Saturday, April 18, 2009

China Kids

I'm having a stab of conscience about the post I wrote yesterday. I know it was negative. I'm going to leave it there, though, because when I look back at my blog in years to come, I want to have a balanced memory of what it was like living in China.

I'm afraid I'll move to the States and after a few months think, "China was the most wonderful place to live in the world. I wish I still lived there. My life was perfect," or I'll think, "Boy, how'd I ever live there for eight years? It's so good to be back in America!"

I don't want to be extreme; I want to remember the bad and the good. So, I'm leaving yesterday's post so when I'm in one of my China's-perfect moods, I can read it again and remember, "Oh yeah, that really bugged me."

And today I want to write about something wonderful, so when I'm remembering the uncomfortable things about living here, I can realize it was actually pretty great.

I generalized yesterday, so I'll generalize again today: Tianjin people love children.

My experience in America is that people are often indifferent to children. There are children everywhere. If they're in the "wrong" place at the "wrong" time, then they even annoy people. For instance, a child in an upscale, candle-lit restaurant is not welcome. Even the fact that there are such places as elderly communities where children are not allowed tells us something about our American culture's view of children.

But in China, children are precious.

I've never, in eight years of China motherhood, felt that my children were unwelcome anywhere. And that's saying something.

My children get attention. Sometimes it's overwhelming for them, but they are carted around, caressed, their cheeks are pinched, by total strangers. People are absolutely in love with children.

Even the lady who yelled at Aaron yesterday about Sophie not wearing socks, finished scolding, reached into her stroller, and picked her up, cuddling her and saying how adorable she was.

Granted, children are a rarer breed of human here in China. Married couples can only have one child, which means two sets of grandparents only get one grandchild between them to dote on and spoil. Maybe that's part of the reason children are so treasured.

And Chinese parents, grandparents, and helpers have the hover technique down pat. Small children are never allowed to forge out on their own. They're hovered over. Every minuscule need is met instantaneously.

Next to Chinese children, my children look like unkempt hooligans. No wonder I get scoldings!

You may ask, if children are so treasured, why are there so many abandoned children in China? Why are babies with even the smallest flaw carted off to orphanages and dumped there? When you can only have one child, there's a focus on perfection that's not there to the same degree when you can have as many children as you want. But those children that are kept are treasured.

Now that I'm actually writing all this down, I realize how complicated this subject is. Is treasuring children to this degree good for them? Is China turning into a nation made up solely of self-centered only children? I know I'm not the first person to pose that as a concern.

My positive point, however, remains. I have had nothing but good, positive interactions with the Tianjin people about my children. They are enthusiastic about them, patient with them, tender, kind, generous. It's not uncommon when we're eating at any restaurant for the serving staff to come and scoop up one or two of our children and cart them back to the kitchen to meet everyone. It's nice for a mom who hardly ever gets a bite of warm food to be able to sit down and chow down for a few minutes.

And it's safe here. Nobody's stealing my kids. When the waitress takes my six-month-old out of my arms and walks around the restaurant with her, I know she's coming back ... eventually.

China has been a loving environment for my kids. Moving to kid-indifferent America might come as kind of a shock.

1 comment:

  1. It WILL come as a shock. We moved back home last year after five years in China and daily I am saying, "Oh..China was so much better..I wish I'd never left..." though when I really, really sit down and think about it, I know that China drove me nuts in some ways.