By Fredrica Syren:
We have traveled and lived in many countries with our kids. I’m always fascinated how, wherever we go, the kids just seem to bring smiles, happiness and ease to any place, people and situation. I have seen police, military, elderly and youth engage with us because of our kids … except here in Sweden, where we live.
It is so strange because Sweden is super kid friendly. Pretty much everything is designed for kids and strollers. Public transportation is free for parents with strollers. Most schools are free and daycare costs very little. There are great playgrounds all around town. However, I never have been in a country where kids get so many disapproving looks as in Sweden. Here, kids are supposed to be polite and not make too much noise. I read opinion pieces and comments in newspapers and on social media about noisy and spoiled kids, and how people don’t want to hear kids crying in parks and restaurants. So, basically, kids are to be seen, not heard.
I do understand that it’s expensive to go out to eat, so why should you not get to enjoy it to the fullest without a screaming kid next to you, ruining a perfectly enjoyable moment? I think everyone deserves that. I also get that it’s up to us parents to make sure our kids are considerate of others when in a public place, or on trains, buses and airplanes. I think Sweden is a culture where people keep to themselves pretty much and where interacting with strangers is not the norm. People here will not talk about the weather with a stranger or make small talk with someone sitting next to them on the bus. Here, we stare down at our feet or out the window when sitting with a bunch of people we don’t know. So, of course, talking to strange kids or even smiling at them is not o.k.
I have to admit that, as someone who has lived half her life in a foreign culture where everyone is friendly and helpful, it was easy to get used to people’s being nice. While on vacation, I relish how good it feels not to constantly hush my kids or feel stressed about whether they are bothering someone. And I love to see how my kids bring smiles and conversation from someone who remembers what it was like to be a kid.