Expat Dad: The second child

Living in Shanghai means suffering from a lack of understanding from your ‘fellow man’.

The phrase ‘fellow man’ has little meaning itself here, because in no way am I in fellowship with men who are totally unable to… drive cars, for example. (let alone grow a moustache or chop wood)

Each small child that sees you on the street is likely to point and say “wai guo ren”, and his Grandparent is sure to say “yes that’s right”.

The part of the population, albeit ‘floating’, that is supposed to understand you is, surely; people that look like you.

Alas, this is not the case. No matter the ‘groups’ that are created from like-faced people, we all know as expats that you will rarely really ‘click’ with people, unless you are a simpleton.

Even if you find people that you get on with, then simply being a parent may create a new level of non-understanding between you, because most expats (seemingly) are not parents.

Go and find other parents then, maybe? I’ve made attempts at this – unsuccessfully.

However, this isn’t a great shame. There is something natural in seeking out ‘something similar’, or another person who has an ingrained and unsaid understanding of your situation, but ultimately, I am a standard man. This means that I have little interest in simply ‘discussing’ problems or things that are on my mind, unless the discussion can directly result in a real and feasible solution to the issue.

Not a problem, but certainly a thing, is expecting a child. Or rather one’s wife expecting a child. Let’s not go into “we’re expecting” territory here.

More specifically in this case, a second child, which means that I should be better mentally prepared. In theory? Perhaps?

Parents can worry about anything at any time. Pregnancy is a funny thing because ‘worry’ is almost a side-industry. Libraries of books dedicated to ‘what ifs’ and ‘guides’ to various problems. Literally miniscule analysis of things such as elemental dietary intake and well-being.

All the while as we seem to forget that humans are simply built to pump out babies, and that in places like China there are those without healthcare or a pot to piss in, that are still able to give birth normal children.

I always remember one story (somewhere in one of Jasper Becker’s excellent books) of the women that joined the ‘resistance’ of China during the Second World War and – some still being pregnant during that time – simply gave birth on the hoof, pushing it out, cutting the cord and hoisting newborn baby along with them as they hiked across unforgiving mountains and freezing cold ranges.

Yet here I am, fretting about optimum vegetable intake and other silly things.

I honestly don’t ‘feel’ particularly emotional, but I must be bottling some things up, unknowingly:

Sometimes we watch Chinese TV, the highlight of which is often the terrible adverts. There were some adverts for kids food and perhaps even some soap. While consciously thinking how cheesy and ridiculous they were, I was actually tearing up ad the over-sentimentality of them. One advert might have been about some ‘good kids’ getting some kind of snack-cake, because that’s what good kids deserve, and it got to me.

I sometimes get teary listening to songs in the car. Not emotional ones, not songs that have relevant or even good lyrics, but they still, somehow, tug on something.

I’ve never heard about this situation from other men, even good friends. We are all but standard men and therefore don’t see the real point in discussing such things. But it just might be a good thing to talk about!

Read more Expat Dad by clicking the tag just below this article, or on the right. It’s not all this touchy-feely, we promise.

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Categories: Expat Life


Foreigner in Shanghai


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