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A story behind a family tree (2)

by Paul A Hodge

Since that day I have become aware of the noticeable absence of family groups (mother, father and child) in parks and in public. What I see in the street are very young children being cared for by aging grandparents. If I catch a bus at a time when school is finished I see young children being escorted by a grandparent. I vividly remember getting on to an overcrowded bus (which by the way is the norm in China) to see this gentle, small framed Chinese elder wearing his young grand-daughter's brightly coloured school bag on his back standing and protecting her from being trampled by towering adults and jostling newcomers onto the bus. This petite child appeared so happy to be hovered over by her guardian with his arms around her as he was trying to find space on nearby supporting hand rail to keep him from falling over. The two appeared to have little friendly conversations and with lots of smiling exchanges. I could only guess what the conversation was about after I caught her attention. "Why does that man look different?"

If I am walking past a school entrance more often than not I see only elderly people waiting to escort children home. I am trying very hard, without success, to recall a time when I saw a young child in the company of a person who could be reasonably assumed to be their older brother or sister. When I do see two or three children walking together it is obvious to any observer that their age differences are indistinguishable and there are no apparent telltale signs that they are siblings.

When I ask the children in my class who they go on holidays with, or who takes them to the park, in the majority of cases it was their Grandma or Grandpa.

After completing their drawing I would sit alongside each student to kindly and slowly ask them to describe their sketch. To help overcome the difficulty of communicating the meaning behind my questions I would call upon the help of a Chinese English teacher to translate for me. It became evident that the student's parents seem to be always at work six out of seven days a week and did not take holidays from work during the year.

Another finding was to be told that apart from doing homework the next popular pastime for out of school hours was watching TV or playing computer games. In addition, the girls did more reading than the boys.

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