But as we've started to see it from their perspective it seems a little more justified. While I have read in books written for expats that Beijing is a very child friendly city, my experience so far would say the opposite. There's a lot of open space, but they're too young to run off by themselves and not get hit by a car. Perhaps if we had boundless energy and cash we could take them day after day to the many flashy child entertainment places that abound.
For example, in an effort to make a fun outing with them today, I brought them to the mall to look at the floor that is dedicated to children's stores. In Winnipeg we could do this easily and they loved it, without begging and asking for things. But today was pure torture, for all of us! Whining, crying, begging.
I was momentarily relieved to see that there were two child playgrounds. One was closed in with glass and was a huge sandpark with sand toys and slides and the other was a netted in area where they could throw themselves into huge bins of balls (not unlike the notorious McDonalds balls). We headed toward them (both boys very excited!) only to see that they charged an admission fee of 25 RMB ($4-5) per child. Ouch! That's steep! That started the whining and crying over again, and I dealt with it in true parent fashion..."Ari, I'm sorry but what do you expect me to do? We don't have buckets of money sitting at home!" The only more classic parent line would have been "What do I look like? A money tree?"
We have a playground outside in our courtyard, but there is only so long they can slide down the same slides without being bored. Besides, they also have to contend with the fact that there are as many parents as there are children on the playground, so that at times, "playing" is standing in a slow moving line. They've also been reprimanded by other parents for carrying sticks or rocks around the play ground. Today Ari was reprimanded by a guard for walking on a small strip of grass beside the apartment building.
I certainly give credit to the Beijing city planners for trying to make up for the abundance of concrete and skyscrapers, by adding in plenty of beautiful ponds and fountains and vines and flowering trees. As an adult I can fully appreciate them and even feel refreshed to spent some time in them. But the boys are not as content to look as I am. If they could jump in the pond and frolic under the fountain and climb on the craggy rocks that line the pond in our complex, they would be very happy! But as it stands they can't even climb on the rocks that surround the pond because they are as sharp and dangerous as any lake in the Whiteshell. We let them do it for a while once, until Jude took a very dangerous looking tumble. One inch further and he would have bounced off of three sharp craggy rocks, hit a pipe and then fallen into the pond. So we walk nice and slow, admire the fish and return home. All these pictures of the fountains and ponds in our complex. We can almost see them out our window!
We are very seriously considering buying Ari a bike for his birthday, so that he could whip around the concrete paths and maybe burn some of his energy. Other than that, we try to spend time with them, play games, read books, go to the park on the weekends etc. Maybe this is a time for development of the mind. Maybe Ari will become really good at reading and writing before he even sets foot in a school! But some days they are just downright bored! What's a kid to do? Almost as valid a question is, what's a parent to do?
On a side note, I remembered something today that momentarily got me down. When I was purchasing groceries this last January at Pal's Grocery on Henderson Highway, I looked disdainfully at the big Cadburry Easter Eggs they were already selling (Give it a break, it wasn't even Valentine's Day yet!). In retrospect though I realize that at that moment I should have bought and eaten Cadburry Eggs until I was so sick of them I wouldn't think about now! Much as Easter has a far deeper meaning, I still have extremely fond associations with eating those shiny, individually wrapped eggs. I used to freeze them and then eat them slowly, pausing to dig out the creamy "yolk" before finishing the second half of the chocolate.
Ahhh, sweet chocolate memories! I must admit that the indulgent side of me feels the loss heavily! Its a good thing I'm made of a lot more than my indulgences!