In the Belaval household, if you wash your hair at night and go to bed without blowdrying it, you are setting yourself up to catch a cold. I'm not sure this is only a Latino folk tale or if other cultures hold wet hair as the culprit of many upper respiratory infections, but for my family it is. The few times I've tried to go against the general consensus, I guarantee you I would wake up sneezing. It only happened while I lived in Puerto Rico because I've never really tried it while living in the United States.
Another island/family folk tale: cold weather makes you sick & not because you are stuck inside sharing germs with many others. No, standing outside in the cold weather (anything under 60 degrees) for a long period of time will make you sick. Now imagine the combination of wet hair and cold weather: lethal, just lethal.
That was the scenario I presented to my parents during a Skype conversation 4 weeks ago. I casually mentioned that I had signed up Amelia for swimming lessons.
"What, in that cold weather?" remarked my appalled mother.
"Ma, it's an indoor pool" I answered.
"What about when she leaves the pool?!" she asked in her disapproving tone.
"She'll get pneumonia" my father offered. (I'm not sure he really believes that, but I think he wanted to taunt both my mother and me)
"I bought a travel size hair dryer so that I can dry her hair before we leave the pool."
Yes, that's true and I admit that I bought because part of me believes the folk tale and part of me is still afraid of my mother.
"You are crazy. That girl is going to catch a cold. There is no need for her to learn how to swim in the middle of the winter!" the motherly lecture took off.
"But Mami, she loves it plus we are going to Puerto Rico during the winter. She'll know how to swim at the beach." was my defense.
"When have you seen a Puerto Rican swimming laps in the ocean. All we do is stay in the shallow area and jump over the waves." (to protect our drinks, by the way)
"Ma, the pediatricians say that wet hair and cold weather don't cause colds." I try citing experts.
"What do they know about anything. If that child gets bronchitis, I will take her away from you and share custody with Steve." (Apparently she considers my husband a better fit parent although he REALLY doesn't believe our folk tales) "You better dry her hair, Ana Maria." (She uses my full name when she's mad at me)
So every Wednesday evening, I'm the only Mom blow drying my daughter's hair after swim class. I do my best, but Amelia, born in Chicago, can't stand the noise or the heat. By now, I just carry the portable blower in my bag as a symbol...of fear.
I should also mention that Amelia has had a cough for 3 weeks now and Sunday we had to take her to the pediatrician who diagnosed her with a sinus infection. You know that I immediately thought about the pool AND my mother calling DCFS. So I asked the doctor who reassured me that it had nothing to do with swimming class. "What does she know?" said the voice in my head. Can someone tell me when that voice will leave me alone? Ay Mama!
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