They can be seen pushing toddlers in strollers or gathering with friends at the bridge over the West Lake, always with their toddlers in tow.
There are a few reasons for this. People in China tend to retire a few years earlier than in the West. They often have an adult
child, with a spouse and child, living with them in a small apartment. Both young parents typically have jobs because it is necessary.
That leaves the babysitting to the grandparents. The grandfathers, especially, seem to enjoy this duty.
One reason that the grandfathers are so visible is because people don't have backyards. Almost everyone lives in an apartment
building. So, the public spaces are used in ways that we would use our backyards. The children are out playing in public parks,
entry plazas to buildings and such places. Letting the child play outside always requires adult supervision.
Grandfathers all over the world love and care for their grandchildren, but in China it is often on a daily and personal basis.
In return, the grandchildren have intense and uncomplicated love for their grandparents. I have seen this in their writing. Many students have written about the lessons learned from illiterate grandparents: to be brave, to defend your country, to be happy, to keep trying, to be honest, to be a man, to cook. Children have often spent a great
deal of time with them, when the parents were elsewhere working.
Here is a nice tribute written by a student from Gansu province, in the northwest of China.
My Earliest Memory
Seeing this title, I just think of my grandpa, a hero in my heart. He was a doctor for children. When I was two years old, there was a kind
of communicable disease around our village. Of course, my grandpa had the responsibility to save the children there. He was busy working for
four days without sleeping and finally he got cerebral infarction and paralysation. We were all very sad but proud of him. That's my grandpa, my
This blog entry is in memory of Tak Takahashi, a kind and adoring grandfather, who died on Saturday March 30, 2013.