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Grown-up children who can't shake off shadow of doting parents
( 2003-09-14 08:07) (China Daily HK Edition)

There is an old Chinese saying that defines the limit of parenting: "One depends on parents while at home, and on friends after leaving home."

A freshman prepares to settle into campus with her parents' help. [newsphoto.com.cn]
Some parents in China are determined to defy this age-old tradition. When they are supposed to see their children off at the airport or railway station, they go all the way to the school and - gasp - stay there with the kids, often in rented rooms nearby.

A young man was recently escorted by his mom from Beijing to Shanghai, where he would attend college. Mom had bought him a notebook computer, a Nokia mobile phone, a Casio watch, a digital translator, a suit and a pair of expensive sneakers. What's more, she rented a two-bedroom apartment near the school.

If most parents cannot spend such a huge amount of money, they can certainly spend this kind of attention on their newly independent children. There are so many parents - usually one of the two parents, who string along with the kids that they have been jokingly called "the army of the accompanying family". The existence of such an army in Bagoucun in Beijing's Haidian District has made the village known as "village of accompanying parents".

The mother in the above example offered her explanation. Her son had always been a straight-A student, but in junior high he got hooked on computer games in dingy Internet cafes. After that, she has maintained her "surveillance programme to keep him from getting on the wrong track".

Yet mama's boy was not grateful for all the doting love. "I feel so humiliated to have my mom tagging along wherever I go. I know my parents love me and I owe them so much. That's why I dare not say no to them," said the son.

Experts say it is a very unhealthy thing to have a parent as a chaperon when the kid is already a grown-up and desperately needs independence, and especially needs a chance to learn the skills of socializing. The reason they cannot do housework is because they are never given the opportunity in the first place, many argue.

Kids, when unsupervised, may be led astray by bad influences. But it's a chance the parents have to take. When the kid feels that parental love has become a long shadow that they cannot shake off, it may have a long-term psychological effect on them. They'll be so focused on their small area of expertise that, when confronted with the real world, they will have no knowledge of maneuvering.

However, some people still look at the issue from the bright side. Qiu Zeqi, a professor of sociology at Peking University, feels that it is first of all a good thing. It shows Chinese parents place the utmost importance on education, he said. Many of these parents lost their opportunity for education due to external factors, so they see their kids as surrogates who will make up their lost time.

When so many parents live in the vicinity of a school, "it's got to be good for the local economy", said Professor Qiu.

That is money the kids wish they would spend all by themselves.

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