Baby inside vs baby outside
There’s something that I find very puzzling in China and that is the difference in attitude towards children that are still in the womb and the ones that are already outside. Let me elaborate. Here, when women get pregnant, they are supposed to follow a long list of dos and don’ts (mostly don’ts) to ensure the fetus survival and wellbeing. If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you might remember I wrote a post about Chinese pregnancy taboos. I’ll refresh your memory anyway with some of the most common beliefs: pregnant women are not supposed to exercise (or move much at all); pregnant women cannot have dogs; pregnant women have to cut their hair short (to avoid stealing nutrients from the baby); pregnant women cannot eat, among others, almonds, pineapple, crabs, lamb, rabbit, watermelon, mangoes, ice cream or anything of a dark colour (this last one is because, guess what, eating dark things will make the baby’s skin dark).
Even if most (all?) of these things have no scientific basis at all, we can say that at least they only want to protect the child. Then the weirdest thing happens after the baby is born. At the beginning everything is done with the utmost care and all imaginable precautions, but after a while, when the child is a bit older and has shown their capacity for survival… all precautions are thrown to the wind and it seems children are indestructible. In what sense? Let’s see:
– Children in the car without car seat. It’s not as common as before to see grandmas holding small babies in arms while riding a car, at least in Suzhou, but most children stop using a car seat after they are not babies anymore. I think for now I haven’t seen anyone using car seats for children older than 2 years. They don’t fasten the seat belt either. And it’s quite easy to see children younger than 6-7 years old sitting or standing on the passenger seat, or leaning out of the sunroof.
– Children on an electric bike without a helmet. In China, many people don’t own a car and they usually move around the city on electric bikes. Many grandparents ride their ebikes to pick the children up from school or kindergarten. Where does the child travel? Often they just stand in the space between the driver and the handlebar. Do they wear a helmet? Haha, what’s that?
– Children outside on very polluted days. I know that children are supposed to go out every day, but if the air is so thick you can’t see the building in front, maybe your child should stay home for the day. Although, if you don’t have an air purifier, it might be the same. Before when I had to walk my dog several times a day, I would often see grandmas taking their grandchild for a stroll when the PM2.5 index was unhealthy or even hazardous.
– Children with permed hair. I don’t know exactly which substances the perming products contain, but they are usually not recommended for pregnant women, so they cannot be very harmless. Why would you perm a child’s hair? Why, seriously? But in China (and I think also in other Asian countries), it’s normal.
– Children eating junk food. Unfortunately this is something that happens everywhere, not only in China. When a child is older and sees other children eating junk, it’s hard to keep them from wanting to eat it too. But here in China there are a lot of things specifically marketed for children, as if they were different or better than the adult versions: noodles for children, soy sauce for children, steak for children, milk for children… I have never bought any of these but they are very funny because, for example, the soy sauce for children still contains almost as much salt as the adult version and it’s much more expensive. The milk for children seems to be a very popular product and when looking at the ingredients… the second one is sugar. Then later parents are surprised when their children only want to eat sweet things! Did you know that in 1995 only 5% of Chinese children were overweight and now it’s 20%? The stereotype of the slim Chinese is going to be outdated soon.
So, when the child is still in the womb, you cannot be too careful, but when it’s outside… whatever! Children are very hardy!