I think Meg smiled non-stop for about 5 hours yesterday.
Having decided to give up on the birthday party with friends idea for the time being (it's not the culture so it takes a lot of explaining, everyone comes with their mums and siblings which makes it rather crowded, K insists on an all or no-one invite policy to be fair which is a little daunting for me and M was ambivalent anyway.) we took the girls to Sanrio Puro Land in Tokyo for their birthdays. This was a compromise in itself as M wanted to go to Disneyland and K and I thought the park down the road with the three swings and a slide sounded perfect.
How was it? Hmmm, 5 hours of insanely cheerful music, crowds, materialism, cheap plastic toys, fake smiles, fake hair, oversized characters and some of the most pity inducing work uniforms I've seen in a long time. There were also some amazing child acrobats, authentic Thai cuisine (???), lots of free hands on things, more pink than you'd think was humanly possible and acres of pushy parents.
It must have been a sensory overdose (did I mention the whole place smelt like sugar, too?) but I got all philosophical on the way home. Started analysing my reactions to Kittyland (as Amy calls it)... I think more than anything what made me uncomfortable was the behaviour of the people there. Not the staff, the other visitors. It was like a pool of shark parents or something with everyone wanting to give their child the best time ever at whatever cost to those around them. People pushing excited/ willing/ unsure/ wary and even down right upset, pre-schoolers towards life sized characters in order to get the all important photo. You know, like this one:
Then there was the whole emphasis on money. With a passport you didn't need to pay for each ride but, by paying more money you could get your kid the first class experience- better seat, glitzy crown and cape to mark them as special etc etc. We went on the boat ride and could have bought the picture for 1000 yen... or the official Kitty house picture for 1000 yen.... or- yeah, you get the picture.
It's all so opposite of our day to day life. Trying to live simply, be self sufficient, reduce, re-use, recycle and find our fun in the details rather than going out and buying it.
But, that's a decision K and I made. The girls didn't choose to live here or to live like this. They go to a regular city-run kinder where they mix with kids who have DS and whatever the latest toy is and go to Disneyland and don't spend their weekends making their own fun while they spend hours hanging around a tomato field.
I think I have a lot of parental guilt over that one. While I think growing up like this is a great education for the girls, they seem to genuinely enjoy a lot of what they do, and I am happy with the values we're (hopefully) giving them, sometimes it feels a little selfish. You know, when your 5 year old can explain the process of harvesting wheat but doesn't know what a movie theatre is, or when your 3yo digs in the garden rather than a sandpit...
So every now and again K (a crowd hating homebody) and I suck it up and do something the girls really want to do. And while we cringe at some of it and (secretly?) enjoy some of it (the child acrobats really were quite amazing) seeing the girls just glowing and sparkling and smiling from ear to ear makes it all worthwhile.
That and assuaging all that guilt so we can drag them along to the field again this weekend for weeding and soil preparation for the Autumn crops.
Could it get any pinker?