Traveling around Singapore with Kids #3–Other People

Singaporeans like kids.


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.

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3 Responses to Traveling around Singapore with Kids #3–Other People

  1. Zach Woods says:

    I would share and do respect your seeing positives in this!

    I would also have trouble with the trying to help when my child was crying behavior but otherwise see positives for Elanor (and even for you).

    Have you tried to share with your helper the important cultural value, for you, of not supporting or even allowing hitting?


  2. Rebecca Redin says:

    I LOVE this about Singapore. It took a bit of getting used to, but once I realized that 99.99999% of them are genuinely nice and kid-friendly, I welcomed it with great enthusiasm. I take the bus nearly everywhere I go and with three kids age 3 and under, friendly strangers are the only way I manage.

    And, once, when our middle child (15 months at the time) wandered away at a department store and managed to make it several aisle away before we found her, she was being helped by a sweet “Auntie” who was holding her little hand and looking for us. 45 seconds can seem like an eternity when you can’t find your baby, but in Singapore, the good news is that at the end of it, you’ll probably find that your baby is perfectly safe and being taken care of by a very kind stranger who is looking to find you.

    Oh, and as for those crazy stairs at the bottom of the escalators. . . my *theory* (which at least has helped me cope because they drive me crazy, too!) is that they put them there to keep the sudden rain waters from damaging the electrical units of the escalators. I don’t know if there’s any truth to it, but it is the ONLY thing I could think of that made any sense at all.

    • Crystal says:

      That’s an interesting theory (about the stairs). It does make sense, when you put it that way, but still…they suck.

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