As I related here many times during our sojourn to Thailand, we discovered that Oliver’s role in Thai society was completely different than his role here.
In North America, Oliver is a 15 month old infant, revered by his family and close friends but otherwise pretty well completely ignored, sometimes even resented, by everyone else.
For example, 9 times out of 10 when we go with Oliver to a “please wait to be seated” restaurant here, we get seated in some horrible back of the restaurant kid ghetto, far from everyone else.
In Thailand, Oliver is a 15 month old infant, revered by everyone. Monk, police officer, scraggly looking guitar player, waitress, riverboat driver. Everyone.
In Thailand, we get seated in excellent seats in the centre of the restaurant, and the wait staff take personal responsbility for Oliver’s happiness. If Oliver is crying, they pick him up and walk around with him. If Oliver needs a distraction, they distract him. And everyone in the restaurant waves at Oliver, and Oliver waves back.
And I’m starting to think this isn’t just a Thai thing. Oliver and I were at a Chinese grocery store in Halifax over the weekend, and he received the same sort of attention: I was struggling with a collection of grocery items and Oliver all at the same time, so one of the customers — I’m guess she was Chinese from her language and look, but that’s just a guess — picked up Oliver and squired him around. A good time was had by all.
I have anecdotal evidence from others to suggest that this attitude towards children, while perhaps amplified somewhat by the fact that Oliver is a rare white smiling baby in Thailand, reflects a general difference in the way children are regarded in other parts of the world.
If nothing else, it makes the Canadian “seen and not heard” attitude towards children appear cold hearted and mean.
When was the last time you picked up someone else’s crying baby to help them out? I certainly know I never have.