Saturday, October 18, 2008

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Jodi and some online friends were having a discussion about nutritional supplements for kids (fish oils, vitamins, etc). It started with one mother asking whether Charlotte takes them — she doesn't — and other participants noted that they felt like Chinese doctors always recommended them but that all the foreigners they knew didn't give their infants any of these supplements, only vitamins when they got older. During the course of the discussion, this story was told by a mother of another mixed baby:

有一次我妈带他出去玩,人家看到说,这个小孩挺白的,就是头发太黄,大概缺钙汗

One time, my mother took him (the mixed kid) out to play. Somebody came over and said, "Wow, your kid's skin is so white! But his hair is a bit yellow, he probably doesn't get enough calcium."

An idea that Jodi brought up just yesterday and that I think I've written about before is the different in the rates of lifestyle change in between China and the US. In the US, changes in our basic lifestyles have been very small, while in China people's environments and habits are changing by leaps and bounds. For example, Charlotte and her friends are playing with Fisher Price toys, some which are exactly the same as the Fisher Price toys that I played with when I was a kid in the early 1980s. But for Charlotte's friends here in Shanghai, Fisher Price represents a whole new way of thinking about children and play compared to what they had when they were kids.

The sea change in attitudes towards and possibilities available in raising children has many consequences. One that I've noticed in particular is the lack of guidance and experienced voices in the area of parenting. Actually, you see this in lots of places in China: there are many, many professions here where young people dominate and the lack of experience translates lack of attention to detail and failure to consider all facets of a problem before applying a solution. But in the parenting realm, you end up with things like a gigantic generational gap between new parents and their own parents, who are in unfamiliar territory when it comes to progressive parenting methods and raising kids in the new, open, modern China. You end up with things like one of Jodi's friends saying that their child would drink formula until she was three years old, and parent confused about whether or not to give their children what nutritional supplements.

(My guess, by the way, is that drug and supplement companies market heavily to naive or corrupt Chinese doctors, explaining why so many recommend fish oil and such to their patients. We don't give Charlotte anything because she eats healthy foods at home and outside. We're considering starting her on vitamins when she gets a bit older, maybe when she starts school. My family tried vitamins a few times but we could never get the habit to stick, and we turned out fine.)

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