Greece is the land of a million baby-sitters. It’s not like in America where if someone talks to your child in the park or the super-market your first thought may be that he is a pervert or a kidnapper. The Greeks love children and even the most grumpy old guy will light up if a child takes an interest in him. When we put Amarandi in the backpack she would love it because when we stopped to wait for the light to change so we could cross the street there would always be someone next to us or behind us talking to her, making faces, smiling at her and making her laugh. Kids generally attract attention from older people in Greece and when they are at eye level even more. Women will pinch her cheeks affectionately and call her a ‘koukla’ a word meaning doll and one of the few Greek words she knows. In the tavernas someone from the next table would adopt her and she would sit in their lap and they would entertain each other while we watched with enjoyment. When she would cry people would come over and play with her so she would stop. “Don’t cry my little koukla” they would smile and pay such attention that whatever was bothering her would be forgotten. Sometimes Greek women would pick her up and dance with her around the room, swaying with exaggerated movement until they were both laughing. This is stuff that if it happened in the states you might feel nervous about. But in Greece it is totally innocent and unthreatening and it makes me wonder what is wrong with us? How come we don’t enjoy kids the way they do. Sure we enjoy our own but can you imagine going up to a child at the next table who is crying, and trying to cheer him up? Most people’s reaction is “if you cannot keep your kid quiet can you get him out of here so I can enjoy my meal?”
Maybe it’s the partitioning of ages in our culture. Old people don’t have that much contact with the young in America, but in Greece its all one big happy family. You don’t have to worry about your child bothering the old people at the next table because it is no bother at all. They take pleasure in your child in a kind and loving way. Even if they don’t speak your language they will find a way to entertain with pictures drawn on napkins, folded figures, or cutting, peeling and feeding them the same fruit that the child refuses to eat when you give it to her.