June 01, 1997

The Flowers of Life on Their Parents' Grave

The Flowers of Life on Their Parents' Grave

That the birth rate in Russia is plummeting does not exactly mean Russians don’t love kids – they do, it’s just that Russia can’t afford large families anymore.

Parents here now pay an arm and a leg to support a newborn baby – what with all these Pampers and other Western stuff on offer. To say nothing of supporting and bringing up older kids. For, as the Russians say, “small children, small worries; big children, big worries” (маленькие детки – маленькие бедки, а вырастут велики – будут большие). Nevertheless, as Sting sang in a song that went over very well in Russia: “...Russians love their children too.” Those parents who have both a daughter and a son are thought to be especially lucky, for they have what old Russians call “golden children” – золотые дети.

The father of Soviet literature, Maxim Gorky, had this to say about kids: “Children are the flowers of life” (Дети – цветы жизни). Hopeless cynics rephrased the stock phrase to: “Children are the flowers of life on their parent’s grave” (Дети – цветы жизни на могиле родителей). But then this was probably invented in a moment of despair and most likely refers to the big worries brought on by big children...

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