It freaks out some Americans, but I love it when Armenians walk up to my children to talk to them while touching their hands or their cheeks. Armenians do it all the time, and it’s not just grandmas; it’s men, women, even teenagers! I’ve already had a several groups of schoolkids go totally gaga over my baby girl.
I don’t even mind it when Armenians pick my kids up or give them candy. Even though I hardly ever give my kids candy (yes, I’m one of those moms), I know that it comes from a place of love, and I like my kids to experience that. Frankly, my kids can’t seem to experience genuine interest and affection from strangers anywhere else in the world!
In other countries I’ve lived, small kids really aren’t welcome in public places. I mean, they are allowed to be there, but they are really considered to be a nuisance. That's the reason why I didn't eat in a restaurant for almost two years after my son was born in the Netherlands. After that – when I temporarily lived in Washington DC – I’d only go to noisy fast food joints (which is almost any restaurant in the US now, but that’s another story).
Honestly, I do understand the “kids are annoying” attitude well. Pre kids, I hated it when I had to sit next to a baby or a toddler on the plane. And I thought it was disgusting when I saw kids dumping their food on the floor in restaurants. But, as long as kids behaved somewhat acceptably, I actually liked having them around. After all, kids are people - just like us!
Anyway, back to how great Armenia is. When I just arrived in Yerevan, someone (an expat) told me that there is “not much to do for kids” here. But after just three months of living here, I think this person could not have been more wrong. If you ask me, just about anything here is geared towards kids.
There are toy stores and candy stores on practically every street corner. There are kids clothing stores everywhere. In Yerevan shopping malls, you can rent fun carts to push your kids around in, and the big malls have indoor trampolines, jungle-gyms and and rides. There are even daycare-like places where you pay by the hour so your kid can play with toys or do crafts while you shop.
I’ve been to indoor and outdoor restaurants that come with complete play areas, and for a small fee there is even adult supervision! I’ve also found several “kids cafes” in Armenia with games and rides for which you have to pay with tokens (like at Chucky Cheese). While Yerevan is a relatively small town, there are also several outdoor fun parks with rides, petting zoos, and a children's train.
So for everyone who didn't already know: Yerevan is the place to be if you have young kids! Armenians love kids! Maybe the secret is already out though. There are more American families with little kids at the US embassy in Yerevan than ever before, which is not suprising. It's hard to find kid-friendly postings these days - and not just because of the attitude of people towards kids.
When you're a diplomat with kids, you have to worry about a whole bunch extra of things with each new posting. I'm talking about stuff like scary diseases such as malaria and typhoid. Air pollution is also a growing problem, and I noticed that people are getting increasingly worried about it. And of course some countries we serve in are downright dangerous for American families due to crime or terrorism.
So it’s no wonder diplomats with kids are raving about serving in Armenia!