We all want our children to be safe, but it’s amazing how the oceans of distance between Canada and China show up figuratively when discussing things like concepts of safety.
Let me present to you my family’s saga of the stroller and the car seat.
First of all, the strong distrust of Chinese-made baby products came more from my Chinese in-laws than it did from me. They were adamant that both items could not be made in China. After all, they say, “made in China” doesn’t always mean solid.
Ironically, when our car seat purchased overseas arrived with my Canadian relatives in late January in a big box off the plane, all up to international road safety standards, guess what was written on the back?
“Made in China.”
They were skeptical.
Around the time the car seat arrived, we also bought a gently-used, 3-wheeled German-made stroller that, I added, would also be great for jogging.
“Jogging?” my husband asked, incredulously, and then he and his mother laughed heartily at the ‘fun joke’ I had made. “Who ever heard of someone jogging with their stroller and infant?” they asked between guffaws.
“People jog with their babies all the time back home!” I asserted. “The baby can be safely strapped in.”
Realizing I was serious, my husband and MIL immediately forbade me to jog with our daughter in fear of her safety. I don’t generally consent to Chinese rule, but I did notice my MIL insisting on accompanying (monitoring?) me when we took her out in the new ride for the first time.
And more cultural contradictions regarding safety emerged along with us.
At first proudly pushing the stroller on the sidewalk, my MIL suddenly veered off into the street, calling over her shoulder that the streets were smoother for the wheels! Alarmed, I urged her back to the sidewalk, putting myself between the stroller and the cars. “Have you seen the traffic in Beijing?” I asked, rhetorically.
Now, back to the car seat:
The car seat may have been made in China, but the concept of using one is still extremely foreign here. Most people just hold their children on their laps in moving vehicles, which makes my Canadian heart shudder.
Since my daughter was born in the winter, fear of her catching a cold inspired my MIL to bundle her in a five-layer blanket system each time we emerged, an ensemble making her nearly double in size!
(Not unlike her Mommy during pregnancy, hence the need to jog!)
Now insert the notion of removing her from this warm nest to assemble her into a car seat and you can literally hear the Mandarin-accented gasps that followed. I was surrounded by a choir insisting loudly that I couldn’t possibly put her at risk of the cold!
“But what about the road risk?” I asked.
She was safe enough in my arms, they insisted, and the cold was far worse, they said, convinced. “Wait until the spring.”
It was considered unsafe to put her in the car seat due to the cold, but it was considered safe to hold her without protection in a moving vehicle? It was likewise deemed unsafe to jog with her strapped into a stroller but safe to walk the stroller into the erratic streets of China’s capital?
It is a constant, clanging, contradicting crescendo here between our accustomed cultural norms.
But Canada won this round.
I agreed not to jog with the stroller on the condition that no one be allowed to drive without her strapped into the car seat, and yes, in the pre-heated car. And my MIL keeps the stroller to the sidewalks now too, again on the condition of my not jogging with my daughter, clearly a commitment that needed double reinforcement.
Truthfully, I’ve been thrilled to jog unimpeded while my daughter is safe at home, and warm. When she goes out in the car, she’s safe and warm in her car seat. I can rest easy.
Our little “Made in China” kid is solidly well-loved.
A longer version of this post appears on InCultureParent.
Photo by modomatic via Flickr