Singaporeans like kids.
No, like REALLY LIKE.
And they aren’t shy about sharing that with you…and your child.
If you are one of those moms who wants everyone to stay ten steps back and take an antiseptic bath before coming near your child, stay away from Singapore.
To wit…Elanor has had her picture taken by strangers, has been picked up by strangers (after asking permission), touched, kissed, blessed, and generally been handled by complete strangers.
There is a big cultural piece to this. Every strange woman is addressed as “auntie” and every strange man is addressed as “uncle.” I have found it common that people take this faux familial tie quite seriously. People notice kids here. They look out for them. They help you by offering a seat, a hand to get down those unexpected stairs at the bottom of the escalator, and if your child is crying people will descend on you to try and help stop it (which is in itself problematic when your child is melting down because they’re fighting a nap or are overstimulated and they’re just making it worse…at best it just makes you feel like the center of attention and like a bad parent).
There are so many positives to this. Kids are generally welcomed wherever we go. People make an effort to connect with Elanor directly. And Elanor, in turn, blossoms under the positive attention.
But there are negatives. As I noted, if a kid is crying, it becomes the center of attention, which makes parenting in that situation difficult. Often I have also seen children get indulged in ways that I would not consider appropriate for Elanor just to get them to stop crying. There are lessons taught there that will (and do) have long term negative impacts. I see this most frequently with helpers…even our own. Elanor will kick her, but B will either just take it or say in a soft tone “no kick” as opposed to making it clear (with tone) that kicking is not acceptable. When Elanor slaps us, Ravi and I insist on her giving us a “gentle touch” to reinforce that hands aren’t for hitting. B doesn’t, even though I’ve asked her to, in part because it’s just so different from her previous experiences as a helper here and in Bahrain.
It’s also hard, if you’re the type of parent who prefers people to keep their distance.
I’ve had people ask me if they can take Elanor’s picture, which I don’t care about, but I know that there is a faction of parents who are always worried about the worst possible outcome.
I’ve had people hold her hand or give her five.
On Chinese New Year, a stranger handed her a bag with oranges in it.
It’s just like that here.
Personally I see the positives, not the potential negatives. But it is something that, if you are moving here or traveling with kids, you need to be ready for.