A while ago, my parents and my brother came over to visit us. When my parents left, my brother’s friend joined us a day before he left. We used this time them to go to Madurodam.
The girls were in the stroller and Markian in the baby carrier, attached to my brother’s belly. Both enjoyed the closeness! Madurodam is one of the most touristic places in the Netherlands. Visitors of all cultures go there every day! I like it because you can see all of the Netherlands at one glance, without having to travel.
Anyway, the day we went there, there was a group from India visiting the place. Even though I’ve never been to there, I love the food and movies, and one of my dreams is to India there one day. I admired the beautiful colourful saris. And then something happened.
Closing time neared and I feared that Markian would get hungry and I’d have to nurse him on the tram which I don’t like. My brother and his friend went off to explore Madurodam, and my husband went to look for them. The girls were running around and playing. There was water and the children could play with ships. Klara loves water, and so she stepped into it, getting her shoe all wet. After making sure that her foot was dry, I went back to my old place on a bench. And then I realised that Julia was gone.
And when I found her, I felt both relief and shock. Relief because I found her. Shock, because I found her in a stranger’s arms. It was a couple from the Indian group. This was not the first time somebody wanted to take pictures of my children. When Klara was little, we went to the Louvre and an Arab couple preferred to take picture of her than of the Louvre artefacts. The same situation happened here. They asked for permission but they expected me to say “yes”.
And I am not really sure how I feel about it. I believe that it is a right for me to not be touched or otherwise talked to if I don’t feel like it. I would like the same right be granted to my children. This of course, is a very Western view. It is not because I feel that children belong to me, it is about personal space.
I understand that other cultures have different views about this. For example, the way I see it, and please correct me if I am wrong, some cultures think of children as a part of the community and so everybody is responsible for them. Maybe this explains why they would just touch a strange child and then ask for permission. Also, in other cultures maybe it is more common to get closer to other people, and personal space is much less valued than we are used to, and people tend to stand closer to each other, and touching strangers is more accepted.
As for me, I was very shocked, but I allowed them to take the picture with my girls because they were a nice couple, and obviously didn’t want any harm. And now, thinking of all this, I sort of regret that I didn’t take a picture of them with my children! The whole situation also made me realize that encountering different cultures will never cease to both amaze and shock me!