Friday, May 14, 2010

Why the Song and Dance?

I talk about my ayis a lot. The fascinate me. They are so different than me, different culture, different language, different political beliefs. We have lived in different generations, different worlds and of course - we have very different child rearing beliefs.

In China, to let a baby cry without immediately picking them up is as bad as making a baby cry in western culture. Over here, babies should not cry, or feel uncomfortable at any time. Recently, I showed up at a baby music class with Robby and his two ayis. They immediately told the grandmothers of the other two babies in the class that I let my baby cry for minutes a time. Shock, horror, the look of death from the two doting Chinese grandmothers. Ouch.

It is not that I don’t love my babies. I do. I love my babies more than anything else on earth. More than myself or any other person. I am proud of them and I am pretty sure they are both perfect in every way possible. But I also don’t think that allowing a baby to cry for 2 minutes so that they can put themselves to sleep is a crime. And I don’t even have criers. When John was a baby, he cried only when hungry. He probably wanted to cry about 10 minutes/day as a baby – but with his ayis never further than 12 inches from him, he was simply never allowed to cry. Robby is not quite as easy. He has three cries: hungry, in need of a diaper and tired. If allowed to cry, Robby might cry as much as 20 minutes/day. If allowed…This is a daily ongoing battle in my house.

As I type, Wang ayi is literally singing at the top of her lungs (some crazy Chinese song about traffic lights) and dancing around the dining room clapping her hands in the air in a far flung effort to get Robby to stop crying. (He’s tired, he just needs to cry for a couple of minutes before he falls asleep) I sit here snickering wondering if he is indeed crying because her routine is freaking him out. I know I want to cry.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Plummer Family

I've been thinking about starting a blog for a while - mostly because I would love to write a book someday - and I'm not good at keeping a diary. And partially because if I can keep writing about my experiences here in China, I will not miss it so much if and when we ever move back to North America. Note I am careful to say "North America" instead of America or New York because I am married to a Canadian hockey player who takes the whole Canada thing very seriously. So our kids are "North American" and have 2 passports. But even my husband, Ray, knows and understands that home is the east coast of the USA. When it is time to go home - that's where we'll go.

So here's what has been going on lately... like in the last 3 months... I had a baby, my 3 year old switched schools to the British School of Beijing and began developing a British accent, my job began to fall apart, my ayi called in "Dizzy" and stayed home for 10 days, my best friend moved to Singapore, my girlfriends gave me a necklace with charms of my boys' initials and birthstones and a fabulous baby shower, I arranged to buy a car I can't really afford, I joined the PTA and volunteered to bake once a week for the PTA coffee shop, I bought a new sandbox, fixed the patio, pulled 3 all nighters for work, and turned 35 a week after Ray turned 39. That's just off the top of my head. The expression better busy than bored doesn't work for me. My motto is more like better crazed and chaotic, whenever possible.

Chinese culture is very different from my own. In China, it is considered rude to be very direct. And sometimes this can be extremely frustrating - especially for me. I've been told all my life that I "call a spade a spade" but was also reminded by my parents that this would indeed get me in trouble - and it has, many times, especially in China. In many ways, my instincts are the opposite of the normal Chinese way. This is not to say one is right or wrong, or good or bad. I'm just not Chinese, I'm a New Yorker. But I have been fascinated by China since I was 14. I have studied the language since I was 14 and have made Beijing my home for most of the years since college. Many Beijing expats simply get home at night, shut their doors and turn off "China" like it is a program running on their TV that they don't have to watch after 7pm. We can't do that... and we don't want to. Indeed we have two Chinese ladies living with us. Or as my friend Dom calls them, "Chinese pensioners". They are both in their 50s. They do the cleaning, the laundry and a whole lot of child care. I do not have to get up at 5am with the baby and I do not have to change sheets on beds. But I do not have the option to "turn off" China. The ayis are as much a part of our life here in China as the language around us and the bicycles on the street. One is somewhat like a Chinese Mom to me... an overprotective Mom where I play the teenage daughter who she just doesn't understand. The other is like an aunt, who doesn't get along with the Mom, but wants to win my love. It is truly exhausting.

So that's our family. Me/Mommy- 35, Ray/Daddy- 39, John - almost 4 and baby Robby - 3 months, Wang Ayi (Chinese Mom), Cheng Ayi (Chinese Aunt) and Homer - the best dog ever - Golden Retriever - 1.5 years old. We live in a big house in a gated community in the suburbs of Beijing. Ray works in construction, I work in financial communications.

I recently found John out in the garden with a giant shovel digging a whole (in the lawn we had just paid to have installed). I asked him what he was doing. He looked at me with a naughty little 3 year old boy smile and said in a proper British accent, "I'm digging a hole to North America. That's where my grandparents live".