The other day, my daughter's nanny came back to work after a few days off. She asked me, "What happened with Stella on Monday morning? Why was she crying?"
Monday morning was totally unremarkable. We went through our usual routine of tidying up the detritus left by the weekend weekend (me), and tantrum-ing over the injustice of being forced to play alone with a room full of educational and aesthetically pleasing wooden toys (not me. Two guesses.)
"I don't remember….ummm, I guess she was crying because I was doing dishes?" I answered. "Or making the bed? Dunno. Why?"
It turns out that one of the hotel housekeepers had heard Stella screeching. She texted our nanny to find out why the child's incompetent mother was incapable of appeasing a innocent three-year-old.
"I heard Stella crying. I felt so sad!" The housekeeper (who, btw, we love and adore), texted to Stella's nanny.
(Incidentally it's a good thing that the housekeeper in question wasn't around a few hours later when a certain small person was wailing in the hallway for a good 20 minutes because I asked her to walk 25 meters to our apartment door and therefore life is all bullshit.)
But still. COME ON!!! My kid was crying. What's so remarkable about that??? And PS, privacy is also a thing.
In Indonesia, a screaming kid is kind of remarkable. The typical toddler does not tantrum. Or, at least, does not tantrum to the degree that Western kids do.
Kids here are cajoled and mollified. They are carried around by their caretakers, given sweets, spoon-fed and bottle-fed well into big-kid-dom. Their demands for attention are always acknowledged. Their requests for toys, playtime, or other sorts of entertainment are granted without question. Keep the kid happy. Don't let the kid cry.
When faced with a crying child, the typical response is to give the kid whatever he wants: iPad? Here you go! Candy, Okay! No problem! All of my attention all of the time? YES! You can have it!
This sounds, on the surface of things, to be a recipe for a total parenting disaster. And were the children in question growing up in a Western context, I'd argue that it would be. But these kids are growing up in Indonesia where culture dictates that little kids can't be left to cry. And it works here.
But I'm raising a kid according to Western parenting practices, and that means I keep running into cultural conflicts. People regularly question my competency and judging my parenting based on their cultural norms.
For example, I recently got some serious attitude from my daughter's babysitter because I threw out a crappy, super branded plastic toy that just wasn't my aesthetic jam. My daughter's babysitter thought I was being recklessly wasteful, and mean in denying her access to a great (pirated!) mouse-shaped plaything! I thought I was controlling clutter and making good judgments about what type of toys come into our home.
Or, when I shield my daughter from unwanted pictures, I think I'm protecting my kid, teaching her that she owns her image; would-be photags think I'm being an asshole, denying them an awesome photo op.
Or when I refuse my child ice cream at 3 PM, I think I'm making good choices about her nutrition; restaurant waiters think I'm being a grinchy miser.
It all makes me want to announce to everyone, Hey! Guys! I'm, like, dooin it rite here! Super A++ gold star glitter parenting! Look! It says so in this book!!!
Which is silly. And kind of useless.
Still, the majority of Indonesians don't have any awareness about this vast parenting cultural chasm between East and West (and frankly, neither did I until I began parenting as a Westie in the East), and so they look at me (or listen at my door as the case may be) and assume that I'm a total parenting dummy, and my crying child is evidence of my cold, cold, bitter heart. And, dear internet diary, this bothers me way more than it should.