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The traditional Inuit baby carrier, called an ‘amauti’ or the ‘amaut,’ is made from the skins of animals that share their lands, such as caribou and birds. The baby is cradled next to its mother’s warm body (sometimes her bare back) in a large, often furry hoodlike compartment, where mom can feel any odd movement, cough, or gasp.*

How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm: And Other Adventures in Parenting (from Argentina to Tanzania and everywhere in between) (Algonquin Books, 2012)

Author: Mei-Ling Hopwood

In How Eskimos Keep Their Babies Warm, Mei-Ling Hopwood devotes each chapter to a different parenting “issue,” from sleep in chapter one to academic achievement in chapter eleven, and she presents the approach of a particular culture to that issue. She makes a point of presenting cultural ways of handling universal issues of child rearing that stand in sharp contrast to typical – or stereotypical – American parenting techniques.

It’s clear that quite a bit of the time Hopwood prefers the approach of the culture she is describing to the familiar American approach, but she’s not blind to this tendency in herself. She not only explicitly acknowledges it on occasion, but also describes her efforts to adopt some of the techniques she encounters to use them with her daughter, Sofia. And she does not gloss over the decidedly mixed results or ignore the almost inevitable frustration and (after-the-fact) humor in trying out a new parenting technique – especially when a toddler is involved.

A taste of the book:

Lunchtime at La Mimarela in the tiny southern French village of Saint-Laurent-de-la-Cabrerisse is simply a vision – and I can’t believe toddlers are eating this cuisine. The first course features fresh, parboiled green beans dressed with olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper, served on colorful plates. The two- and three-year-olds eagerly grab them up with their little fingers. Esteban, a curly-haired blond, proclaims, ‘Je vais manger tout!’ I’m going to eat it all! His lunch mates laugh and make the beans dance on the table and in their mouths while an adult at the table gently reminds them to use their silver fourchettes (forks). Chubby Kara wants to pass on the beans, but little Julien reminds her of the cardinal rule of eating at La Mimarela preschool: everyone must try everything at least twice. (p. 37)

*p. 66

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