On pleasant days, Chinese grannies congregate on the benches outside our apartment complex, chatting and sunning themselves (if it counts as sunning when you are wearing 2 layers of long underwear). Today as we headed out for a walk, our path took us right through the center of the group. I was wearing Juliana in my Moby wrap, so it took them a minute to notice her. Once they did, they eagerly swarmed in.
They touched her cheeks, plucked at her clothes, tugged curiously on the wrap, removed her pacifier, and pulled up her hat to examine the foreign baby's hair. They smiled and exclaimed and talked excitedly about this strange little foreign baby.
And they criticized. "Tai leng le!" (Too cold!) The baby could probably be so layered she looked like a ball and they would still say she wasn't wearing enough layers. When they heard she was only a month and a half old, they exclaimed, horrified, "Tai shao le!" (Too small!). In Chinese tradition, babies don't go out until they are three months old. They expressed their concern that the baby should not be curled up in the wrap. They said a bunch of other stuff we didn't understand, but tongue clicking and head shaking seem to be universal signs of disapproval.
Sometimes it's hard to receive continual criticism, but I have to remember that giving advice and being critical is a cultural way of showing you care about others. You could say that criticism is a Chinese love language. And the grannies weren't mean about it - they smiled despite their disapproval. We smiled, accepting the criticism, and continued on our walk. It's hard to argue with a billion people and thousands of years of tradition. Some battles you're just never going to win. So we smile and nod and keep being the crazy foreigners that we are.