Yesterday we jumped into a Tuk Tuk with our favourite driver (he knows all of our favourite haunts, where our friends live, we never have to negotiate fares with him and he waits by the gate at night to make sure we have gotten in safely. This last point reminds me of how my parents would always wait for my friends to get in their houses at night time when we dropped them off after soccer or dance, or whatever. And I kind of like it. Makes me think Sopheak actually cares about. How could he not be our favourite?). But, I digress.
He hadn’t met Arwen yet, so it was a nice chance to show off our little 10-day old. And as we waited for some friends outside their place, we got talking with him about his family. He only has one daughter, he said, but wishes for more. More is better, he told us, because then if one dies, you still have others to take care of you.
First time I’d heard that explanation for numbers of children in Cambodia and it came as a bit of a shock. I can understand in the countryside where larger families are still the norm and where children are particularly important for farming households. But I didn’t expect it in the city.
I suppose it does make sense though. In the absence of a social safety net, the elderly really do rely on their families for support, for a place to live, for livelihood, and…well…for pretty much everything. Children are your security for the future.
It was a crystal clear reminder of how I really don’t understand Cambodia. I may have lived here for nearly five years, and have some sense of the culture and language and people, but I really don’t know it.
I’m still the foreigner – and always will be.
In the coming months, I hope to pull together a few blog posts about the differences between child rearing in Cambodia and Canada. Some of the folklore around pregnancy, birth and babies is fascinating in the country and as the mom of a 10-day old who is out and about, I’m the focal point of much staring and murmuring.
But that’s for a different day.