Saturday, July 4, 2009

Stunted Growth

Tonight my friend took me to a Yunnan restaurant near Sanlitun. Luckily he'd made reservations earlier as many hungry diners were sitting in the entrance waiting for a table.

The food there is pretty good -- we'd ordered mashed potatoes with tea shoots, prawn salad, cold tofu with a bean sauce, baked eggplant with cheese, and the best dish of all -- roast veal that was succulent, juicy and delicious.

We just barely finished our food, but it seemed others around us had similar experiences, ordering too much food because it all looked so good.

While we were eating, there was one table in the corner that had grandparents, a granddaughter, parents and a friend.

The grandma had the child in her lap as they ate dinner, while the parents and friend chatted away, periodically interacting with the toddler.

After they finished, the little girl started wandering around, playing with long ribbons that were quasi-curtains, yanking them.

The grandmother did nothing about it, not even disciplining her right away, condoning the child to continue playing and wandering through the restaurant. Meanwhile the father smoked a cigarette, the wife continuing her conversation with her friend with hardly a look of concern.

This is a typical family scene -- the parents uninterested in their child, while the grandparents look after their precious bao bao.

My friend remarked that today's grandparents are used to hard work, having raised their own children and been through tumultuous times in the past several decades.

But what will happen later when these parents become grandparents? Will they be as devoted and physically willing to look after their grandchild?

It also reminded me of my ex-colleague who recently got married.

She's 24-years-old and talented, hardworking and good at what she does.

However, she'd rather just stay in her low-paying job and not try to get ahead because she is now in the supportive role for her husband than trying to achieve more in her career. The other main reason is that now both parents and in-laws are expecting a grandchild soon...

I've met many young wives who seem content to continue with their work and not try to get ahead even though they are qualified or have ambitious aspirations.

Coming from the west, it's very difficult for me to understand or accept their belief in their station in life, when I see so much potential around me that will be stagnated or even diminished.

The pressure to get married at a young age (in their 20s) is so strong here, that it is difficult for a woman to focus completely on her career. China needs not only men, but also women who can forge new paths for the country in whatever field they excel in. And why not let them? Why must society force its familial obligations on these young people when they have only recently reached adulthood?

China could accomplish so much more and possibly have a less male-dominated society that would inspire more girls to realize that it is possible to have it all, whatever they define that to be.

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