Raising mixed race kids in China

It’s twelve days now since the baby was born and things are settling down into a manageable routine. He sleeps for three hours, wants to be fed, is fed, wants to be changed, is changed, goes back to sleep again. I’m not particularly experienced with babies, but apparently this puts him on the more manageable end of the scale. I’m very fortunate to have three people in the house (V, her mother and father) with not a lot to do besides cater to his whims, my part is to be out most of the time, earning money, caveman style.

Yup, still a baby.

This weekend two of V’s aunts from Hubei have come to visit, so the baby has the kind of constant attention and interest usually reserved for celebrities. Mixed race babies get a lot of attention in China anyway – people seem for some reason to be endlessly fascinated by the very idea of them (white/Chinese kids that is – the treatment of black/Chinese is not quite so pleasant). A few weeks ago I saw three mixed race kids singing and dancing on one of the evening variety shows. They weren’t particularly talented, but the whole audience were cooing over them like they were some new species of cute performing animal. I fear for their egos.

There are a lot of things I like about Chinese culture, but the way children are treated isn’t one of them. At the start kids are carried everywhere, wrapped up tightly, not allowed to run or play on their own. On public transport I’ve often seen old people stand up to offer their seats to children. The fact that most people can only have one child has exacerbated this too – some kids I’ve taught seem so spoilt that I’m apparently the first person to say “no” to them, at the age of six or seven.
It’s at that age that everything changes. As soon as a child gets to school it’s solid repetitive study for the next 15 years with no room for creativity, self-expression, daydreaming or independent thought. They have to cram as many facts and figures into their heads as possible in order to get into a higher percentile on the standardised tests, get into a better university, get a better job, earn more money. We can see this happen to a certain extent in the west, sometimes, but in China it’s the only way. Even international schools just offer a more expensive version of the same deal. It’s an arms race out there, and the only way to win it is not to take part. That’s why we’re planning to leave in four or five years, probably to come back to the UK. I’m very happy in China but I have no intention of raising my kids here.

If anyone wants to look at any more photos of the baby I’ll just be putting them up here from now on, rather than turning this into a baby-themed blog.

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