One of the things that you notice when you’re travelling with your child is the ways different societies interact with children. Children and family are quite central to life in Indonesia, and so I’ve found that when getting out and about with our daughter, we have positive interactions almost everywhere we go. Even when the odd tantrum occurs, people smile or offer to help, rather than frown and look at us as though we’re shit parents.
The picture below illustrates an example of life here at the moment, my husband hanging out with his old friends, some of whom have kids, others who don’t, but everyone includes our daughter as though she is a central part of the activity.
Australia is quite different. Obviously, people want to respect your privacy and not get in your kids face if they don’t know you or your family. But there is the other element where at times I’ve been made to feel as though my kid’s a nuisance, disturbing adult spaces.
In Australia, kids don’t really dominate public spaces the way they do here. An awesome element of kids being ever present is that our daughter always has playmates, and the older kids are always happy to take our daughter under their wing.
In the three weeks that we’ve spent here so far, our daughter has really come out of her shell socially because of all the positive social interactions she experiences daily. She is learning a lot of new words in Bahasa Indonesia as well.
The Flip Side: Bodily Autonomy, Social Overload
There is a flip side to this though. Sometimes kids just want to be left alone, and not have people in their face pinching their cheeks and telling them how cute they are. I keep reminding my daughter that she doesn’t have to shake anyone’s hands, or be held by anyone that she doesn’t want to, whilst reminding others of our desire to let our daughter choose who she interacts with (without being rude at the same time).
It would be perfect to have a balance between people respecting a child’s bodily autonomy, yet maintaining the warmth of friendly social interactions. In trying to get around this, I gently remind people that my daughter’s had enough check pinches for today, or suggest that they let her choose whether she wants to be picked up or cuddled. This has worked really well in social events, where I just say ‘oh she’s shy, give her some space and time and she’ll warm to you.’
The longer we’re here though, the more we’ve relaxed into being open to strangers interacting with our daughter, so long as they respect some boundaries (like letting her get to know them, and refraining from the check pinching and so on).
A great aspect of all of this is that when my husband and I want to enjoy a beer or something, staff at restaurants are super keen to play with our daughter. It’s bizarre, and totally opposite to the way things are in Western countries, but we’re slowly embracing the communal way society interacts with children here 🙂
How are interactions with your child in your home country? Have you noticed any major differences when travelling, and how so?