Friday, March 16, 2007

Latest child-rearing advice from my mother-in-law

My mother-in-law and her sister came to see my daughter the other day. When they saw how energetic she was, they gave me some advice on how to handle her without getting tired myself. It seems I should break the law and employ a girl around ten years of age to chase after my daughter all day long, and keep her from putting her fingers in electrical sockets, teasing the cat, playing in the muddy garden, etc. They told me that is what they did when their kids were small, that it is the best solution all-around. No one can keep after a kid like another kid, and small hands are really good for polishing silver and brass.

The streets of our layout have quite a few poor children who are not attending school. Their parents are migrant laborers, construction companies pay by the couple... so husband and wives work together to put up houses and office buildings. Some projects have creches or day care centers where the parents can leave their kids while they work. Starting pay is 2000 rupees a month for a single woman.

I have been to many homes where the maid has been working for the family since she was a little girl. It is a sad fact that the families these girls work for can take better care of them than their own families. They become sort of adopted members of the family, and have all their needs - food, clothes, jewelry, health - satisfied, plus time off to visit their families for weddings and festivals (with cash and gifts for the families in hand). You know, just like your average road-warrior business traveller. :)

In their own families, many girls are seen as liabilities. Why invest in a girl child with things like gold and education, when she will just leave the house when she is 15? And then you will have to pay dowry to the family you marry her off to. A real pain in the ass, these girl children.

I like to torment my younger SIL with plans to marry her off or send her to work in a rich expat family's home. I tell her it was my husband's idea and sometimes she believes me and starts begging, "but I want to continue my studies." I get such a kick out of it, but I suppose she enjoys it less.

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