On a recent trip to Iceland, Australian TV host Jessica Rowe caused something of a stir when she posted a picture on Instagram showing a baby in a pram left outside a cafe.
Along with the pic, Jessica wrote: “For a helicopter parent like me – this makes me break out into a sweat!
“But all over Reykjavik families leave their babies outside cafes, shops etc… I’m told ‘fresh air is good for them’.”
This might be a rather strange – and even slightly scary – sight for a visitor, but for many Nordic families, it’s the norm.
Parents there often leave their little ones outside in temperatures which can reach below -5 degrees and, as Jessica points out, they believe it to be good for their health.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that after Jessica popped the pic on Instagram, a number of Icelanders were a wee bit miffed at her reaction – and others felt it necessary to explain the tradition.
First off – the mum of the baby in question had her say:
“To start off with, I am – as funny as it sounds – the mother of that little baby! If you would have been so worried about the baby, why didn’t you try to find the parents inside of the restaurant rather than taking a photo of the stroller and make it look much worse than it actually is?
“OF COURSE we keep an eye on the baby, we sit on a table inside next to the window. You really can’t go travel to another country, be surprised of their habits and take pictures and POST them without my permission.
“Do not disrespect the upbringing of my own baby because I am raised with these habits and rules, it’s Iceland.”
“It’s a long tradition here in Iceland to have infants sleep outside.
“The people of Iceland are only around 300,000 and the crime rate here is nothing like in the big scary world.
“Everybody here knows about this tradition and respect it, kidnapping babies is unheard of.”
And another commenter – who has recently moved to Iceland from the UK – added:
“I just moved here a month ago from London and am already embracing the safety of this place.
“Whilst nowhere is ever going to be 100% safe, I’m going with it. This tradition has happened for centuries with no issues….
“It will only become an issue if people come here and make it one. Kids as young as 5/6 walk to school, ride their bikes around neighbourhoods and go round to their friends houses or to the parks, with no adult escorting them.”
It was only on her return to Oz that Jessica realised the flurry of comments her picture had received, and she was quick to make sure her followers knew she had intended no offence when she posted it up:
“Wow – have just arrived in transit on my way home to Oz to discover a flurry of discussion!” she said.
“I was in no way criticizing you @hafrunelisa … And I’m sorry if you thought I was judging you.
“The pic I took was meant to be an observation of a tradition which a number of locals had explained to me.
“And again apologies if it offended you in any way. If you would prefer I can delete the pic from my Instagram. I had a wonderful time in Iceland.”
Fair do’s to Jessica. We’re guessing the practice just shocked her a bit as it’s not something she’s used to seeing – but how do you feel about it?
Would you embrace leaving your baby out in the cold if you visited Iceland?
Do you wish we lived in a similar culture where kids could be left to roam a bit more freely? Or does it give you, like Jessica, the sweats just thinking about it?
Tell us in the comments below or over on Facebook…
Photos: Jessica Rowe on Instagram