Little Emperors and Icepicks

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Keeping kids amused during Beijing’s harsh winters is something of a challenge and the capital’s residents have responded in novel ways. One notable invention is chair skating, a seemingly unique arrangement that involves propelling yourself around a frozen pond on a rickety chair that has a couple of metal skids welded to its legs. Equipped with a couple of lethal looking icepicks, my two children managed to spend a gleeful half hour careening around the ice. This definitely wouldn’t be approved by the Health and Safety Administration (I had to run out on the ice to prevent my son–who has developed an recent interest in things Medieval–from starting a jousting match using the icepicks as lances) but the kids had a great time and more importantly were able to blow off some of the excess energy built up over days cooped up in our apartment during the Christmas break. As always on these occasions, every Chinese child seemed to have five or six adults running after him or her, parents grandparents, uncles, servants, the entourage of the “Little Emperors” created by China’s one child policy. No doubt that policy, started in 1979 as a drastic means of controlling the country’s swelling population, is necessary. But it carries a human cost in lost companionship and love that’s hard to calculate. In any conversation with Chinese parents the first question is always, “how many children do you have?” And when they hear we are blessed with a boy and a girl, the same look of wistful loss always appears. “A boy and a girl, one of each, how perfect,” they murmur.
–Simon Elegant

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