From daily park visits to an accidentally-achieved eye contact at the dining table, raising children in Japan teaches you a thing or two.
Only after we start out on the journey called parenting we do realize how unprepared we are for it. Yet, as we muddle through, along with countless mistakes, we also make great decisions, too. Things that work for some families won’t work for others, but nonetheless, as food for thought, I’d like to share what I consider to be some of the best things my husband and I have achieved through raising our daughters in Tokyo.
Discovered the joy of playing in the park
Before my daughters entered kindergarten, going to the park was how we spent the best part of nearly every day. Our local one had a variety of play equipment: swings, slides, climbing structures, a water-play pond and a catch-ball net. We found frost needles in the soil in winter, gathered acorns in autumn, collected cicada shells in summer and gazed at cherry blossoms in spring. That park taught us a lot. It is said that park play will hone a child’s all-around physical abilities far better than specialized exercise classes will, and indeed my daughters have fared well in that regard.
One of my most inspired parenting tactics was born at that park. For a couple of days in a row, I had had trouble getting my preschooler daughter to head home. I had the bright idea of looking at the situation from her perspective. To her it looked like I was suddenly saying, “right, stop playing – we’re going home, now!” So the next day, ten minutes before leaving I held up both my hands and all my fingers and told her, “We’ll leave in ten minutes.” I kept an eye on my watch and five minutes later held up one hand and said, “We’ll leave in five minutes.” Five minutes after that we happily headed home.
Rediscovered the importance of greetings
Since I stand out in a crowd here about a mile more than Japanese do, I one day wondered whether I was unconsciously snubbing people who remembered me, but who I couldn’t quite put my finger on. So I decided I should be liberal with my greetings. If I greeted someone I didn’t know, basic etiquette required them to answer anyway, so the plan was failsafe.
My daughters naturally grew up mimicking my approach and that tactic got us acquainted with neighbors, locals, shopkeepers, park-goers and has helped make us feel that we are part of our local community. It has also given my daughters confidence and great social skills. It is also reassuring for me to know that there are many people around town who are looking out for my girls.
Established eye contact on a daily basis
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