Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Families Far Away

I have had the privilege to travel to the Far East again. I visited Kyoto, Japan and then China, Beijing and Shanghai. I could write a book about the experiences that I had over the past five weeks but I will save that for a separate blog about the world in the twenty-first century. This blog is about families and babies, parenting and pregnancy. I am going to say a lot about social customs over the next several weeks but today I must expand on the family theme and fill you in on seniors, elders, old people, whatever you want to call them. Parents who have fulfilled their obligations to their children ( since 1980, it's been one child only in China ) usually live with one of their offspring. Generally oldest son, only chid or whomever is most able to take them in. The grandparents care for the kids while parents are out working. They maintain the house and all the chores. They care for babies until school age. They take them to the park, walk them in the streets, shlep them on errands ( that's marketing everyday ) and do all the things that we would do for our kids if we were taking care of them. These grandparents look happy and relaxed and don't seem to stress over terrible- twos and inappropriate behaviors. There don't seem to be many conflicts out in the world and there is no crying, yelling or spanking, ever. Grands are attentive and babies are more than content. Facilities go far beyond family bathrooms here in the states. There are sinks for washing-up and cribs to place babies down and even holding facilities in a convenient corner for you to use the toilet or wash your hands. There are rocking chairs and little- people sized tables and chairs. There appears to be a level of respect and acceptance for both ends of the life-cycle. I am particularly struck but how much patience grandparents exhibit. I relate to this because I notice the same in myself from when I was a parent as opposed to a grandparent. There is something miraculous about observing grandchildren and noticing the nuances and changes in day to day development. It's like watching evolution before your very eyes. Fascinating, and time is only for the moment and not worrying about what comes next, be it chores or duties or even concerns. When children cry, they are coddled. When they are hurt, they are comforted. When they ask questions, there is often a long and thoughtful answer instead of "just because". When children are old enough to go off to school, their grandparents are far from isoloated. The parks are open from morning to dusk and they are packed with life. Dancing, live music, singing, tai chi, various exercise apparatus, set-ups, cards, checkers, mahjong, knitting circles. You name it. People are out and engaged and together, laughing, playing, having fun. The depression and desperation of old age doesn't show here. Rather, people are enjoying the fruits of the labors of their long and often difficult lives. This does indeed seem to be the real golden years. So I saw happy babies that are very well cared for, school age kids in packs of uniformed, hand-holding friendships, busy parents going to and from work and seniors living it up. Not comparing, just observing but doesn't it sound nice?