My family and I are currently in Singapore visiting family. I decided I’m going to write about the trip, both to tell our friends and relatives how the trip is going and to give us another way to remember the trip after it’s done. Today’s post was actually written by my wife who has also posted a number of times before. Enjoy!
My mother always told me not to point and stare. If I saw someone who looked “different,” my parents always explained to me that it is not polite to point and stare. Instead, I should ask them or the person questions about what I had seen. I know that there are different times when people stare at others and, sure, I’m guilty of doing it too. But coming to Singapore has left me with a new feeling about pointing out a child who is cute or drawing attention to someone in public. In almost every place we have gone, Eitan, our little blonde-haired, hazel-eyed American boy, has been smiled at, waved at, petted on the head, taken by the hand, and then talked about in a different language.1
I am usually one of the first people to comment about a cute baby passing by or about someone’s clothes that I think are nice. But since we have been on this trip, I believe that I will hesitate before I do such a thing in the future. I believe that most of the praise that Eitan receives is sincere, but I have been feeling ambivalent about the attention that he has been receiving from complete strangers.
Singapore is a very different place than New York. Kids play freely with minimal supervision in courtyards and sidewalks. People leave personal items outside their doors unattended (shoes, balls, bikes, etc.). We brought Eitan to get his hair cut a few days after we arrived and the receptionist left us alone in the barber shop – with full access to the cash register and MacBook – while she went to the store next door to get the barber.2 The ground is clean and I can count the number of pieces of litter we’ve seen on one hand. It seems that people really do live apart from any sort of crime. It’s almost as though we are living in the Twilight Zone. We have yet to see a police officer or hear a fire truck or ambulance siren, which is a stark contrast to the sounds we are accustomed to in New York City. People really seem to live without worry here, whereas in New York, someone pointing and speaking out in public often means that a dangerous situation is brewing. We always talk about how we wonder what our children’s lives will be like years from now based on the increases in gun violence, acts of terrorism and global climate change, but Singapore seems to be living serenely.
I suppose that living in the U.S. – particularly in New York City – has forced me to put up my guard to protect myself and my family. I should clarify that all of the attention that Eitan has received has been positive. He has been encouraged to interact with everyone, including flight attendants, wait staff, taxi drivers and other local residents. The people here have been critical in helping him to become more comfortable in his new surroundings. However, in spite of his apparent celebrity status, I think that when I arrive back home, I will be more conscious of any extra attention I pay to people or things that I see that are out of the ordinary. Aaron and I know that Eitan is cute – yes, we’re biased to some degree, but still – and that he is going to attract some smiles and some comments here and there because of his age. But in spite of the flattery, the amount of attention that people have been paying to Eitan has made me a bit uncomfortable and I would not want to put another parent in a similar position. So I will be keeping my index finger by my side and my comments to myself, even if they are intended to give compliments.
As for Eitan, we’re just hoping the extra attention doesn’t go to his head.
1. I’m assuming they were talking about him be cause they were still pointing and smiling. Also, the only people who took him by the hand were waiters and waitresses who were bringing Eitan to see the food that was about to be cooked for us. He never left our sight.↩
2. Seriously. We were completely alone in the store and she didn’t even seem to think twice about leaving us there.↩