Posts Tagged intercultural parenting
Today is our last day in Japan. We have some family coming to visit in the afternoon, but I wanted to get Tiny Dog out for some fun during the day. The Penpal’s father dropped off TD and I at a nearby playground.
The playground was near a large park, and had a big fun play structure that was full of kids. TD had been here before, and quickly started climbing and playing among the other kids. He kept trying to talk to the other kids in English, so I had to keep reminding him to speak Japanese.
At the playground there was one little girl who kept staring at me every time she walked by. Eventually her curiosity got the better of her, and she asked her father loudly in Japanese “Daddy, why is there a foreigner at the playground?”. Her father, embarrassed, tried to shush the little girl as I tried not to laugh. A few minutes later after I said something in Japanese to TD, she went back to her father and excitedly told him “Daddy! The foreigner is speaking Japanese!”, again followed by her father trying to get her to be quiet.
I find that in Japan, TD does a pretty good job of blending in with Japanese people. He has some Asian features to his face, although his hair is brown instead of black. When he speaks Japanese he sounds like almost any other 3 year old speaking Japanese. He doesn’t look completely Japanese, but he looks much more Japanese than I do. I have wavy blond hair, a large nose, a goatee (not common in Japan), and am usually wearing at least one item of clothing with Canadian flags on it. I am easy to notice in a crowd of Japanese people.
In my 3 years of teaching English in Japan, I got used to people staring at me because I was different. Adults would try to sneak a look, but kids, having no filters at all, would be happy to stare or say something to friends or family. This happens much more often the further you get away from major cities and into the smaller towns where it’s less common to see gaijins.
The whole experience was a funny reminder of my previous time in Japan. I’m curious to see how people react to TD and I as he grows up!
Today was another rainy day in Numazu. It literally rained all day. When you don’t have a car, rainy days can limit your ability to get around, at least if you are concerned about staying dry.
In the evening I went out for dinner at Bikkuri Donkey with The Penpal, one of her female friends, and the friend’s young son. The Penpal’s friend wanted to get her son some exposure to English from a native speaker. This is not uncommon – I have found that Japanese people put a higher value on the English they learn from native speakers, even speakers not trained as teachers, than English they learn from a Japanese teacher.
Over dinner, we talked about differences in how kids are raised in Japan and Canada. I was surprised to learn that in Japan it was common for children to share a futon with their mother from the time they are born until they start school. This would be very inconvenient for the father, and also very inconvenient for increasing the family size. I explained that in Canada, it’s common for children to have their own room, depending on the culture of the parents. This was surprising to both The Penpal and her friend, who had lots of questions about how a parent would know if child needs something. It was an interesting discussion for everyone except the young son.
Note to self: if I am going to raise children in Japan, have the discussion about where the children are going to sleep BEFORE making the children.
(2015 Update) As the proud parent of a 1 year old half Canadian, half Japanese boy, I can inform my wonderful readers that we came to a compromise on where our son would sleep. We are currently living in Canada, and sleeping in a nice, cushy queen sized bed. For about the first 6 months, our son slept in a bassinet in our room so we had easy access to him. After that, he moved to his own room across the hall to sleep in a crib. We can hear him easily from our room, and have a portable baby monitor for when we are anywhere else in the house.
I am sure our arrangement would have been different if we were living in Japan or sleeping on a futon, but I think we came to a good compromise.