May 16, 2012

Where is your baby?

How old is your son?

This kid is in charge of the road

Babies are pretty precious here. Part of it is One Child, but I think a bigger part of it is the tradition that your kids are the ones who will take care of you in your old age, so it is so important to A. Have one, and, B. Treat it well.

Needless to say, people are very surprised1 when we say that we don’t have kids. Accepting, but surprised.

Our school is a very small community and we stick out a lot - everyone knows where we live and what we’re doing here - so it’s somewhat surprising that people still keep asking us about children. We’ve never been seen with a child (well, an American child; we’ve been seen with many Chinese children) and we haven’t been known to make any childcare arrangements while both of us are at class. But, here in China, it’s not uncommon for the kids to live with the grandparents while both parents go back to work - even if the parents have to go across the country for work. A teacher-friend we were talking with last night even seemed disappointed that this wasn’t the case for us. We were telling her about our blog when the clarification happened. “Oh, that’s too bad. I was picturing your babies reading your stories and looking at your pictures,” she said. She was less impressed that it was our adult family and friends. (Though we’re very grateful you’re here!)

So, there are two basic assumptions made about children here: If you’re married, you have kids. If you’re never actually accompanied by offspring, it’s because they live out in the country with grandma and grandpa. And everyone’s been very gracious as we’ve disabused them of this, but it has been funny to see their reactions. Oh, those crazy Americans!

1. I’ve had this exact conversation a few times with some of my juniors:

Student: How old is your son? [Showing obvious pride in putting the question together]

Me: I don’t have a son.

Student: [Obvious confusion, sometimes consulting with another student]

Student: [Aha!] How old is your daughter!

Me: I don’t have a daughter either. I don’t have any kids.

Student: No!?!

Me: What about you? How old is your kid?

Student: I don’t have kids!