Follow superstitions — every last one of them. Carefully.

If you want to be a parent in Bulgaria, then you better get a list of instructions on what to do to protect your child from dark forces. Grandmothers know all about it. Don’t procrastinate, because everything starts from the moment the woman gets pregnant. The Bulgarian mother has to keep her pregnancy secret until the first trimester is over. She can only tell the father and her closest friends and relatives, but then her secret becomes their secret. The newborn should definitely not go outside until he turns 40 days. Guests are not welcomed before day 40 as they may accidentally hex the child, especially if their energy is impure. To avoid hexing, everybody other than the parents has to say “Pu pu pu!” after complimenting the child. The more brutal version of this precaution is “Pu pu, kokoshkite te posrali!” (“Pu pu, let chickens poo on you!”), but mother and child will smile upon hearing this, so all is good.

Mothers should save their baby’s umbilical stump, along with the clip, and it is very important where the stump is thrown. If you leave it in a hospital, then your child will of course become a doctor. If you leave it in a bank, your child will be destined to be a banker. And if you accidentally throw it in the trash… oh, well, never mind, this is all bullshit anyway.

Let grandma take care of everything.

In Bulgaria, the grandmother is a stepmother, nanny, housemaid, chef, and teacher. And a genie, because the child’s wishes are grandma’s command.

I still have this image of my jar-carrying pocket-sized granny who let me boss her around. She used to take me from school, cook food for me, and even put on my socks when I was too lazy to do this by myself. Grandma left a permanent mark on me. Every time I had difficulty finishing my dish, I can hear her vivid, gentle voice saying, “You should always eat everything you have put in your plate! If you can’t eat it then don’t put it!.” Now I might bloat after every meal, but at least I have a successful no-food-waste policy. So, well done, grandma, for helping me save the planet.

Teach your child how to drink the right way.

The world is a dangerous place and the least your child could do is face it confidently. As soon as your child enters puberty, tell them all about bees pollinating flowers, storks carrying babies, menstrual cycles, erections, and, of course, what happens when they try alcohol. The curious child will always dip their pinky finger in your rakia (brandy) glass, lick it, and go “eeeel.” It is very common for Bulgarian parents to teach their little daughters how to avoid getting drunk and what tricks to use, such as to always eat when drinking, to make sure to dance a lot, or to simply chug a cup of fresh milk before going out.

Send your child abroad.

Unfortunately, many Bulgarian parents encourage their children to go live or study abroad. “There is no future for you here! You are young, smart and talented — you will make a lot more money abroad!” is what we Bulgarian children often hear from our parents. My relatives and friends were far from excited when I told them I was planning to quit my job and come back to Bulgaria after four years of living in England. “Are you crazy? Why would you want to do that?! Don’t come back! There is no future for you here!” was how they all cheered my decision.

Dear Bulgarian parents,
I often hear how you complain about the harsh demographic issue our country is facing and the brain drain taking our most intelligent people away. But you are the ones who encourage us to flee Bulgaria! You are the ones who discourage us when we want to return. Our future, the same future you say we don’t have here, depends on us. Our future is a reflection of our own actions. So, please, let us at least believe in it.

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