Ever since I gave up digging my way to China, I’ve wanted to visit there. I finally made it this fall.
One of the many things that fascinated me is how parents treasure their children, especially their sons. To be more exact, parents treasure the one child the government permits them to have. The party-ruled Chinese government began restricting the great majority of families to one child more than 20 years ago in order to curb the soaring population.
Often in the streets or parks you see a small child surrounded by four or five adults—the parents, the grandparents, aunts, or uncles. They shower attention and gifts on the household’s little emperor. Gradually officials became aware of the danger of a nation of spoiled brats, so they now encourage parents to send their single child to kindergarten, what we call pre-school, at age three so that they will learn to play with others. And get a head start on their education.
These kindergartens cost a lot, but parents and family members sacrifice to send their children there and give them the advantages that come from a good education. We visited a boarding kindergarten for three-, four-, and five-year-olds. The parents bring their children to school on Monday morning and pick them up on Friday afternoon. It’s hard to imagine how difficult this must be for parents and children, but many families regard it as their duty.
The kindergarten had the kinds of decorations you see in classrooms in the States. Each teacher (all young women) had an electronic keyboard and a blackboard. Each classroom had approximately 35 children. All wore coats in the unheated rooms. They sat at tiny desks, and they napped and slept in little beds in crowded dorm rooms. They greeted us with great enthusiasm, turning healthy, smiling faces to us or rushing to the open windows to peek over at us. Irresistibly cute.
Wherever they are, kids are kids.