We are a culture of too many cultures.
Canada prides itself on being a “salad bowl” (as opposed to America’s “melting pot”). We don’t strive to assimilate. We believe in leaving each other alone.
And so, there are pockets of Vancouver where people don’t bother to use English signs, and despite the fact that our official languages are English and French, a working knowledge of Korean will get you a lot further if you live in Richmond, BC.
Child rearing is the same.
We all just raise our kids the way we see fit, from the yoga-pants-wearing-stroller-moms, to the Japanese mom I met at the airport whose 10 year old son still slept with her at night – totally normal to the Japanese.
There are certain pressures levelled at us, mostly around the time of birth, from the government. Since we all contribute to a government health plan, and all our medical bills are paid out of that, the government takes an active interest in whether we breastfeed, whether we let our child sleep with blankets, and so on.
They know that a formula fed child is more likely to have ear infections, allergies, asthma, and so on. In other words, they know that a formula fed child will cost them more money. So they push breastfeeding pretty heavily, from the forms you have to sign acknowledging their lectures, to the massive posters all over the hospitals.
They also know that a baby who sleeps away from his parents is more likely to die of SIDS (and therefore not become a contributing tax payer someday) but that a child who sleeps WITH his parents may be smothered, so they push the “near-you-but-not-in-bed-with-you” sleeping arrangement.
They give mothers a year (or fathers six months) off of work on unemployment insurance benefits to care for the baby.
They push vaccines.
But none of that seems to have really made much impact on our culture… er, cultures. Some women breastfeed. Most try, at least. But the ones who were pretty sure they wanted to do formula usually do switch to formula shortly after leaving the hospital. Many, like me, discover that co-sleeping is easier and just take care not to smother their baby.
Basically, we go back to doing our own thing.
In a way, this is nice. It’s nice to be able to raise your child the way you want, without much interference.
On the other hand, there’s no cohesive bond. We have no collective set of childrearing rules, so what do you do when someone else’s child starts misbehaving?
I once saw a passing old lady grab a teenage boy by the ear when she spotted him littering. She made him pick it up and take it to the garbage – a total stranger.
Once upon a time, that would have been normal. Everyone disciplines everyone’s children based on a mutually agreed on set of rules. If your kid is out of sight, you can bet that whatever adult is around will continue to enforce standards of politeness and appropriate behaviour.
We don’t have that now.
Now, I don’t know what to do when someone’s kid walks up to me and says something insulting, while the mother smiles indulgently.
Now, I have to worry that someone will let my own kid do the same some day, when I’m not around to stop it.
I want my child learning sign language, and not watching TV. The people across the road, who are awesome, don’t care about their toddler watching TV and can’t be bothered with sign language.
Neither of us are right, or wrong.
But it can make conversation awkward.
We are all raising our children in Canada, but what culture are they being raised in?
Do we even have one?
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