(Header photo by Jien Chun)
What do you see when you have a child in front of you? Do you see someone to protect? A nuisance? A person in a different developmental stage than you? Do you see that child at all? I started asking myself these questions after talking to Christine Lee, a play activist in Taiwan and a member of this community. She told me she used to find it surprising when her friends in Europe talked directly to her children and asked them how they were, because adults tend to ignore children in Taiwan. Lee said that one of the main problems she identifies in her home country is that the Confucian culture is adult-centric, with children considered as having to respect adults, and there is also a lot of sexism, with children seen mainly as the responsibility of mothers.
I understand that there are different cultural approaches to children. From my experience, for example, people in Greek, Argentine or Italian restaurants are quite tolerant of a toddler running around, compared to some establishments in Switzerland. But what does this translate into when it comes to real life? Are politicians informed by these cultural views when they draw up policies? Do we adults think of children when we furnish our homes? Are we really making space for them and their developmental needs, or do we just expect them to find their way in an adult world, and grow up as fast as they can? (And if so, is that hugely problematic?)
The coronavirus has disrupted millions of lives, exacerbating previous inequalities and highlighting some of the underlying structures of our societies. When it comes to children, it’s become clear that in many cases they are having it much harder during the pandemic. Think of The Philippines, where under-15s represent a third of the population: