Originally coming from China, a culture in which there is no fixed link between colour and gender, I did not intend to challenge the stereotype in the UK: girl is pink, boy is blue. And I never imaged that the colour of the clothes worn by my girl could trigger such questions, prompting me to look at cultural influences upon parenthood.
I have been confronted with similar questions several times when taking my girl out. Sometimes I was a bit annoyed when people seemed to imply that I was at fault to dress her in the “wrong” colour with the intention of making people think she was a boy.
However, I have taken little notice of these comments and insisted on dressing her occasionally in blue. In China, there aren’t set opinions about what colours boys or girls should wear, although bright colours like red, pink, yellow are parents’ favourites for girls, and cold colours like blue, green, grey are often chosen for boys. My daughter does have quite a few blue clothes as she looks pretty and great in blue as well as many other outfits in a wide range of colours.
Finding limited choices of clothes, in terms of colour, in the UK, I prefer to buy clothes from China for my little girl as there are far more choices of colours there.
No doubt all parents hope their kids have a wonderful childhood with not only a healthy body but also a happy mind. And every parent is trying whatever he or she can do to provide the best for their children. However, sometimes we are unaware of the impact our culture and environment we live in might have until we encounter fresh and sometimes conflicting concepts and practices found elsewhere.
Surely there is no blanket standard as to how to better raise kids, not to mention when considering distinct traditions, customs and religions in different regions and countries.
It is also wrong to judge the way any parent might wish to nurture their little ones. However, I find from my own experience that there is always something inspiring us to challenge and even question our ways of raising kids, to help improve our parenthood. The question is whether we can recognise them, and whether to ignore them or not?
Parents have to make choices for children since they cannot make such decisions themselves. Some are obvious and important decision, such as protecting them from danger. But other choices may be influential in shaping a child’s personality. Different cultures, religious groups and parents might give their child very different foods, clothes, entertainment and education.
Today there is so much information about how to raise a healthy, charming and clever kid, but often this advice does not focus on the impact different cultures might have both on parents and their children.
Ideally, a happy childhood should embrace a colourful world. To keep this spirit, I consciously buy a wide range of colourful clothes, shoes, toys, and even eating utensils for my little one. By doing so, I hope to provide her a colourful childhood.
Most people become experienced parents only after having seen their kids grown up. So it remains an interesting and tough question as to how to improve our parenthood along with the growing of the kids rather than afterwards. How we could be more aware of our cultural influence? Shall we go with it or challenge it with a more balanced way? I look forward to discussing these topics with parents who are like minded.
Perhaps in summary we shouldn’t worry too much about these things. Indeed my husband often points to the renowned paediatrician Dr Spock’s assertion that parents know best. "Trust yourself,” Spock said in his bestselling book Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care, “You know more than you think you do."
This piece is part of a series of articles dedicated to exploring parenting expertise by looking at cultural backgrounds and the pros-and-cons of various traditions. This special series is also posted with acknowledgement to International Children's Day which is observed on the 1st June.
If you enjoyed this article please check out “Cultural differences in potty training”, "Cultural divides in raising a vegetarian child" and "Breastfeeding: Challenges faced by East & West"