06.08.10

The mother and father land

Posted in Society, Travel at 23:01 by RjZ

I’m not raising any children so I don’t know what I am talking about.

It was chilly, but nice, for Moscow in March. My first time there, so there is no way I am going to miss the Kremlin complex. In an effort to protect the treasures of the land and perhaps to cling to their bureaucratic past, two Russian guards are taking their sweet time carefully inspecting every bag and every person before entry. I’ll find out later that backpacks, that is, bags with two straps, no matter how small, aren’t allowed, while bags with one strap, no matter how large, are, seemingly, permitted. I have to check my backpack/camera bag back at the garderobe, which, naturally, is mere 500 m back to the ticket office.

No matter, the line barely moved while I was gone. I’ve had a little exercise, but missed little. There is still plenty of time to watch the spring frost in the shadows of trees melting under the bright blue spring sky. There’s also the compare and contrast of tourists from around the world. This morning it’s mostly Dutch and Russians. There are some Italians and French, and a few Chinese, but I don’t notice any other Americans. The line is long and I am near the front; perhaps they simply woke up later this morning.

The Russians have brought their children to see the great wealth of their nation. Right in front of me is a young boy and young girl, probably seven and nine years old respectively. For a little while they play among the trees until their parents call them back to the line in anticipation of eventually entering the fortress. Now they are standing in line facing forward, talking quietly to one another. It’s almost bizarre. I don’t remember the last time I saw such well-behaved children.

My parents like to tell proud stories the family going out to dinner in a fine restaurant and other guests stopping on their way out to thank them. Apparently the romantic diners were terrified at the sight of two young boys in a fine restaurant and how surprised they were when the expected racket never materialized to ruin dinner. It’s not just a story, I have a faint memory of it actually happening. I also remember the bulging eyes my father would flash at me if I did act up. I almost her him him saying “we need to go to the bathroom!” “no, I don’t, thanks,” “Yes. You. Do.” eyes bulging. I got the picture.

Nowadays I find myself wishing I could thank parents for their well behaved children. My parents made it clear that, regardless of what is right, or wrong, or what I wanted, my behavior was embarrassing them. That was enough to get me to stop. Parents today more often seem to be so effective at patently ignoring their children they don’t have a chance to consider embarrassment. No matter how many times little Johnny kicks the seat, gets up to greet the entire restaurant with sticky hands, (isn’t he cute?) or stands on the chair whining about food, these amazing parents are unmoved.

Meanwhile, back in mother Russia children weren’t being dragged kicking and screaming through museums they were visiting this weekend. They weren’t grabbing chocolates off the shelves in candy stores. (Hundreds of sorts of chocolate in one store…I don’t know how I was able to resist.) I didn’t hear any begging or whining about being hungry or not wanting to eat. Perhaps they weren’t having as much fun. Maybe they aren’t free to discover their inner selves. Perhaps the poor children will grow up like I did, completely tortured by having to quietly entertain myself when the adults were talking. O, how surprised am I have been unable to suppress the memory, except I don’t remember any of it being that bad.

In many ways Russia is still backwards. People are very traditional, fur is incredibly popular and the banking system has barely discovered credit cards. Their government hasn’t even figured out your supposed to hide corruption. Maybe they’ll catch up in raising children too. If what I saw really was representative though, let’s hope not.

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