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The Chinese "selfless parents" I meet on the train

By Maierwei ( Updated: 2014-07-07 15:56

What makes people more unhappy, selfishness or selflessness?

One is praised and one is despised, yet both are harmful.

Back home we have "tiger parents" too. If a toddler bumps his head on a table and starts crying, several family members will run to "beat" the table in punishment. Then everybody starts the ritual of repeating what a "bad, bad table!" it has been. I was telling a friend how protective mothers get when their son wants to get married. "This girl doesn't deserve my son,” "How can she take care of you like I do?" are among the objections heard often. So in short, the Earth revolves around their son/daughter and under the indirect kingdom of their child, parents have complete authority.

A few weeks ago I saw a way too altruistic example of these child/kings, and couldn't believe it could be taken to that degree. That would never happen back home.

I was on the slowest train on the cheapest, hard seat wagon from Shanghai and it was late at night. Plus, the train stopped on the way for a while and the whole journey took 1.5 hours longer than it should've taken. I was sitting on a seat for 3 people, yet the seat for 2.5 people was taken by a sleeping child. I unfortunately sat on half of the seat, and balanced my heavy backpack on my lap. As the child continued to sleep, one of the parents sat on the floor in front of the seat (which is right next to my legs) and the other parent was sitting on the aisle, trying to sleep. It was first the mother, and because many people walked back and forth her sleep was disturbed many times. Then she and the father changed places, and the father could take it longer than her. They were on the train when I got on, and were going to a farther city.

I got on the train at 11.00 pm at night, and arrived at my city at 3.30 am in the morning. I'm used to sleeping late, so I spent my time watching their pain instead. I made up my mind to give my seat to the father after arriving at Haining. Meanwhile, I asked the mother why don't they both sit and let the kid lie on their laps. She smiled at me apologetically, and said, "It's not comfortable to lie down like that,” and took her child's shoes off, letting me sit somewhat more comfortably. "But he needs to get used to it" I said, and she replied with a smile that's supposed to mean "We have no choice.” Hours passed and before we were at Haining the father had had enough, and he didn't say anything but just beckoned the mother that he wanted to sit as well. They finally both sat down and their child was sleeping on their laps. I was happy that finally they both were sitting, and I didn't need to give up my seat and stand with my heavy bag.

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