Photo: Petrenko Andriy/Shutterstock

How to Parent Like an Argentine

Argentina Family Travel
by Cathy Brown Mar 16, 2015

Save every last peso to throw your daughter a quinceñera that keeps up with the Joneses.

Basically, the day she turns 15 she expects an over-the-top wedding, minus the groom. And, because she has been coddled and treated like a princess since the day she was born, she will get it.

Start with buying her a formal ball gown (the more sparkles and ruffles the better, and bonus points if it comes in a headache-inducing, near-neon color). Set up a professional photoshoot to nail the shot of her that will go on the hundreds of glossy invites. Once she is looking somewhere between ‘inappropriately provocative for an almost 15-year old’ but not quite ‘full-on slutty,’ you’ve got the shot. Definitely buy a red rose for her to bite ‘innocently yet seductively’ between her teeth for at least one of the shots. Rent the hall, mail out the invites, and set up catering for unlimited booze and food for a night (and following morning) of Fernet-drunk dancing to anything from tango to Cumbia, and good-intentioned but completely awkward speeches about her transition to womanhood. Rest well knowing that what goes around, comes around — you will be drinking on some other parent’s dime soon enough.

Forget about setting a rigid bedtime.

It’s pretty unrealistic for even the youngest Argentine kid to hit the sheets at 9pm on a school night — dinner preparations are usually just getting going at that time. Bedtime is any time after dinner and sobremesa, whenever that ends up being, or when your kid crashes naturally on the dining room chair, couch, or in your arms. It’s not uncommon to be at a restaurant at 11pm on a school night and still see families with kids eating dinner.

This early training in needing little sleep serves Argentine kids well for when they are teenagers and you…

…drop them off at the nightclub.

As early as 11 or 12. Yes, that’s 11 or 12-years old. In Argentina there are matinees, which are ‘kid-friendly’ versions of nightclubs that begin at around 11 at night and go merely until the respectable (in Argentina) hour of 2am. Depending on where you are in Argentina (certain regions are more lax, such as Patagonia), teens as young as 13 can hit the ‘real’ nightclubs around 2 or 3am and head home around 8am, at which time if you are a nice mom or dad you will have mate and tostadas con dulce waiting for them when they walk through the door.

Get ‘em hooked young on mate and red wine.

It usually takes foreigners a while to get used to the bitter taste of scald-your-tongue-hot yerba mate. But Argentines take it down like stone-faced pros because they literally have been training from the time they could drink from a cup. Preschools even serve mate cocida, a weaker version of mate, and by the time kids are in second or third grade, the mate cup, with steaming hot yerba straight up, often gets passed around the classroom throughout the day.

Argentine kids, lucky little devils they are, can get served Malbec diluted with soda water at dinner. But at least by the time they reach the legal drinking age, most have developed a taste for quality alcohol — for them, there’s usually no having to pass through a stage of ‘drink til you puke up the three bottles of peach-flavored Boone’s Farm you thought were a great idea to down.’

Sugar them up and send them outside to play it off.

Medialunas, mate dulce, dulce de membrillo, chocotorta, helado, buckets of dulce de leche, and, mmmm, the yumminess that is Cindor. Argentine moms dole out these sugar-filled goodies pretty regularly, yet in general there seems to be few ultra-hyped-up kids. Maybe it’s because Argentine kids still get out and play. They run it off playing futbol or field hockey, they go swimming in nearby lakes or rivers, they build forts outside — most are not stuck with their faces in front of an iPhone all day long.

Hug the living daylights out of them.

In the morning when they wake up. Before they get on the school bus. The second they get off the school bus. When you give them their snack. When they tell you something they did well at school. When they tell you something that didn’t go right at school. Basically, if 15 minutes in the day have passed and you haven’t hugged your child, you’re definitely not parenting your little rey or reina very Argie-style.

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