A big differences I have seen between Australians and Japanese people is their perspective on sleeping. You can see this difference in high school. High school students in Japan are told that they only need five hours sleep each night. They are told that if they are getting more than five hours sleep a night, then they are not studying hard enough. This may make an Australian high school student wonder “How much time do they have to study each night?” That is because Australian high school students finish school between 3 and 4 pm. Japanese high school students don’t get home until around 7.30pm. That gives them an hour to eat dinner, an hour to have a bath, an hour to relax and then two or three hours to study.
We have two kids. My wife gave birth to our first in Australia and the second in Japan. To me the procedures for both births looked about the same. I’m sure there were differences but I couldn’t tell. One thing that is a major difference though is drugs. My wife gave birth to the second baby with nothing but a sports drink and an oxygen mask. What’s more remarkable about this is that it is standard. Women in Japan tend not to have epidurals. Before anyone says their babies are smaller. The average size in Japan is around 3.5 kilograms. Not massive I know, but not tiny either. So are they built of sturdier stuff? Probably not. I’m not sure what the difference here is. Why for the first kid my wife had everything they had to give her and the second she needed little. My wife was impressed by the way they went about it though and swore she’d only ever give birth in Japan from now on. So there must be a difference. Perhaps I’ll write another blog on that one when I find out more. What happens after birth in Japan is more interesting though.
After birth the mother stays in the clinic she gave birth at for a week. You get your own private room and three meals a day in very generous and delicious portions. Of course there are also showers and toilets you can use. The baby is cared for for three days by the midwives at the clinic fed on bottled milk. They also pump breast-milk from the mum so the baby gets what it needs from that too. On the third day the baby is brought into mum for full time care. Of course the midwives are still all there if the mum wants help. At the end of the week mum can go home. When my wife and I tell Japanese people what happens in Australia, one day and you’re out, they can’t believe it. My wife said the experience was fantastic and really helped her adjust to having the baby at home when she got out.
Another difference in giving birth is the first month. In Japan it is common wisdom to not take your baby out of the house for the first month. I’m honestly not sure if this is a good idea or not. At first it seems a little tough on the carer if they can’t go anywhere for a month. The logic behind it though is pretty reasonable. There are two reasons for it. First is to make sure the baby isn’t exposed to any illnesses. Secondly to unsure the transition to outside the womb living is stress free and simple. Perhaps there is something to it.
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.