Last Sunday, someone and her cousin had a loud and prolonged verbal fight, which started as an argument and had a bad ending on both sides. That someone got really upset when her cousin said bad words about her dearest brother. She has zero tolerance if someone says unkind words about her brother. I was hugely touched by this. Her brother has been her role model since he left for college. She seems more heavily hit by his absence than I had expected.
During their fight, the cousin said my daughter was not as good as his old classmate in China who not only studied well but also was a good pianist. In term of accomplishments, this is very much true. Yet the accomplishment did not come without sacrifice. The mother of this friend S used to spank her for each point missed in the exam, e.g. if she got 94 points, she would received 6 whipping for the 6 points to make up for the missed. The 10-year-old girl was so frightened of her mother that she ran around the house frantically with her mother close behind, in hot chase, whip in hand. I would rather my children have a happy childhood than accomplishment with such high psychological cost.
This reminds me of Esmie Tseng’s mother. I am happy with that not-so-perfect someone. I do not think it wise to create a demon in the child’s soul by such a treatment. That demon will surely haunt its creator, like Frankenstein’s monster in M. Shelley’s novel or in Esmie Tseng’s case. The thought gives me more than goosebumps than my body surface area can hold.
For now, I must think of a way to stop any weekend fights like the last two weekends.
Last week I have more than once written about my experience at work. It doesn’t seem to be related to parenting, does it? No, it doesn’t. Also, I don’t think my children will read much out of them now, but it is better to have a record of them now so that years later they will have something to go back to if they want. My parents did not leave much writing for me to read about them, much as I wanted. It seems a forever regret every time I think about it, especially my father who passed away in 1987 at age 57.
When I talked to some of my friends about writing their parenting experience, I was sure the value of these writings would be appreciated in the future. This reminds me of a weblog that a friend of mine set up for his daughter. I have been so much touched by these devoting parents and feel so much dwarfed by comparison, yet, here I am, trying to be a good parent, with every good intention. Good enough, isn’t it?
I know of one young man who is very deficient in empathy. Upon learning his uncle fell one evening and badly bruised his knees and hand, instead of showing concerns, he started saying how he himself fell so many times before and recounted the number of his bones he had broken when he was a boy. “It is a different story for you to fall and break bones. You are so young and can recover quickly while your uncle is more than twice your age,” I was thinking to myself.
To be sure, this young man has a rather high IQ, yet, I would think no education is complete without the development of empathy, which might explain why some humanity courses are the must for all majors even in MIT. I am sure my children would read the message from this.
When my son was in elementary school, he liked to play very much, in fact too much for his teacher, who couldn’t help telling me about it. My son learned of it. I thought he must feel awful and grewsome having teacher tell on him. Instead of telling him what I thought, I asked him of his thought. It turned out his cheeks were thicker than I thought. He felt far less heavy-hearted than I did. He knew what was wrong and promised to do better. A breeze instead of a storm.
I patted on my back for not telling him how I felt. What would he react if I informed him with this, “You must feel awful. I feel miserable for you, too. Don’t worry your head off. It is ok to make mistakes as long as you acknowledge and correct it”? I don’t have the answer to this question, but I am sure he would unnecessarily feel differently had I said it to him.
From this I realized on the same issue we parents might feel and think differently from the children. Children might learn to fear or worry simply because we tell them not to fear or worry, which is like a hint to them that they should fear.
In one word, from my experience, whatever that might mean to you, it is wise for us parents not to ascribe our own feelings of worries or anxiety or fear or any negative feelings to the children. Have my words got lost in some readers’ minds? Or should I ever ask this question to get you lost?
Yesterday, 9/25/09, we had a department meeting, which, as always, struck to my head the importance of communication and human interactions in all work places. On the surface, it seems my job involves mainly patients’ medical data. I wish things were that simple.
The reality is over 50% of my time and energy go to making-people-happy. I have to deal with people of two groups: internally, I have to work with department manager, project managers, clinic practice manager, clinic supervisor, team members, colleagues, USOncology research specialists in Houston, and doctors; externally, headache comes from federal auditors, pharmaceutical auditors, company auditors, our practice auditors, and monitors.
Dealing with them and making them happy dominate a large part of my daily engagement. If you think everything will turn out all right as long as you focus on doing the right thing, you are only partially right. What is right to you may be not what is right to the company. That is, there is no standard right-or-wrong. If you think project managers are there to answer your questions regarding your projects, you are too much a simple-minded person. Lovely as a baby. It takes some experiences to figure out who to ask what.
Instead of telling the truth to the auditors and monitors, you need to know what truth and which part of the truth to tell, that is, you only reveal the part that is needed to be told and to get by, no more no less. Very touchy and sensitive and diplomatic.
You try to be part of the team to avoid too much back-biting, yet you do not want to compromise your personality integrity. Forever a challenge to me as I am too far above small talks and never waste time on things of less value. Very often I prefer to stay marginalized just to save my precious time and keep my integrity, the last island of me.
This is why I always emphasize to my children the superior oral and written communication skills and good human relations at work are very crucial to job success.
This is the fun part of my daily work. I think my children can always get something out of this observation.
The funny thing is none of them are aware of how we interpret their behavior. I should put it this way, none of them care how we perceive them. I talk as if they cared or I cared and have always been amused by my observations. Maybe it is what life should be. I have heard of this but have firmly confirmed after I actually observe this, “Healthcare field is the most hierarchical of all.,” though not all of the doctors behave hierarchically.
I’d better stop here before it is getting too funny for some people. So much for freedom of speech as long as you are not in the circle.
Many good things in a family should always be two-way traffic — one direction from parent to the child, the other back to the parents from the child. Good things include love, respect, care, and responsibility. I have observed some parents unconditionally give love and care (and plenty of money) to their children while the latter have not learned to give back. One of a Chinese family that I know of here is typical of such parents. She gives and complains at the same time. She only gives but has never taught her child to give back.
This is so unfair to the giver, yet the parents only have themselves to blame, because they either have not taught or do not have the guts and wisdom to teach their children that love and care are two-way traffic. Anything good must be told to the children. Do not expect them to pick up good things naturally. Parents, do not dream of reaping a sweet melon when you sow a bitter melon.
Part two of parents’ bill of right.
To be honest, the initial feeling of funny was now replaced by a sad and rather depressing one after I have gone through “Parents’ Bill of Right.” Many of them are self-evident and take-for-granted rights for parents, which should never have been given away in the first place.
Yet, the fact these rights are so much emphasized at the beginning of the book reveals a rather dejected situation that some parents find themselves in — they have been presumably deprived of these rights by their own undesirable parenting, and now they try to re-claim them. So unfortunate parents! My heart goes out to those who have given in to their children’s demands, and little by little have succeeded in undermining their own authority and giving away their rights as parents. Once giving away, it is no easy task to claim it back.
Meanwhile, I have to honestly commend myself for not having to re-claim most of them, as I am at present moment still enjoying them, not all of them though. And I would like to add one more right to the list, that is, the right to have a break from parenting. For most parents, they literally work two shifts — one paid shift, the other unpaid at home. Getting off from office means starting the second shift at home, cooking, parenting and other endless and nameless household chores that will not end until the day ends or the parent drops sick. Every weekend literally means “Labor Day” for most parents.
Personally, I feel so good once in a while during weekend to take a break from the non-stop parenting and household work — driving out by myself, stopping at a bookstore. I would go through a stack of books, sit for hours, throwing overboard all parenting demands, and not feeling guilty or selfish at all. A break only once in a while. How about that!
Even better than this is the dream that on one weekend, one of my children would declare to me, “Mom, you take a day off your second shift job and do whatever you please. I am going to cook and clean the house for the family.” “Dream on.” I could hear my daughter saying this to me.
A few weeks ago, I read a book called Teen Tips: A Practical Survival Guide for Parents With Kid 11 to 19, by Tom McMahon, 2003. He cited at the beginning of the book “Parents’ Bill of Right and Responsibilities” created by Tri-City Substance Abuse Coalition. I thought it funny nowadays everybody wants some kind of rights. I was more curious than serious before I read them.
Nothing funny by now. I will post my comments on these rights tomorrow.
Early this morning, someone and her cousin got into a verbal fight, with each opposing each other’s weakness — she on his English and he on her Chinese. This would eventually accelerate into exchanges of fists. A rough way to start a Sunday. With great patience, I talked, reasoned, pleased, and even threatened to leave the house for the rest of the day. Nothing worked. They were too much locked in the fight. I felt my energy, patience and life being drained away over such a senselss trivia when I had plans for today. I must show my teeth to stop it, otherwise they would not listen. So I did and off I went.
Not that I wanted to take this step, but that they must understand I meant what I said. And their undesirable behavior is not unconsequential. To be sure, this is really no big deal. What really unacceptable to me is seeing my daughter so stubbornly fixed her eyes on other people’s weak spot when she has a lot more important matters that need her immediate urgent attention. Also, for the past few days, I have repeatedly drilled into her head the need to focus on the major not the minor things in life.
She understands that she does not feel good when her weak spot is poked by others. Then why does she poke other’s weakness? While she knows my position and feeling on issues like this, she still insists on doing it. I don’t understand why.
It would give me tremendous pleasure if someone could ignore whatever petty offenses thrown on her way and have her eyes on bigger issues, like enhancing her skills and school performances, moving closer to her goal. Lack of a goal to pursue, we are easily trapped and sidetracked by petty bickering like this. Have I expected too much? Or is it reasonable to expect this of her?
I suddenly realize this kind of conflict is not that of cultural or generational, or is it? By the way, this is the first weekend after my sister left. I dare not think ahead too far ahead now.
From my observations, I have found in my sister’s child several places that mark him above the average children, my children included. Number one strength is his being a very sociable person, that is, he is very natural and comfortable dealing with people at all levels. Even his teacher was impressed by his sociability. Nothing artificial. It just comes naturally with him when chatting with people. When I mentioned this to my family, someone tried to deny this fact.
I would say this to my children — the greatness of a person lies not in his being perfect but in his having a heart big enough to see and admit the strength of others and the weakness of his own. Would you like to be someone who finds comfort in zooming in other’s weakness and his own strength? Yuck!
Yesterday I shared with someone the short story The Death of a Government Clerk by Anton Chekhov
The story goes like this. This clerk, while watching a light opera, sneezed and noticed that a gentleman sitting in front of him in the first row of the stalls “was carefully wiping his bald head and his neck with his glove and muttering something to himself.” He thought he had spattered the gentleman and must apologize.
That someone thought the clerk was ridiculous. I think the story reveals the mentality of some people and also tells the fact that our minds, if not occupied by important matters, are easily disturbed by trivial things and eventually are consumed and defeated by such ridiculous trivia in life.
Yesterday evening someone I know of asked me to take her to climb the rock wall inside Dick’s Sports store. In recent weeks she became interested in climbing that rock wall. Someone watching her there was impressed by her tenacity. While watching her climbing, an idea struck me. Since both of my children like climbing, I will take them to climb Tai Shan in China next time we go back.
When they reach the top of the mountain, having endured the hardships of the journey, I am sure they will be in the position to appreciate the panoramic view of whole journey that only the mountaintop can offer. They will not only be overwhelmed by the breathtaking beauty but feel inspired by the holistic and metaphysic meaning of the climbing, reflecting upon the road they have travelled, the journey ahead, like reflecting where they have come from, where they are going in their life’s journey.
I was so taken by the idea that I called my son immediately. Of course, he was as excited as I was, with the fun part of my idea, nothing metaphysical though.
Last weekend, I talked to someone about this. I told her that human behavior was so much shaped and conditioned by their interactions with each other. From my observation, some people function like missionaries of peace, that is, they create peaceful atmosphere wherever they show up and can make friend out of an enemy. Some are so belligerent that they make enemy out of anybody they meet, that is, they can bring out fighting spirit out of anybody.
The talk took place after I watched the constant fight between someone and her cousin. That someone is a smart one. She understood what I meant immediately. I am sure she will take initiatives and be a missionary of peace.
Recently I have an opportunity to observe another mother’s parenting style. If she wants her child to do something, she put it this way, “Do this homework for me” or “Read this book for me.” When she sees her child playing, she would often call the child, saying “Come and do this for me.” If the child has nothing to do, he would come to the mother, asking “Mom, what do you want me to do?” Without being told, the child does not know what he should do.
It is so unbelievable that the parent takes all the initiative and the child so much relies on the parent. To be sure, the mother is an extremely loving parent. But I would be totally exhausted babyfeeding my children even in their teens. Well, this is a matter of choice. Choice has consequences and time will reveal it all.
My sister left for home a little after 5 AM this morning. I spent a large chunk of the morning comforting her 10-year-old son, who could not stop crying for mommy. Poor child. This reminded me of my friend’s 2-year-old girl who just experienced her separation anxiety a month ago and my son who was first sent to daycare at age 2. To be sure, separation anxiety can hit someone at any age, stressful on both sides. I would think it would be easy when the child has passed daycare age. Good luck!
“Happy birthday to you!”
My daughter was the first one who remembered and mentioned my birthday this morning. The fact that she remembers my birthday is the best birthday present. See a parent is so easy to please.
I once asked my son, “Between fame and fortune, which do you prefer?” Fame was the answer because fortune always came after it. To be sure, most of human activities are motivated by their desire to be recognized. There is nothing wrong with seeking recognition on large or small scale.
The only thing I want my children to keep in mind is what it is that you want to be recognized. While Al Gore has world-wide recognition, Nobel Prize to be exact, for his environmental protection efforts, G. Bush for his Iraq War. Bill Gate is famous not just for microsoft company but for his devotion to philanthropy.
For me, especially on my birthday, I want to be recognized as a good parent at home and conscientious employee at work. Throughout my life, I want to be recognized for doing the right thing, no matter where and when. Not so ambitious, yet not so easy to really implement it all the time either.
I will constantly jam and drill this idea into my children’s heads, which they might have known from my non-stop nagging. Because it is the right thing, according to my definition.
When my son was about 9 or 10 years old, I took him and his friend to a local kids game store, where I gave each of them $5. I was hoping $5 could last a few hours. His friend changed his $5 bill into quarters and used them up in one sitting in less than 30 minutes. After that, he came to me asking for more. My son changed one dollar for 4 quarters and used one quarter on some kind of gambling machine, where he inserted the coin and spinned, hoping it would bring back more coins. After 30 minutes, he came to me with more than $5.
I would assume playing the gambling machine must seem more fun to my son than the pure game machine that his friend played. At least I hoped he had a good time. I was preoccupied with his noisy friend’s demand for more money and forgot to ask my son what he was thinking at that time.
Of all the challenges that a parent might face, to be consistent is the toughest of all. I am not comfortable if I am asked to be utterly consistent, hard as I have tried.
On the one hand, I told my daughter, “You hear nothing but truth from me.” On the other hand, I told her “If truth hurt, you don’t want to hurt people by telling the truth.” I told her if there is something you do not want other to know, you should put it this or that way.
While I told my children to value time as much as they value their lives, I wasted large chunks of time socializing with people, and of course felt guilty when caught by them. While teaching them to have a generous heart, I am reluctant to give away generously. On the one hand, I taught them to be modest; on the other, I bragged about my children.
When I tried to explain my inconsistency to my daughter, she told me, “Mom, no need. I know you.” Indeed, I seem to be so good at finding excuses for myself and my daughter knows this too well to let me continue.
For all this and others, I was awarded the title of “hypocrite” by my daughter not long ago. If hypocrisy means inconsistency, I am afraid I really have earned that title in my children’s eyes. I am wondering how much better than this other parents are.
No offense to all indulging parents. I do not agree making the children the center of the attention in a public gathering, even though I have observed such practice by many Chinese parents. And I have noticed some children feel ignored, miserable or even cry if they are not in the limelight. That is how the “little emperors/princesses” are hatched in China.
Call me too dumb if you will, but I can never finger out why they should get all the attentions when they have not done anything special deserving any attention. Even worse, why should they even want to be noticed when their ill-behavior deserves nothing but coverup, so that they will not be embarrassed.
To be sure, I love my children and they are important to me, still they do not deserve getting undeserved attentions in public. I once told my son, “You should learn to attract attention by your accomplishments like the cartoon movie character, Hercules,” not on that large-scale though.
I realize my position is highly controversial. As always, I will be immensely amused when I am challenged.
When my son was in first grade in Fort Wayne, Indiana in 1995, his teacher created a reward system, in which the child was rewarded one ticket for good behavior on a day. After they had accumulated enough tickets, they could use them to “buy” toys or other stuffs from their class basket.
By the end of the semester, he came home giving each of us, mom, dad and his baby sister, a gift that he bought using the tickets that he had earned and saved during the semester. He even gave his baby sister some girlish thing for her hairless head. I was not able to appreciate it until today when I saw a 10-year-old child saved his play dollars for a toy that he wanted to purchase from his class basket. This reminded me of the gift that my son brought back home when he was 6 years old.
I recalled this incident to my daughter yesterday. I said there must be some toys in the basket, since it was created for children. “It was amazing that your brother, so young at that time, could have thought of bringing something for each of us instead of buying a toy for himself. I don’t know what he was thinking at that time when he denied himself the fun of a toy.”
After pouring some nice words on her brother, my daughter told me, “Now you make me miss my brother more than ever.” I am speechless, either my heart is too full for words now or I am running out of words.
Last Thursday (9/4) I attended the back-to-school night at someone’s middle school. While going through the lectures at each of the classes that she attends, I found various topics fascinating and thought the children were so lucky to spend all their time doing nothing but learning. I wish I could do that. Too late. Too bad.
One thing I found nearly all teachers talked about was grading and one thing almost none of them emphasized was cultivating the desire to learn, the intellectual curiosity to know how things work, the so-called thirst for knowledge.
I told that someone if she could cultivate an interest and a desire in learning, I was happy even if she did not get an A. From my own school experience, I found some who consistently got good grades were good at what teachers talked in class but lack of broad-based knowledge in all fields. Some were not interested in reading widely because it did not help in the exams. I found it amazing that getting good grades seemed the main factor motivating these “good students.” No wonder I was so bad at school.
Grading is such a one-dimensional measure of one’s ability and potentials. To be honest, I do not have good feelings when I recalled the grades of my younger years. I would imagine good grades and an interests in learning can go together, but I was just not good at their co-existence. Or am I trying to find excuses for myself? Or am I confused again?
I have shared the thought with that someone who is a lot clearer than I am — “Getting good grade is all I care.” What can I say? It is better than I-don’t-care attitude at school. Still, deep inside me, I believe desire to learn is more important than grades. Nothing can take the place of intellectual curisoty. Am I talking too far above my children?
Lu Xun, a Chinese literary giant created in his story Ah-Q Biography a rather despicable character called Ah-Q, an extreme “the kiss-up, kick-down type” that Rob Gifford described in his book China Road: A Journey into the Future of a Rising Power. More famous than this, he can always talk himself into feeling good even after being spitted and slapped in his face by his attackers. He always comforts himself as his being spiritually superior over his conquerors and can claim victory even after being soundly defeated and ruthlessly trampled under the foot of the conqueror. You can say he lives a life of self-created illusion and self-deception.
To be sure, Lu Xun had zero good word for this type of people. Instead, he thought it so pathetically characteristic of Chinese people of his time.
For some reason, I do not find this character so distasteful, other than the “kiss-up, kick-down” part. Ah-Q simply tries to make himself feel good when he is unable to make changes to his fate and environment. To some extent, when we compromise and reconcile, isn’t that what we try to do everyday, to a different degree though? Don’t we have our own illusions to live by? Here I hear people explain any misfortune as “God’s will,” or something better than nothing — a western Ah-Q.
Psychologically, we all have the need to be Ah-Q at some point of our lives. Again, to make me feel good, I would argue I have never been “spitted and slapped in his face by others” and thus have no excuse to feel otherwise.
Oops, does it have anything to do with parenting? You can finger it out by yourself if that’s what you are wondering.
Yesterday evening, while I was outside home, someone’s little cousin threw a huge fit. After I got back home, that someone told me about this, “It was more terrible than you and dad shouting.”
When I apologized to her profoundly, she said, “… don’t be so dramatic.” Forget and forgive, so characteristic of her.
Yesterday evening someone came home with an English homework, of which they were asked to write about the meaning of a wise saying and how it relates to the writer. “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” She wrote the following,
“Even if you help somebody get out of a fix for right now, the problem is still going to be there, it is just been pushed back a bit. That is the fish-giving part of the proverb. And to really make a difference in that person’s life, you have to get to the root of the problem and actually solve it. … So the moral of the quote is that taking the long way and teaching a person a skill is a more permanent solution than simply giving.”
Children can prove more mature than we thought. I hope she now understands why I am willing to invest tons of money in her education but not that zealous on her other expenses.
A longtime friend of mine shared with me an article about Michelangelo Antonioni, an Italian filmmaker who made a documentary film called China in 1972. The film was realistically shot without any obvious personal bias, nor any cave-in or compromise to either west or east. It is now an excellent, rare-of-a-kind record of life at that historic moment of China. The true Antonioni fashion also feasts the viewers’ eyes with rich landscapes in various parts of China before China headed for full-blown modernization drives. The film was subsequently severely denounced in an 18-page article called “A Vicious Motive-Despicable Tricks-A Criticism of Antonioni’s China Film ‘China'” published by an official publisher Foreign Language Press in Beijing in 1974.
I would think the film was condemned because it ran against the policy at that time, that is, media should work as a propaganda for lauding China to outsiders. Anything negative should not go public.
I hope my children will remember this — Truth is like the rock buried in the midst of a roaring sea. When surrounding water subsides, the rock is revealed, standing the test of time and tide. So is it for Antonioni’s China, so be it for any truth.
I talked to my son over the phone, telling him that the house was too full of shouting and running around this weekend with my daughter, my sister’s son and the 25-year-old son of my husband’s elder sister. Cleaning, cooking and shopping took up a large chunk of my time. My son thought the 25-year-old must be busy with his graduate courses now. He must have an easy time at school.
Good question! He came back so that he could have some good food. People have different focus in life. For him, good food is very essential. No judgment whatsoever. I am glad my son can have his eyes on bigger prize than satisfying his stomach. Otherwise, it would be too much for him to go home this often.