspiration for the syndrome of sympathizing with your kidnappers would be a little more self-aware about how bad this looks. But you'd be wrong!
"Eh, it's just a baby. It's not like we can't make another one for free."
Speaking of Northern Europeans hating their children ...
#5. Nordic Kids Nap in Subzero Weather ... Outside
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Ask a conscientious American mom about her baby's nap routine and she's probably going to mention the standard safety measures: laying junior on his back, keeping stray stuffed animals and blankets out of the crib so he doesn't suffocate, kissing the crucifix that hangs over the bed exactly 12 times so Jesus will keep the baby safe during his nap, and then keeping the baby monitor on and by your side while he sleeps. Ask Nordic women the same question and they'll say something along the lines of "Stick 'em outside" and then go back to being insanely beautiful.
Asa Eriksson via BBC
No, that's not a stock photo with a white background. That's snow. The thermometer reads -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit).
For generations, Northern European moms have seen the bitter air of Old Man Winter as a healthy supplement to their babies' routines, as if babies are like cheese and will get moldy if left at room temperature. Talk to any Nordic mom and she'll tell you that exposing babies to the elements makes kids stronger, more resilient, and able to handle the elements later, which may not be true from a science perspective but is sure as hell metal.
Imagine standing outside a Swedish day care in January and seeing a whole row of baby strollers full of napping kids. In Finland, they recommend putting babies in the cold at two weeks old. Do you even know what a 2-week-old baby looks like? It's an overgrown marshmallow.
We're sure that Nordic ones would prefer to be roasted.
Obviously, the tots are wearing multiple layers of clothes and covered with blankets and probably have tiny little roaring fireplaces in their strollers. Parents even put cream on their little cheeks so the babies don't get chapped in the biting wind. Northern European parents aren't monsters, after all.
Are these kids perpetually afflicted with colds or pneumonia? Are the parents just too stupid to figure out that noses aren't supposed to run 24/7 and chronic, hacking coughs are a bad thing? Of course not. But researchers are on the fence as to whether outside naps are good or bad for babies. Some studies indicate that kids who manage more hours outside end up taking fewer sick days from school during the year. Other studies found the opposite. So we're going to conclude that unless Europe starts unleashing mutant Mr. Freeze kids on the world, no one is nearly as worried about babies napping in subzero temperatures as we are.
But if any of you do grow up with those powers, please remember who made you a freak. Our hands are clean.
#4. Letting Kids Drink Beer Is Way More Common Than You Think
When Americans got worried about the rise in childhood obesity, our FLOTUS made awareness of the problem a major priority. Mrs. Obama enlisted everyone from Beyonce to Jimmy Fallon to help get American kids back on the right track. When Belgium noticed the same problem back in 2001, they tried a different approach: Specifically, serving children beer.
True, we're talking about a light beer, and only 11 ounces of it to boot, but still. For Americans, the idea of giving kids any alcohol is just about equal to child abuse. So how did Belgian kids get so lucky? When health authorities got worried about their kids' preference for soda over water, a beer lovers' club suggested offering beer as a soda substitute. And to answer your next question, we don't know what a beer lovers' club is, either. The group you join before you're ready for AA? Maybe a fetish group?
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They thought they told you: They're beer lovers, not beer fighters.
Whatever a beer lovers' club is, this particular one was so influential that they got the beer on the cafeteria table in 2001, and 80 percent of the students who participated in their pilot program actually said they preferred beer to soda. Which is weird, because when you're a kid, Coke tastes like liquid candy and beer tastes like your dad's bath water. The next day after his bath.
Shockingly, Belgium didn't pick up the "Officially Giving Beer to Kids Now" program on a national level, maybe because alcoholism is the third leading cause of death in Europe and they didn't want to stoke the tragic death fire. The bad news is that is no one told Croatia that Europe has an alcohol problem, because parents are giving over 7 percent of their first graders alcohol more than six times a month. That's over once a week for the calendar-challenged. Even more horrifying, 30 percent of eighth grade boys and 12 percent of eighth grade girls report boozing it up six times a week.
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"OK, vodka break is over. Back on the field."
Remember that the next time you start worrying about American kids twerking.