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Please Report My Wife to the US Embassy for Improperly Dressing Her Children

by Laura on July 15th, 2013

When my kids were babies, their (American) pediatrician said I could dress them as I dress myself.

It made perfect sense to me.

If the weather is nice and I’m wearing one layer, the same is sufficient for them. The idea being, kids run a bit warmer than adults, plus they’re wearing a diaper (and I, for the record, am not).

Then, I moved to Serbia. Where this is quietly considered child abuse.

Rules, rules, rules

Here, unless a child is jumping into a body of water and therefore wearing only a bathing suit or better yet, nothing at all, children wear no less than two layers.

[I have seen some exceptions, but I'm unsure as to whether these are renegade parents, or if there are indeed situations in which one layer of clothing will suffice. Such as: it is effing hot outside.]

So when my mother-in-law took my then one-year old son downstairs one afternoon, I shouldn’t have been surprised by what transpired.


Unsolicited Professional advice on dressing a child

You see, in the summertime and even into September (gasp!), we setup a pool outside. And yes,  because I’m sure you’re wondering, I do let my kids go with “naked feet” on the concrete.

My toddler, wearing a (now dry) swim diaper, wanted to take a break from swimming and accompany his grandma on her errand. Moving quickly, he slipped on the first shoes he saw (and coveted): his sister’s pink Hello Kitty rain boots … because that’s how he rolls.

(Not the real social-worker-lady in question.)

Downstairs in the parking lot, a woman drove up and called to the pair

Oh my goodness, I am so glad to meet you!

I am a social worker. I have seen this child with his mother. She’s American! She has a daughter, too!

Neither child is ever properly dressed! Look at the boy now … You must explain to her how dangerous this is.

The fact that it was nearly 90 degrees F (32 C) did not matter. That my son is a sweaty guy, that he runs warm, that he was playing, in a pool … none of it matters, because … 

According to “Serbia Rules,” his attire is inappropriate, borderline dangerous. How? Why?

I shall list my apparent mistakes in dressing my son:

  • no socks
  • no shirt
  • no snapping “onesie” under the shirt
  • no pants, or for god’s sake, at least shorts!
  • no hat (to guard against dangerous direct sunlight on one’s head, even if it’s late afternoon and there all sunlight is pretty indirect)
  • probably some other stuff that I don’t even know about that make me an awful, or at least clueless mother.

My mother-in-law–the most polite, gracious person you’ll ever meet, was slightly flabbergasted. So she called my husband.

Ever helpful (not), Misha said

Tell the social worker to report my wife to the US Embassy. I’m sure they’ll completely  understand.


When my mother-in-law returned to our apartment, I asked what she told the social worker. Because surely, she would never repeat my husband’s irreverent sarcasm.

I told her that when my kids were growing up and going to daycare, they got sick often. My grandchildren hardly get sick.

Proper dress and sickness–old wives’ tale or science? 

Truly, my children’s dressing habits astound and confound nearly everyone. On a daily basis.

Women have literally stopped us on the street to comment on the fact that my daughter’s footless tights don’t reach down to her socks, leaving two inches of bare skin exposed. Naked!! I did not point out that it was a lovely 70 F (21 C) autumn day and that she should mind her own business. People here truly do care about children’s well-being.

Admittedly, there is some truth to the body’s immune system working overtime when the body is too cold, thereby making it more susceptible to airborne germs. Okay. I’ll give you that much.

Yet, somehow, through proper eating habits, exercise and a basic knowledge of how one actually gets sick (through contact with germs, as proven by science), my kids are fairly healthy. 

Knock on wood.

*  *  *  *  *

“Baby Boy Dressed” by -Marcus-, “Happy Old Female Showing Finger” by imagerymajestic, “Fresh” by graur razvan ionut and “Windmill Toy On Grass” by basketman, from

From → Expat Mommy

  1. Barbara Thavis permalink

    Fireworks store on the main floor of an apartment building is a okay but beware of the underdressed child. Hilarious!

  2. Lulu permalink

    Maybe you need to move back to your prescious, wonderfull, beatific and oh soo awesome USA asap before those "savage" and "promitive" Serbs (unlike your emancipated husband who loves to proudly remind every other Serb that they can direct all their complaints to the all powerfull

    US embassy) ruin your kids. They may end up thinking of themselves as Serbs which would be the absolute worst. It must take an inhumane amount of strenght for an american "agent of goodnesss" to fight the Serbian evil on the ground in Serbia, and using your children to booth. I hope you get the award from the NSA for trying to finish what your country started years ago.

    • I really have no idea what you're talking about! I would have thought the joking-tongue-in-cheek tone was apparent :)

      If you really want to know how I feel about Serbs and what Nato/US has done to the area, you ought to read my posts on inat and the myth that all Serbs are war criminals.

      I'm sorry you missed the point, as I'm actually one American who "gets it" more than most, and has tried to educate myself beyond the mainstream Western media.

    • Katie permalink

      Seriously, lighten up Lulu! This is a blog you read by choice, not force, if you don't like the content, don't read it, but there is no need to insult the author, especially on her own site.

      Laura, love the post, it's so true and I appreciate the humor, sarcasm included but maybe that's the American in me……and yes Lulu, I live in Serbia, but as a housewife, not a spy.

  3. Good one! Cracked me up. "I am a social worker!" (I guess in Serbia that allows you to tell random people on the street how to dress and dress their kids. I wish WE had that power here.)

  4. Its like this in Ukraine yet worse. WORSE I tell you.

    As SOON as it falls to a degree less than 20 celsius, woe betold if your child isn't wearing a wholly hat…

  5. So glad you put in the disclaimer about you and the diaper, though it did cause me to spray my computer screen.

    I thought it was difficult to justify Love & Logic here!

  6. Jason Vignone permalink

    My wife and I constantly remind baba that our daughter is okay without sleeves and a coat on 75+ days here on Chicago. Also that it's okay to have a fan on in the house if its 80 outside. I Stoll can't explain the five second rule or that hands can go 10 minutes between washing. Weare thinking of moving rto Beograd next spring. Maybe they'll change me. Thanks for the blog, good to know there are other crazy Americans endangering their children out there.

  7. Mrs. Bo permalink

    Sorry your post was misunderstood by a serbian I can tell from your other posts you are very pro-serb! Goodness, you married one!! (as did I) I can definitly appreciate both what your husband and your MIL told this concerned social worker!

    I have a love-hate relationship with how the Serbian people love children. I LOVE how much they love children (and all the free kifle and chocolates they give my son- thank you), but sort-of dislike (hate is too strong perhaps) how they touch/kiss faces/hands of babies (not just friends but complete strangers on the street and in shops).

    Yesterday an elderly man came up, took my son by the hand and started walking away with him. (Now I know he can't outrun me so I knew a kidnapping was not going on) I waited before reacting thinking even maybe senile? Dementia? Maybe he thinks this is his grandson? I asked what he was doing and he didn't even look at me and said what a good boy he was (there I was thinking- NO he is NOT a good boy if he lets some random man take his hand and walks away with him no fuss). I even tried talking to my son in English to sort of give this pensioner the idea that I was a foreigner and uncomfortable with the situation. After walking back and forth a couple times he said goodbye and was on his way. And I, was left dumbfounded and a bit in shock. "What just happened?"

    • Ohmigoodness! This is awesome! This has never happened to me, but I can totally see it happening! I totally use the "speak English so people will realize that I'm a foreigner and back off" thing :) Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't.

      Like so many things here, Serbia is often at extremes for me–yes, they love their kids and cherish them, but some of the old school practices drive me batty!

      Thanks for commenting,

  8. Laura, Love your tongue-in-cheek delivery but again humor can be mistaken for something else especially when you're a foreigner commenting about local habits. It sounds like there are certain cultural habits associated with a child's dress in Serbia and if you don't conform, then it's child neglect.

    My second child was born during the hot season in Mexico so he wore light clothes and a cover. My mother-in-law would come over when I wasn't home and swaddle him like a tamale, and I'd find him bawling and head wet with sweat. This is our custom, she told me.

    You're fortunate to have an understanding mother-in-law.

  9. People just have waaaaayyyyy too much parenting advice to dish out every single time to every single person out there. What ever happened to 'To each his own'? grrrr……

  10. Well, if it is of any help, it is the same in France. Kids are supposed to be covered up. A scarf in winter is a must, even if I am from south of France and the temperatures were in the region of 21Celsius. And the hat of course.
    My daughters are British and are half naked all the time. It is a cultural thing. I had the occasional comment from time to time, and I mentioned that we were not from here. It usually does the trick.Go figure!

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  13. I really don’t have the idea that I should be laughing at this blog or should I take it seriously because I do have the same thing about my wife. She should be having some sense to take care of the children’s.

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