I suppose I should kick this off with a disclaimer: I love China, Chinese people and most of the culture and this post could be taken the wrong way and I really hope that it won’t be… so anyway… During my recent trip to China, I spent 2 weeks on a mountain in the province of Shaanxi. In a bit of a role reversal for China, the poor in society are moving to the cities to look for work and support their families while the more affluent are looking to move into bigger apartments, nicer areas and, strangely enough, want to go back to their roots and set up farms. My in-laws have a cherry farm, it’s beautiful in cherry season but in winter it is miserable (for me anyway - they love it!) As retirees they are often looking to fill their days with meaning which led to what I call their “indecent proposal”... While watching TV one night my mother-in-law announced that we should leave our baby, our only child whom we adore, with them IN CHINA when we return to Ireland (this is the norm in China so that we would be free to make more money and provide a better future for our daughter… and also so that we might miss her enough that the idea of a second child would become very appealing and give them another grandchild, preferably a grandson!) My sister-in-law has done it, my wife’s cousins have all done it and it will continue to be done as this is a legacy of the situation left behind by the communist system and Mao. The offer itself didn’t bother me but the fact that it happens so often does, so I decided (against my own advice) to tell them why I hate the idea of it and why I don’t think ANYONE should do this:
- Your ability to raise a kid as a parent is constantly questioned: This has gotten me into trouble with many a grandparent over the years. I find it hard to stand by while grandparents berate their own kids for the choices they make when they are raising their grandchildren. It frustrates me even more when grandparents tell their own children that they don’t know what they are doing!! Everyone has to learn and no-one knows everything, but using this as leverage against your own child is an abuse of parental power to relieve boredom and give grandparents more control over their grandchildren.
- Discipline and corporal punishment:Grandparents spoil their grandchildren and this is not a bad thing. The problem happens if this is a daily experience because then you are raising entitled little brats (of which there are many!) By the time the parents get their kids back they have no discipline, no manners and grandparents and parents often resort to corporal punishment to correct their own poor decisions and lack of rules.
- Constant criticism of your child for not being someone else’s child: The Chinese are some of the most cutting and critical when dealing with children. What I’ve seen in the last 10 years of living in China and being the principal of a school was at times SO harsh, in fact, we had to ban parents from the school because of physical abuse of their own kids. There is always another kid that parents and grandparents compare the child to, they’re more intelligent, play the piano better, study harder etc etc etc. Children are called stupid and shamed if they don’t get something right. This is not the positive reinforcement that I want for Jade.
- Antiquated cultural beliefs about the role of Woman: The role of women, the role of men, the worship of the rich and the mass amount of superstitions bothers me. I want Jade to know everything about her culture but I don’t want her to blindly accept everything that she is told!
- Dangerous medicines, blood-letting and bruising: Going into a children’s hospital and seeing a drip for EVERY illness is hard. Babies with lines placed in the blood vessels of the forehead, kids with colds getting drips, antibiotics used for everything, using stones to rub the skin to bring blood to the surface, hot cupping – none of these are something I want to inflict on a child, especially my own. (I do like much of it... but there are times when it goes too far!)
- Constantly listening to arguments: The Chinese are a rowdy bunch when you get them together! The conversations get very animated, people all talk at the same time and it gets very exuberant and loud. Every-time I go back its hard to get used to during the first few days.
- SMOKING! You can see why!