My friends often joke with me that I always take my baby everywhere. So much so that it has given me a semi-complex about always taking Tanner with me.
When my little family and I went back to the U.S. for a recent holiday, naturally, the first thing my husband and I wanted to do was get some good food. As we walked into the steakhouse pushing the stroller, we were expecting to get strange looks from everyone wondering why we would bring a baby to dinner.
Oddly, I saw not only a few other strollers but was more shocked to see older children sitting with their parents at the dinner table - the point here, is "sitting with."
Back in Shanghai, it's rare to see older kids just sitting properly at dinner with their parents, not running around the restaurant or screaming their heads off. This got me thinking. Why is it so different back in the U.S.?
The key difference, I noticed, is the lack of full time A-yis, or babysitters.
Unfortunately, not everyone can afford the luxury of full-time nannies like we can in Shanghai. However, I feel that sometimes parents have been spoiled by this luxury.
It's all too easy to take your A-yi with you wherever you go. Therefore, your child is constantly given attention and occupied by the A-yi.
While this is a great way for parents to free up their time, is it really good for the children? What skills are we teaching our children when they have their every whim met with attention?
And if the A-yi is constantly tending to the kids, then what are the parents doing?
Kids who are constantly given attention never learn how to entertain themselves. I've seen this far too many times in screaming kids who want mommy or daddy's attention and can't cope when they are not provided with an immediate reaction.
While back in the U.S., I've noticed that children there are much more patient and able to play on their own.
Without a constant 24-hour playmate, they have developed independence. A-yis are a big help and I love having my A-yi as a trusted babysitter, but as parents, we have to watch the fine line between having ayi's help and dumping our parental duties onto someone else.
Kids are smart and know that their A-yis are not their parents, and this is often why A-yis have difficulty disciplining the children. A mixture of constant companionship with zero discipline is just a recipe for disaster.