“Grandma lives with them?”
‘Yep, but she’s going back to China.”
“Ugggghhhh, no, this kid is going to be spoiled rotten.”
I would hear this conversation over and over at the daycare center where I used to work. The assumption is that the Chinese grandparents coddlesthe baby for the first few months of their life, and then when grandma goes and the kid hits up the daycare, they are needy needy needy. I never participated in these exchanges, as stereotypes make me bristle inwardly. But I have to admit that the assumption was often correct.
China’s one child policy has been in effect until very recently, so most families still have just one kid, and he or she is the family treasure. Current American child rearing skews more toward individualism, we demand them to learn to feed themselves, sleep in their own bed, become self sufficient as early as possible. In China, not so much. I see grandmas chase after toddlers to feed orange slices directly into their mouths. Large children, between 3-5 years old, are often rocked to sleep in their parents’ arms in public places, or pushed around on big strollers. (Maybe because it’s more common for families to live in big cities?)
These are the types of things that a year ago would’ve given me, as a Western child care provider, a neverending headache. Now, I don’t care. Whatever. It’s a different culture, a different approach, there is no one right way, blah blah, do what you want, as long as I don’t have to take a role in sleep training. Besides, it’s pretty cute. And really, is it that much different from the overprotective American helicopter parents?
In the other direction, you can’t transport a kid anywhere in America without first sealing them in several layers of bubble wrap. In Shenzhen, people zip around busy streets on bikes and electric scooters with a baby propped up in the basket, no seat belt no nothin. (I will admit this one was hard for me to accept.) Nobody blinks at kids riding their scooters or roller blades inside public buildings. (I would give a million years of detention for this in Illinois.) You better not take picture of a child in America without signing a waiver first, but when some of the (more annoying) tourists take Instagram shots of the “cute Asian kids” the parents are like sure whatever and the kids will straight up strike poses. Wave or smile at a baby and the parent may just hand them over to you for a visit. (Rumor has it that the kids are taught in school the opposite of stranger danger, to be friendly to foreigners, to create a good impression of China, but I also heard this from an American so grain of salt.)
I run at a park near my apartment building that borders a public school. I can sometimes see the kids doing their morning exercises in the yard. One particularly early morning, I saw all the kids, at least several hundred strong, all standing at attention in pin straight militaristic lines, saluting while the National Anthem (?? I’m so ignorant) played over the speakers. If I’d seen a picture of this four months ago while on American soil, I’d have been taken aback and thought it was weird/creepy. Now, my thought process is more along the lines of, hmmm if I were to develop an education system I would most likely not have this, but it’s not my country and as a guest I am definitely not going to judge. (Not to mention that having American kids stand up and mindlessly repeat the Pledge of Allegiance is plenty weird/creepy. )
What I really felt when I saw this display though, was a bit of indignation. So, if I’m reading this right, you’re telling me that the kids in my classes, who giggle their heads off, sing Let it Go or songs about butts in Chinese at the tops of their lungs, attack me with hugs, try to sneak up on me and hit my butt, and offer me sweaty handfuls of potato chips, are actually capable of holding still for more than 8 seconds at a time???? WHODA THUNK.