Perhaps one day I’ll write a thesis on this but not today. Today it’s just some observations on differences I’ve noticed between the two countries.
Recently we had our second baby. She is two months old. As you’d expect from a baby this age she tends to cry a lot between 9pm and 12pm. She then wakes up every three hours crying. My wife and I started doing research on what we could do to help our baby settle. The results were quite surprising. Almost all of the English sites on the topic said the same thing. Just let them cry. The Japanese sites though were stressing the importance of giving the baby comfort and be patient until they settle. All sites both in Japanese and English said this is just a phase and in the third and fourth month the baby will adjust to day night patterns. Either way the baby will settle after a month so which is better? For us letting the baby cry is impossible. This kind of response is only possible if you have a wide open spaces perspective. In Australia the baby has it’s own room away from yours. You can’t hear the kid cry anyway unless you set up a two way radio or a video. In Japan the baby is right there with you. I couldn’t ignore the baby’s cry if I wanted to. The other thing about this though is that I don’t want to ignore the baby’s cry. I want to comfort the baby and honestly I think that’s important. The baby in its first few months is only just adjusting to the world. I don’t need to lay down the law with it tell it this is what life is. I want the baby to know that it’s surrounded by love and happiness. If that means occasionally getting up and walking back and forward in my kitchen rocking her back to sleep I’m OK with it.
As hinted at we sleep in the same room as both our babies. Well one is two years old but she still wants to be babied sometimes so I call her our baby. When we had our first one everyone from doctors and midwives to parents and friends said ‘Don’t sleep on the same bed as your baby, you’ll crush them.’ Honestly I don’t see how this is possible but a little research revealed that this has happened. In Japan the opposite is the case. Doctors, midwives, parents and friends all recommend sharing the bed with your babies to better cater to their needs at night. Two years in and neither my wife and i have ever come close to rolling over onto one of our kids. That said though if you aren’t so sure about your ability to wake up don’t try it or test yourself by putting a doll in your bed and see if you wake up after rolling onto it. Interestingly enough it isn’t so rare to people to keep on sleeping in the same room. Our neighbours all sleep in the same room and their kids are seventeen and twenty. I don’t think we’ll be doing the same.
Another interesting difference between the two is the question of teething. In both countries there isn’t even a question. In Australia teething is an accepted theory for why babies cry. All sorts of goods can be purchased to combat this discomfort. There is no such theory in Japan. People I’ve mentioned it to look at me as if I’m totally crazy. They ask me ‘Why would teeth coming in make them cry?’ As far as I can tell I’m going to agree with Japan. Why would it be a problem? I don’t remember my teeth coming in ever hurting. I also don’t remember losing my teeth ever hurting either except when they were being pulled out by the dentist. A dentist pulled four of my teeth out believing it would stop my teeth from being so crooked. Shakes head. Those poor four teeth, you aren’t forgotten. The point is that my wife and I haven’t done anything in regards to teething neither has a whole nation. Japan is probably not the only one either. Perhaps there’s another thesis here. Whether or not teething is a thing or just made up to make parents feel better. I suspect it’s the later.
There are probably more differences. I suspect I’m just scratching the surface. I’ll keep a log of it and perhaps one day there’ll be a great big book about it. I think I’ll call it How to make an Australian or a Japanese person. Or perhaps something simpler.
Based on observation, thoughts and a little idealism
There is an amazing park near our house. A good park makes me feel like I’m living in some Utopian society or at the very least like society is moving along in a positive direction. A bad park though is a bleak and depressing place. It makes you wonder what is wrong with the world that they can’t provide a nice playground area for children. Fortunately I live in an area that has gone to the trouble to provide a good park. I go to this park with my daughter regularly and enjoy people watching. Since this is a nice park is seems to bring out the best in people. By in large I see very happy families.
I live in Japan which is famous for its absent fathers so it really warms my heart whenever I see fathers spending time with their family. It’s interesting to see the different types of father. There is the father that has a one year old child and brings a soccer ball along. The father who stands back and watches stopping the child every now and then if they are doing something dangerous. Another father is playing with their kids. Another one is there helping the children navigate the playground equipment. Then there is the father on his mobile phone the whole time. There are probably more but these are what I’ve observed at the park.
The soccer ball bringing father is the most curious one for me. Maybe at home the infant goes crazy for the soccer ball so the father brings it along. I guess I should clarify the situation. There are two types of soccer ball bringing father. One brings a soccer ball and other stuff and instead of being in the playground are out on the ground. That soccer ball bringing father has crossed over to the playing with their kid father. So what about the soccer ball bringing father who isn’t playing with his kid? For a long time I wondered why would they bring a soccer ball. Then I realised that they aren’t bring the ball for the child. It’s for them. You can see these fathers doing ball tricks in the park while the child runs around doing something else with the mum. No one seems to actually be watching these ball tricks. The father is apparently just there at the park. I have a number of theories about this father. The first theory is that the father is being given some rest time. A bit of unwind time to just chill and rehash his old hobby. My second theory is that he was always in a soccer club growing up and doesn’t really know how to play with a child. My third theory is that this father is overwhelmed and has no idea how to be a dad.
The get in there and plays with the kids father and the playground navigating father are two aspects of the same style. These fathers are obviously motivated to interact with their children. Perhaps it’s to show them the world or perhaps it’s just because they find it fun. Maybe its just because there sure that’s what they are meant to do at the park. The plays with their kids father is the most enjoyable for me to watch. These fathers are clearly having fun. You can see them pant and sweat. You know that they are exhausted but the smile on their face is almost as big as the smile on their kids face. This is the happy family ideal you see in commercials and TV shows. This is the style of parenting I most idealise and aspire to. Perhaps I’m a victim of mass media or perhaps I’m just the type of person to get in there and do it.
The stand back and watches father is the strangest to me. Probably because it is the opposite to my style. I wonder how they do it. How do you become the parent that just sits back and has the children play? I’m not asking in a critical way. I’m genuinely curious. My wife recently pointed out that I’m a 100% attention dad. When I’m with my daughter I’m with her the whole time. There is no break. It’s exhausting and makes me wonder how do parents become the watchers while the kids do their own thing. Perhaps that is the key. Perhaps just watching is enough. I actually tried to ease off the amount of attention I give my daughter. I found that she could handle it some days but other days she’d just be grumpy wondering why her biggest toy wasn’t playing with her. I just find standing back and watching boring. Seeing these parents impresses me though. Their are obvious advantages to it for both sides. The child learns to play by themselves, an extremely important lesson, and the parents can rest. I wonder though at the cost. How do those children see that father? Do they see him at all? Is it the same as being an absent father or is standing there enough. Do they remember that as dad taking me to the park and think of their dad fondly? Watching the interaction with one watcher dad and his child I noticed that he would say “No, that’s dangerous.” and the child would immediately say “No, It’s not.” and go ahead and do it. So does this way lead to a more independent child? Perhaps it just means that dad is going to have a tough time when the kids are teenagers. Bringing it back to my way, am I raising a dependent child? One who won’t be able to just entertain herself. I guess we are always trying to get the best outcome for our child playing fortune teller but making it up as we go.
The mobile phone dad is the least attractive to me. The dad that isn’t really there. Is this the same as the watcher dad though? If just being there is enough to leave a pleasant and positive feeling towards the dad then perhaps this is perfectly justified. Perhaps this is the busy dad that is making time for his child but can’t escape work. Far more preferable to the dad that can’t make it to the park. The one that makes the phone calls at home while the mum and child go off to the park.
In conclusion, there are many parenting models. This isn’t an academic paper so I certainly haven’t talked about all the models or even presented it in an unbiased manner. You may naturally fall into a model based on your own personality. Really though I suggest to parents to think about the type of parent they want to be. Discuss it with your partner. Find out what each of you think parenting means. Hopefully your ideas match. Parents are instrumental in a child’s development. It’s important to think about how you are influencing them and what you can do to feel at the end of the day you did a good job.
The most noticeable thing about living in Japan is that there are no kisses or hugs. Reading this you may be thinking surely not. This is no exaggeration. At first I thought that this was just something you didn’t do outside. Upon investigating though I found out that it’s also something you don’t do inside. Kissing and hugging is an entirely private thing in Japan. You don’t even want family members to see. So I asked around to find out why this was. The answer was simple. It’s to do with morality. So of course I asked which moral? Turns out it is embarrassing for everyone involved. Parents don’t kiss or hug in front of their kids because their kids will be embarrassed. Parents will in turn be embarrassed for their children. So kisses and hugs don’t occur in the house. It’s easy to then see that kisses and hugs don’t occur out of the house because when the children become adults they think that kissing is embarrassing. It’s probably one of the major cultural differences between the European culture and Japanese culture. If you kiss and hug in front of your kids then your culture will produce people who enjoy kissing. If you are too embarrassed to kiss in front of your children then they will grow up to be embarrassed by it.
A typhoon is coming. One of the few times when Japanese people will take a holiday. I wonder if the reason Japan is having so many natural disasters lately is because Japan’s gods are trying to tell Japanese people to have a break.