Dealing with Different People, Part III

While we try to understand others, we are also in the process of understanding ourselves. While trying to appreciate truth, kindness and beauty, we are also aware of their opposites. The purpose of this understanding is to be a better person ourselves.

It will bring us joy, happiness and the nobility of mind when we learn to be generous and forgiving toward those who might possess this or that weakness.

There must perforce be trust and understanding in human interactions. Things will turn out better than we have expected if we can maintain a positive attitude. You will be surprised to see many good turns in life when you can be more forgiving in face of human weaknesses. You will feel the warmness and see the brightness of the sun if you can keep your sunny smile toward life and toward everything around you.

Dealing with Different People, Part II

Some people refuse to pitch in when you break your back hard at work but demand a share of the result of your work. Don’t think negative about it. Welcome to whoever wants a share, regardless what people think. After all, a fruit tastes sweet when it is shared with others. You might be teaching people how to respect themselves.

Some people pay fastidious attention to their appearance, in an attempt to cover up their inner emptiness with the surface of luxury. But their ignorance and stupidity are inevitably exuded via their manner of talking and behavior. Don’t disdain them for they don’t understand that one’s apparel is the indicator of one’s purchasing ability. It is in no way indicative of one’s true value. These shallow people serve as a mirror for us so that we will know better than neglecting our inner value.

Dealing with Different People, Part I

Last September, a friend of mine sent me a powerpoint file with beautiful pictures and background music. I wanted to share it with my children but haven’t had a chance. On 12/27/2010, while I was working, I dug it out and decided to translate it and post it here. Below is the main idea of the writing.

The world is like a gigantic stage, on which a person is like a book. This is the most difficult book for us to read. Some people are willing to lend you their umbrella in sunny days but quietly take it from you when it rains. Don’t complain about this type of person because he does not want to be soaked in rain and does not want to share with other. Suck it up. Have your own umbrella ready.

Some people follow you everywhere when you are in power but leave you when you are out of it. Please understand that people praise you when you are in power because of their need. Now that you are no longer useful to them, there is no need for them to say nice words to you. If you can think calmly, ask yourself if you have placed too much trust in these people.

Some people use the most touching language to conceal their ulterior motives. Don’t hate them for their hypocrisy because they don’t have an easy life when they try to play double face, always running the risk of being exposed. Understand where they come from and wait till the day they initiate change in themselves.

Words of Wisdom on Shopping for Sales Stuffs

In the evening of 11/22, I explained to my mother over the phone about Black Friday. My mother told me what she thinks about shopping for stuff you don’t need. “If you don’t need these clothes and still buy them simply because they are on sale, you will have to serve them by storing them or taking them out after sometime even if you don’t wear them. You make yourself a slave of your possessions. You only have this much living space. The more you buy, the more crowded you will feel as they take up your limited space. Instead, it will make you feel good if you can donate whenever there is a need.”

I wish more people could hear these words of wisdom from an 80-year-old Chinese citizen. At least, I will make sure that my children keep them in mind when they are so tempted to shop unnecessarily.

Learn While Learning is Easy

I personally know some young people either in their early or later 20s, at my office or among my relatives. Every time I see some of them spend plenty of time either texting or aimlessly surfing the internet or daily commuting as if time had no value, I think of this Chinese saying.

Here is the main idea.
“When a child was young and learning was easy, he did not like learning.
When he grew old and learning becomes difficult, he realizes the importance of learning and wants to learn.”

As the new year and a new decade just started, I wish young people could keep this in mind — learn while learning is easy, so that when they look back, they will not regret for having wasted time.

Reflection on our Past and Self-Improvement

Winter break began yesterday afternoon after students finished their last two finals. Soon after I got back home, I told my daughter to write two things — one is the reflection on the past semester, the other is her plan for the next one. I asked her jokingly, “Are you thinking something like this –there she goes again?” She admitted that was exactly what she thought.

Next, I shared with her my thought on the necessity of such reflection. The end of a semester is a good time point for a reflection. Some people have it annually, like the end of a year. It is like a pause in your journey. You want to make sure you are in the right direction. If not, you make adjustments and move on. You want to catch yourself before you have gone too far off the track.

The main thought behind it all is your desire to improve yourself, to be better tomorrow than you were yesterday. I hope my children will keep on this practice beyond their students’ life.

Planning for Next Summer During Winter Break

On the Thanksgiving evening we went to a family friend for dinner. During the dinner, we chatted about activities for the Christmas break. We learned that they were going to Florida during winter break. We said we would do the same and the two families might go together to double the fun.

But on the way back home, my daughter raised objection. “I cannot go because I have other plan for the break.” She plans to use winter break to get ready for activity in next summer break. She knows it will be too late if she waits till next spring. I know how much she loves to go to Florida but we have to cancel it.

Now I am proud of her decision.

Find Your Anchor in Times of Changes

Lately, many changes seem to come up simultaneously. With the buyout of our parent company by a public company and the merging of our company, there are other things going on — the change of responsibilities and of office and location, and that of the season. Yes, the days get shorter and colder and outside activities are limited.

Changes inherently mean both uncertainties and opportunities. For some unexplainable reason, an uncomfortable depressed feeling is always present in times of changes. For me, the only thing that I can hold on is the goal I set for myself, which should hold the ground like an anchor.

From this, I think of the time when my son just left the environment that he had grown up in and headed for one totally unfamiliar to him. It must be a tough start for him, even though he had his anchor to hold on.

I am sure the children will have to go through many expected or unexpected changes. I hope they can be prepared. In times of changes, it is very helpful to cling to something you hold dearly in your mind. You will feel uplifted as long as that something-dear-to-you remains unchanged — either your ideal self or your fundamental principle or your dream or goal or any thought that can comfort you.

Shopping Aeropostale: Don’t Be Victimized by Loud Music

On 9/18/2010, a Saturday afternoon, I was reading Psychology Today while waiting for my daughter’s art lesson. As always, I find many interesting reads here.

There is one article called “It’s so loud. I can’t hear my budget” by Emily Anthes. It answers a question that has puzzled me since 2008. During that year I frequented places like Aeropostale with my daughter. While she took time trying clothes, I was waiting outside, deeply disturbed by the loud ‘music’ or rather noise pollution in the store. I felt so miserable by the deafening noice that I kept asking her to hurry up, “Get a piece and let’s get out of this place.” I even asked the salesperson to turn down the volume. He told me it was company’s policy throughout all stores nationwide to set noise at this level.

Emily Anthes’ article finally reveals the ulterior purpose behind the deafening noice.

(1) The loud music creates a permanent party atmosphere. Loud music means party, fun, cool clothes, and youth. “If it’s too loud, you’re too old.”

(2) “People make more impulsive purchase when they are overstimulated. Loud volume leads to sensory overload, which weakens self-control. Overload makes people move into less deliberate mode of decision making. People might be more likely to be lured by discounts on items that they might not really want, and susceptible to other influences.”

As a dutiful consumer, I feel fooled and manipulated. I wish people can see through this trick and become wiser. As my daughter suggests, “Put on your ear plugs if you have to go to those stores.”

Words for My Children from An Interview with God, 2

Continue with this person’s dreamed interview with.
God’s hand took mine and we were silent for a while. And then I asked…
“As a parent, what are some of life’s lessons you want your children to learn?”

“To learn they cannot make anyone love them. All they can do is let themselves be loved.”
“To learn that it is not good to compare themselves to others.”
“To learn to forgive by practicing forgiveness.”
“To learn that it only takes a few seconds to open profound wounds in those they love, and it can take many years to heal them.”
“To learn that a rich person is not one who has the most, but is one who needs the least.”
“To learn that there are people who love them dearly, but simply have not yet learned how to express or show their feelings.”
“To learn that two people can look at the same thing and see it differently.”
“To learn that it is not enough that they forgive one another, but they must also forgive themselves.”

“Thank you for your time,” I said humbly.
“Is there anything else you would like your children to know?”
God smiled and said, “Just know that I am here… always.”
-author unknown

Too bad my children have to learn a lot more than this, if not from me, from TV, Internet, their friends, and schools. As for the last sentence — “Just know that I am here… always,” that’s one of the options if it works. Just remember not to close your mind to this options.

Words for My Children from An Interview with God

During the weekend of 7/17/2010, I read an email from a friend of mine. She sent me a link to a video of a fictionalized interview with God. It happens in a person’s dream, in which a person had an interview with God. It is interesting to see how a person expresses his view of human existence via the mouth of God, though it is not the first time people use dream to express themselves. It was beautifully written. Hence, I post it here.

I dreamed I had an interview with God.
“So you would like to interview me?” God asked.
“If you have the time” I said.
God smiled. “My time is eternity. What questions do you have in mind for me?”
“What surprises you most about humankind?” I asked.
God answered…
“That they get bored with childhood, they rush to grow up, and then long to be children again.”
“That they lose their health to make money…and then lose their money to restore their health.”
“That by thinking anxiously about the future, they forget the present, such that they live in neither the present nor the future.”
“That they live as if they will never die, and die as though they had never lived.”

Indeed, life is full of paradoxes. To be continued…

Parents Must Make Time for their Children

Last Thursday and Wednesday, 7/14-15, we had a monitor from California. She is really one of a kind, very unique and interesting. During our chatting, she asked me if she should adopt a baby from Haiti. “I got to do something with my life,” she said. “Well, you travel so much that you don’t have time for your baby. What’s the use of having children if you don’t have time for them?” I reminded her.

After she left, I kept thinking of my childhood and my children’s. One of the differences between the two is the amount of time that parents spend with the children. When I was a small child, both of my parents were very busy, either out of town or staying in the office until after 10 in the evening. They seldom had time for us, chatting with us, sharing their life experiences and observations with us as I do with my children. That explains why I was such a late bloomer, easily falling prey to bad elements and being used like a ridiculous puppet during my younger days.

Now the gravity has been shifted from work to family and children. The other end of extreme seems to be the case with today’s parent-children interactions, that is, too much and omnipresence of parents in children’s life. I have no doubt that both sides can benefit greatly from this close parent-children interactions, though it’s never good to go to any end of extreme. To be sure, children need their parents for all stages of their development. Nothing can take the place of real life experience. Be there for your little ones when they need you, even if it means postponing whatever you have on your plate. You won’t regret if you do.

It is Helpful for Children to Have Options

On 5/27, during our monthly department meeting, a doctor presented a talk on breast cancer.
Toward the end of it, he touched on the options that cancer patients had at different stage of disease. “It is always comforting for patients to have options,” said the doctor. Indeed, it would be psychologically and emotionally devastating to feel trapped in a corner with no way out. Very often clinic trials offer patients such options when all standard treatments have failed.

Have options. The words keep ringing in my ears after the meeting has ended. Having options means having choice, trust, hope, and control. The practice can very well be applicable to parenting. Very often, instead of telling children what they should do, the children will get a sense of trust, responsibility and even freedom if parents give them options and allow them to decide which options they will follow. In fact, it is always a good idea to let the children make decisions when they are mature enough for this role.

Stephen Hawking: A Life Worth Living

Yesterday, 6/7/2010, ABC aired Diane Sawyer’s interesting interview with renowned physicist Stephen Hawking. The interview was short and great. My daughter and I felt inspired after watching it.

Hawking suffers from a motor neuron disease which is also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and eventually becomes severely disabling and leads to almost-complete paralysis. Still, the disease has not in the least impacted his world-known achievements and lifetime accomplishments.

During the interview with Diane Sawyer, he told Sawyer that he had three pieces of advice for his three children.
One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet.
Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it.
Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don’t throw it away

To me, these words are profound and meaningful.

A Little Tender Expression Goes a Long Way

It has been a month since the young relative left for China on 5/5. It was 4 AM when his uncle and he headed for the airport. Before he left, he gave his uncle a farewell hug, the first of its kind in four years.

I am not sure if it is an expression of gratitude or affection or sadness over separation or obligation. But one thing I am definitely certain, this simple tender expression has touched his uncle’s heart, to the point that he keeps mentioning it and feels somewhat sad over the young man’s leaving. He has been looking forward to talking to the young man over the Skype ever since he left. When the young man was living with us, he hoped the young man could go back and find a job instead of wasting time here. One hug seems to have changed his mind.

Sometime we are not aware of it when we give away expressions of good will or affection randomly or lightheartedly. In this case, the impact on the recipient surpasses the expression itself. For my children, be abundant in expressing your gratitude or affection when that expression is due. Don’t be as spartan as Spartans.

No Plan, No Goal Mean Drifting to Your Default Place

Yesterday, my daughter and I talked about her summer plan. She already has planned to take summer courses. Still, I think it a good practice to set a goal and hammer out a summer plan and a timetable because summer time is not as structured as normal school year. A plan and a timetable can help you structure your time so that you get more things done.

People with no goal and no plan are most likely driven by habit and drifted to their default place whenever they have some disposable time. For some people, their default place is computer, either play games or watch movies or youtube or on facebook. For some others, their default place is refrigerator. I have observed that some people are likely to raid the refrigerator and munch away their time when they have nothing to do or nothing better than eating. Consequently, they gain weight instead of ability and brain power.

Unless your default place happens to be one that constitutes part of your plan and will lead to your goal, you are better off with a timetable to manage your time and a goal toward which your energy are fruitfully channeled.

For this reason, I told my daughter, a well-written summer plan is absolutely necessary in keeping one in good shape mentally and physically.

How To Make Children Have a Productive Summer Break II

To be continued from yesterday’s posting.
Lastly, this is the key to a fruitful summer break. It is better to have the children write their own plan or at least to get the children involved in any plan involving them, making them feel that it is their plan not their parents’. Parents can encourage them to make and follow through their own plans and reward them if they have done so. If they are not mature enough for it, try not to make unrealistic plan on their behalf.

Parents should be aware that learning involves not just reading and math problems. When children go out of the country, they are exposed to a variety of new experiences. With their natural curiosity, they tend to come up with lots of questions on matters that we take for granted. If parents actively engage in conversations with them, taking advantage of opportunities, they can learn a lot more than what they do in classroom environment.

Again, looking back, I should have relaxed and enjoyed as much as I could while on vacation and should have realized that during their stay in China, the children at least had learned Chinese language, that they came to understand a little bit of Chinese culture and customs through watching TV, daily observations, social interactions and constant question-and-answers.

If we can put things in perspective, we will be able to see that nothing is more important than providing your little ones with one of the happiest moments in their childhood. When I recall my own childhood, the most fond and memorable moments are never associated with school and classroom. They always involved with doing something that I truly enjoyed, either walking home alone through deserted country road or taking apart clock or radio. Now I feel guilty and greatly regret for having failed again and again in providing these moments for my children.

P.S. today is the first day of the nice long summer break.

How To Make Children Have a Fruitful Summer Break I

On one lunch break, a friend of mine and I talked about kid’s summer plan over the phone. It is not easy to follow a good plan when you travel outside the country. I had my share of fights and frustrations when I took my children to China during several summer breaks. That was when they were in primary school. Looking back now, I can see why we had so many fights over their summer homework. I am mainly responsible for those frustrating moments.

First of all, they were surrounded by relatives whom they had not seen for a long time. The novelty did not wear out even after they left. The more people around them, the more difficult it is for parents to exercise discipline.

Second, for them, summer break meant a break from school and study, all play all day long, as carefree as anything. Hence they naturally resented and resisted fiercely when I proposed and insisted that they do some home-assigned homework each day.

Third, here comes the influence of American culture on our children. They always thought it not fair to them when all their friends and classmates had zero homework during either summer or winter break.

Fourth, I had not done a good job of reasoning with them, letting them sort things out on their own and accept extra work willingly. I have emphasized this slogan — extra work makes one extra smart, but the slogan did not work wonder in their young immature minds.

Fifth, I did not actually have a feasible plan. That is, I often plan to do a lot but am bitterly disappointed when my plan falls through in the end. My expectation should be more realistic.

To be continued…

What Really Matters in the Grand Scheme of Things

Yesterday I had half day off. My son and I went to Target in the afternoon. As we left the store, he tossed the receipt to the trash can outside the store. “You don’t usually keep your receipts, do you?” I asked. “No,” said he.

“I don’t like spending time shopping round or return it afterward,” he continued. “You might save a little after spending some time, but in the grand scheme of things, does it matter that much? I mean you could put into good use that time.”

I was so glad to hear this. Indeed, only when you have too much time and too little resources do you care more about resources than about time.

A Blissfully Busy Sunday

Yesterday was a busy day. The two children got up early and ran two miles in the morning. My daughter had art lesson from 1 to 2:30 PM. After we got back home, we crammed down some food. Next the whole family drove to get our neighbor’s girl. From there, we went to ice sport for their skating lessons.

In the evening we were invited to a friend’s house, where we were once again spoiled by the good food and the hospitality of the hosts.

My son was busy either with his work or working with his sister. I am so glad to see them working together.

Calculating Time Saved Everyday

I dug this out of my previous note. I am not sure if I have posted it before. The calculation below is what I wrote to a friend of mine sometime in March. She was considering of moving to another office and asked what I thought of the move. The move will shorten the time of daily commune from 90 to less than 20 minutes. I calculated the amount of time she could save by the move.
70 minutes saved per day,
70 x 5 (day) = 350 min. per week
350 x 52 (week) = 18200 minutes, 303 and a half hours per year

I told her, “If you put to good use of these save 303 hours every year, they can benefit you in the long run. That’s why I choose to live as close to work place as possible. It is time save everyday plus gas saving.”

This is something I keep telling my children – it is better to spend more money on housing and live close-by than living far from work in order to save money on housing. Most people always think of saving money, but they don’t know that they can always make money if money is gone, but nothing can get back lost time. I will share with you some of my writings to my children on time saving.

P.S. my son came back this afternoon. From early morning, I canceled my daughter’s afternoon art lesson, cleaned the room, getting everything ready for his homecoming. As always, it feels my heart with immense joy to see him back. The whole house brightened up, filled with life with his presence.

The Thrifty Habit that Young People Should Develop

I always hold the view that it is a shame not an honor for young people, especially those still living off their parents, to spend money like water. Even after they have their own incomes, they should still keep their thrify habit and think of those without.

About two weeks ago, my daughter asked me to take her to Old Navy as she had learned that there was a store-wide deep discount. There she tried many pieces of clothes, some of which she liked a lot but gave up because they were way too expensive. We came back with four pieces of clothes for a little over $30.

Last Friday evening we went to Whole Food store as I had promised my daughter to get her hair care product. Inside the store, I saw my daughter standing in front of diary products for some time and then left without taking anything. I knew there was something that she liked and she used to ask for. So before we checked out, I asked her if she wanted to get that Kefir cultural milk smoothie. “Really? I thought you would think it too expensive, so I did not ask,” said she with a happy smile. “Go and grab it now,” I told her.

The relative who just left us thought that our children were very thrify compared to many young people that he knew of. I had not realized it until I saw some of the people he mentioned of. Count my blessings now.

Stop, Reflect, and Learn from What has Happened to us and to Others

Early this year when the mother of the young relative was here with us, I mentioned to her the importance of having a certification on top of a degree in job-hunting. One or two certifications in his area of expertise would help him to land a job either here or in China. That’s how I got my jobs. They all thought it a good idea. It was then agreed by both mother and son that the young man would pursue diligently in both getting certified and getting a job. For the months that followed, he would at least accomplish something if he was not lucky enough to get a job. Now four months have passed and the young man has just left for China — no job, no certification.

There should be some accountability for what has been agreed upon. What would happen if the promise was not delivered by deadline? Now nobody cares to find out where things went wrong and why the young man did not follow the plan. Very often people simply rush by and let things happen without looking back. Since I was not involved in his education, I did not know what was going on and was not in the position to ask.

I am not making any judgment on anybody. I record this for my children because I don’t think it helpful in the long run if we let any undesirable results fall through the cracks without ever learning a bit out of it. Each time we fail something, we cannot just shrug our shoulders and say “Oh well” or “whatever” with a careless attitude. We got to confront ourselves honestly and learn things out of any failed efforts if we don’t want to repeat the same mistakes committed either by us or by other people. It is wise to always reflect upon events and learn to be wiser.

Time Tracker, a Tool for Time Management

My daughter and I have worked for sometime on her time management issue, trying many mechanisms, without seeing much progress. She always ran deep into the night for her homework, very often going to bed after midnight. Last Wednesday, I set up a simple time tracker for her. On that day it really worked wonder. She could focus better on each of the task.

First, I asked her to make a list of her homework on that day. Next, estimate how much time she needed to finish each of them. Last, marked the start time before she started doing one task.

Her task list looks like this.
(1) Algebra –50 min. 6:30 – 7:20 PM
(2) English — 40 min. 7:25 – 8:05
(3) Biology — 30 min. 8:10 – 8:40
(4) French — 10 min. 8:45 – 8:55
(5) Piano — 15 min. 9:00 – 9:15
(6) Shower and get ready for bed.

Of course, she did not exactly follow this. Still, it works as a restrictive force, vastly reduced her normal amount of homework time. Both of us see the result and are willing to keep using this tool.

Do Not Be a Good-for-Nothing Person

“He who cannot engage in important task but refuses to do thing he considers as being below his level.”

This is what I often tell my children. You got to start somewhere down below before you become the CEO of your dream. You will remain forever a good-for-nothing nobody if you aspire high but refuse to start low.

Chewing the Old Bones: Who’s Responsible?

On the evening of 4/6/2010, I posed to my daughter the issue of young people chewing the old bone, once
posted on 3/5/2010, asking her, “Who, do you think, should be responsible for this problem?” “The adult children. They should go out looking for job after graduation instead of staying home, doing nothing.” said she.

I am glad to hear this answer. I know clearly in my heart that my children will not grow into one of these old-bone-chewers because I have made the point of raising them to be responsible and independent adults right off college. From this perspective, I would think the parents should be responsible for feeding and reinforcing the dependent mentality in their adult children.

Have you heard of this phrase? We will make efforts and attempts changes if we are in poverty. In other words, if parents cut off the economic lifeline, leaving the children no option but going out of the door and picking up whatever jobs that can feed them, there would not have been any lazy ones. On the other hand, if one is free from any want, one is not motivated to make efforts and earn his/her own living. You can further put it this way, these children are more hurt than helped by their parents’ wealth.

Between money and freedom, young people should treasure freedom and independence more than whatever they can scrub from their parents. Like an eagle, soar freely in the sky instead of nesting around old bones. I can never understand how some people are willing to compromise the sweet freedom in order to outstay their initial comfort zone.

Do Something Different Instead of Baking Cookies

Last Saturday morning 4/3, the sun was nice and warm. I did not need to cook for anyone since I was home alone. I went out for a relaxing walk, enjoying what nature had to offer on that spring day. Wherever I went, I saw pleasant signs of spring, the trees with tiny flower buds, the attractive magnolia trees in our neighborhoods, the squirrels chasing each other, the birds busy with their nests, etc. I saw one of our neighbors selling something like girl scout cookies. This abruptly brought my mind back to the conversation that I had with my daughter a few weeks ago.

“Girl scouts always bake and sell cookies. They do this so much that when girl scouts are mentioned, people always think of baking and selling cookies, as if that’s all they could do. Do you know why?” I asked my daughter. “It’s because people like cookies,” said she. “I think this will prepare girls for their future role as mother and housewife or maybe that’s what they enjoy doing,” I said.

“What’s so good about cookies other than making people fat and sad? Why can’t we do something different?” I asked my daughter. “How about this — we grow Japanese maple trees from seeds, then sell them at your primary school. And we donate the money to school’s PTA? I think it will benefit the school’s PTA, good for the environment, and of course, it will be a nice addition on your resume,” I got excited over the idea. But she did not share my enthusiasm.

End of a brilliant idea.

Regret Not When You Look Back…

On the day of last good Friday, 4/2, I was home alone with my daughter being out of town with her school, for the first time for her. She called back, asking if I was doing okay by myself. She said she tried to call me but the line was busy. Yes, I was on the phone first with a friend of mine, then with my relative in Beijing. It was such a comfort with her voice ringing in my ears.

The thought led me to some parents that I have known of. One of them used to complain of her child. “It is better not to have any children at all. Life would be so much wonderful if you didn’t have the trouble of having to raise them and you can do whatever you want without this huge responsibility.” She said this when her child was little and needed her care and attention. Now that when her child has become adult away from home and she has all the time for herself, she forgot what she once said. “If we were allowed to have more than one kids, I would have at least two or three.” Isn’t it so characteristic of some people?

I once said to a friend of mine back in Ohio, “On our life’s journey, you can go through it either with empty hands or with your hands full, with burden or without. Of course, you will have an easy time and enjoy yourself in your own way when you carry nothing all the way. Yet, toward the end of the journey, you will remain empty-handed if you have nothing on your hands and shoulders.” After nearly a decade when we met again, she only saw and envied the fact that I had earned my Ph.D, raised two wonderful children and had a professional job, but she had no idea how much efforts I had put into all these.

It is interesting to look back how we travel on our life’s journey, even after a decade. The sad part is we can never go back to re-do it differently. This is specially written for my children and their generation. I miss them a lot especially on that evening.

Coming Attractions from Childen

(1) My daughter having read my posting on her birthday said she would make more improvements this year. So much delight has it given to me when I look ahead for these improvement.

(2) This year my daughter marked her birthday with her friend, just as her brother did with his friends. As they grow bigger, they spend more time with and get more joy from their friends than from their family.

(3) During last spring break, my son went to South Africa for a startup workshop. This year he was in California for an interview. I can’t wait to see where he will be next year.

First Time to Go out of Town with Her School

Friday finally comes. We had monitor visits from Tuesday to Thursday for three different studies. To be sure, these monitors are very nice and we get along beautifully. I always have interesting conversations with them, much more enlightening than anything that can happen in the office. Still, it makes me tired after a day’s engagement with them.

My daughter will go to Wichita with her school today, 180 miles away from home, about 3-hour drive. I gave her my cell phone, some pocket money, snacks, and helped her packed her stuffs in the morning. This is the first time she goes out on a trip like this. She is the only 9th grader and the youngest one in the team. I hope they can make it to the next level and can go to Chicago for national competition.

I remember my son went out of town for these competitions. He always called back, telling me what he had won so far. It seems like yesterday. Now it is my daughter’s turn.

Wish her best of luck.

Happy Birthday, My Dearest Daughter

I remember on the 15th birthday of one of our relatives in China, his family held a huge banquet, the one matching that of a prince, a big exaggeration of course, with a gigantic cake, and we even sent money for his birthday. That was 1999.

On my daughter’s 15th birthday, we have none of this festival-like activity, even though it falls on a weekend. With only two of us, we went to do something special yesterday evening. My daughter and her friend went out for a lunch today. In the evening, she first had her art class, then we went out to get her something she said she needed.

On top of this, I gave a birthday card from Border’s and dedicated to her this posting. Further addition to her birthday delight is a call from her brother who is still in California. Her cousin bought her a birthday cake. I don’t remember what birthday gifts that I once bought for my daughter and I am sure she does not remember this neither. Does it really matter? It is not what I give to her but what I have done and am doing for her that will impact her and reaching her life in the long years to come. I know she appreciates the gifts that I am giving her every single day of her life. On her special day, I want to let her know that she is the most precious one in the heart of a mother.

These are the gifts that I am giving her everyday —
When I prepare fruit or vegetable snack for her nearly every night;
When she gets back home from track activity, I massage her feet and legs to relieve her muscle pain;
When I clean her desk so that she can have an organized place to work;
When I restrict her time on the internet so that she can focus on what she should do;
When I insist on her doing what she should do even if she does not want to;
When I go to work very early in the morning so that I can be with her in the afternoon;
When I drive her to places for her various classes and activities;
When I go grocery shopping and always have in mind what she likes to eat;
When I constantly talk to her patiently about everything that needs her attention;
When I respect her decisions even if I do not agree with all of them;
When I share with her my observation, experience, reading, and understanding of life;
When I ask her to eat healthy foods and have enough rest and exercise, so that she will be feel good about herself;
When I write many of my postings and have her in my mind. In fact, I make sure she receives this gift of mine; and to be sure, many more are coming on her way… all because I care.

In the end, what matters is when the child grows into a wonderful individual and he/she knows this is the best gift that a parent can possibly give to a child. Nothing pronounces the failure of one’s parenting more soundly than the fact that in the end the child values only materials that he or she can get from the parents and forgets everything else, spirit and soul.

Before I close this long posting, I am so glad when I look back and see that during the past year, my daughter has made tremendous improvements toward the goal she set for herself. She has filled my heart with so much joy, fun and love. Words cannot describe how much I appreciate all this. I have no doubt in my mind that she will emerge from high school a happy, self-confident, responsible, independent, and accomplished individual.

Happy Birthday, my dearest daughter.

Watch Your Time Thief. Watch How You Spend Your Time

This is what I want to tell my children before their birthday.

Don’t think you have endless free time and you are young forever.
Don’t say “It’s my time. I can do whatever I want.”

Don’t complain that you don’t have time for this or that when you spend generously in getting ready for breakfast, in taking shower, getting ready for bed, and carelessly spending time here and there. And pretty soon you find the day is gone without getting anything done.

Don’t be upset every time you are reminded of saving time from this endless waste. The real upset will hit you later when it is too late.

If you waste time on minor things, you certainly don’t have time for the major event. Your major pursuit will be lost among the minor trivials.

If you don’t watch for these tiny time thieves, little by little, day after day, your whole youthful years are chipped off your life, leaving you empty and unhappy.

I have watched people playing everyday, unfailingly. Once again, show me how you spend your disposable time and I will show you your future.

Happy Birthday, My Son!

When my son was small, I was a graduate student, living on scholarship and the meager paycheck as part-time instructor in sociology department of BGSU. At that time, I tried to make his birthday a special day by taking him out to places, taking pictures, and bringing home toys that he liked. When he was in primary school, he came back from his friend’s house telling me how many toys that his friends had, literally covering a whole bed. I kept telling him to count his blessings and enjoy what he had. “Think of those hungry kids in Africa,” was what I used to tell him. I even showed him a picture of the kid that I sponsored via Christian Children Fund. I am sure he could not understand fully what I meant at that time and might feel deprived.

Yet, I do not regret not having spent a whole lot on his toys. After all these years, I am certain he has forgotten the toys or anything that I have bought for him, but he will always remember, appreciate and treasure the love and care that I showered upon him throughout his growing-up years at his first home. In the long run, it is the quality of this loving care that counts and that will survive all materials.

Happy Birthday, my big boy, the greatest boy of all. I love you. Your sister made a birthday card for you. I know you are very busy now. I wish you best luck in all your endeavors. Above all, find some time to enjoy your special day with your friends in Boston and then later in California.

Time Saved More Valuable Than Money Saved

Below is what I calculated the amount of time saved for a friend of mine who is thinking of moving to another office. The move will shorten the time of her daily commune from 90 to less than 20 minutes. The move will save her 303 hours per year. So great!

90 – 20 minutes = 70 min. per day; 70 x 40 (hr) = 350 min. per week; 350 x 52 (week) = 18,200 minutes, 303 and a half hours per year. Imagine that! You would be surprised how much time you can save in one year if you do a little math.

If you put to good use of these saved 303 hours every year, they can benefit you tremendously in the long run. That’s why I choose to live as close to work place as possible. You save both time and gas everyday.

This is something I keep telling my children – it is better to spend more money on housing, living closer to the office, than spend more time driving to the office in order to save money on housing. When talking about saving, most people always think of money, as if time does not worth saving.

For my children, you can always make money as long as you have health and skills, but nothing can get back lost time, especially time senselessly lost everyday commuting to work. You’d rather compromise your living arrangement than losing too much time on the road.

Don’t Settle Your Life at a Discount

A few days before their birthday, I want to share this piece with my children. Life can be as wonderful as you personally make it. It is great that you have dreams and ideals. Yet, you have to take solid steps to get closer to your dreams.

It won’t look that beautiful when you look back and find your life consist of a series of compromises and discounts, all because of lack of serious efforts. Therefore, for each step you make, don’t ever start making compromise. Because once you compromise, you will soon get used to accepting second best and then another second best, and evetually you settle your life at a sad discount.

Both of you are familiar with the life story of Helen Keller. If a person with such handicap coud live such a fulfilled life, what else cannot be accomplished by normal healthy beings?

I love these Chinese words!

Proper Parenting: Key to Your Child’s Future

I have become acquainted with some young people, younger than 30, older than college kids, both boys and grils. They have one thing in common, that is, they are all dissatisfied with their current status. Some need to go back to school while others have not found their ideal jobs. Whenever they come to my attention, one question always comes to my mind. Would they have been better off if they had have different parenting when they were young? I strongly believe that proper parenting and guiding make big difference in a person’s life. Thus, I would not think it is their fault that they now are not happy with their lives.

Yes, you may say they can always come back to school or make extra efforts to make up for the lost time. Yet, if they were not equipped with the will to rise above when they were young, how can we realistically expect them to be better than their previous self? Most likely, nothing will change them too drastically at this stage of their life, as human beings are very much the products of habits and they have been too much controlled by the habits formed in the first 20 years of their lives. Like smoking, if you start young and get addicted, it will take extra dose of will power to get off the hook.

In the eyes of some minors, proper parenting may look like too much parental control. They may resent this at this age when they don’t know better and cannot see farther than their noses. Yet, if the minors cannot control themselves, responsible parents, instead taking an easy way out and giving up authority, should step forward and stand up for the children’s benefit. And it is better to exercise this uncomfortable control now and get them on the right track than letting the bad habit take over the control over them 10 years later.

This is another posting written especially for my children before their birthday.

Making yourself Accountable for the Time You Spend

This is one of the few postings that I write prior to their birthday. Most of them I have said to them before. In fact, I emphasize to them not once but several times. I won’t stop until I see the sign of improvement in them.

Firstly, you are 15 or 21 only once. Take full advantage of what you have at this moment because the moment will be gone forever, faster than you realize it.

Secondly, think ahead. It will always motivate you to action if you can think of this question everyday– what do you want to see yourself five years down the road?

Thirdly, when you were little and did not know better than wasting time while taking extracurricular classes. Now, it is high time you should realize that taking any classes is an investment, from which you should expect some returns. Like all investments, the cost for this one is your time.

You have way passed the age when you simply follow your instinct without thinking or do whatever you like, going around purposelessly and carefree. Get into the habit of making yourself accountable for the time you spent on these classes and any other activities, especially those classes that run year after year. That is, after dedicating a few years on one class, you should expect yourself to reach certain level on this and always try to make your skill work for you. If you don’t set any target of achievement and still behave like primary school pupils — doing thing for fun, you will most likely waste your time. You are better off putting this time into something else. In fact, it is high time that you should stop doing something just because you want, even if you have something more urgent on hand.

Time and Tide Wait for No One

Yesterday morning I drove my daughter to Union Station for the last science seminar for this school year. It always feels my heart with excitement when I see the gathering of so many young people.

On the way back home, I shared my excitement with my daughter. Of course, she does not feel the same way since she is with people of this age group everyday and in fact, she is one of them.

These young people not only remind me the days when I was their age, but also the dreams and aspirations that I used to have back then. For them, the world is yet unfolding before their eyes, filled with unlimited opportunities and possibilities. As I was told before, the sky is the limit. Reach out for your dream and your future will be as bright as anything you can imagine.

I mentioned to my daughter some young people that both of us know of. I cannot say the same thing of those people as they are over 10 years of her senior and have way passed their high school years.

Alas, we are young and have this unlimited opportunities only once. Time and tide wait for none. Nothing will be the same once the youth years are gone. Talk about type A personality! This is especially written for my children.

Adult Children Chewing the Old Parents’ Bones

On the Sunday of 2/7/2010, while I was waiting outside the rink for my daughter’s skating, I had a nice chat with a parent whose daughter was also in the rink. She came from Taiwan and told me something interesting about Taiwan. Well, interesting because I hear of the same thing going on in mainland China. It is called chewing the old bones. That is, adult children living off the backs of their parents.

These adult children have graduated from college but choose to stay at their parents’ home doing nothing. Because they have not found a job of their like. Sometimes, it is because they don’t like what they are paid; or they are afraid of hardship involved in the job; or they don’t like people around their work place. Anyway, they can find thousand of lame excuses for not working outside home because they can always live on either their parents’ paycheck or their parents’ life time savings.

I know of one such young people staying home for a year after graduation, saying “I could go to work at … because the few thousand monthly salary is not worthy it…” I don’t know what has happened to young people today, but I firmly believe the root of this problem lies in the parents who have spoiled and continued to spoil and ruin their children. The adult children could always find some earnings at a fast-food restaurant before they land on their ideal position. But they wouldn’t. Because they have their loving parents to feed and shelter them. Nice parents, complain not. You reap what you sow. For the adult children, enjoy your leisure till the old bones are thoroughly consumed.

Parents Follow Their Child in Vain

Last Sunday a friend of mine called from Alabama. She told me something more pathetic than funny.

She knows a couple whose child used to work in Seattle area. The couple told their child that they would move to Seattle just to be near to the child. As they were planning on the move, the child told them he was going to move to east coast due to a job transfer.

It is perfectly understandable when the aging parents want to live closer to their children. Yet, the children have their own career and lives. It is simply not feasible to follow the younger generation whenever they make a move.

I cannot laugh when I see myself as one of them.

I am Grateful to My Children

March is the month for both of my children, the month reminds me how much I have been blessed by their presence.

Every time my son calls and asks about me, I feel so much blessed;
Every time my daughter calls me from downstair, “Mom, come and eat delicious food,” I feel delicious food already in my mouth;

When my son talks to me about his plan and activities, I feel abubdantly proud and rewarded.
When my daughter told her brother “Mom has been sick” and my son asked me over the phone why I did not tell him this, I am certain I am already better with their loving concern.

When I come home tired, my daughter insists that I rest in bed and not cook the dinner, I feel a warm stream rushing through my body.

Parents will enjoy the blessing of the shade when the young seedlings they raised with tender loving care have grown into skyscraping trees, able to stand any extreme weather, and ready to give back to those who have loved and raised them.

Plan Ahead: Key to Any Successful Endeavor

During my early school years, there were something that was kept pumping into my ears, so much so that I didn’t really have a good feeling about it at that time but it is this something that I remember clearly and now I am doing the same thing on my children the way it was crammed down on me. The main idea is you always plan at the beginning of the day or the year or any activity instead of at the end of it when it is too late.

I remember how my father had serious talks with me on laying out a plan for the summer break or winter break. It was basically no different from what we now do, setting a goal and an action plan for reaching this goal. How I disliked it when I longed nothing but play for my break. Now I realize it is such a wise move and a good habit, so that I would not fool away the precious time, though I am not sure I cared that much about time.

Even my daughter has heard of SMART action plan. How darling it is, except not many people follow their plans to the letter. I wish both of my children would listen to me and get into the habit of having a good plan before any activities.

Flexibility: One Big Challenge in Parenting and in all Dealings

I talked to my son about yesterday’s posting as I believed he could have played a positive role and could have prevented it from happening. I also wanted him to learn a lesson from this. I reminded him of the time when the other adult in the family threatened to disconnect our internet service. My son was around my daughter’s age and was on the internet all the time. Imagine what would become of him if both adults stood firm behind this decision.

I imagine without the internet my son would spend more time with his friends who had internet connection. He would spend less time at home and less time doing school work. One can never tell what he would do all the time at his friends’ house. One thing I am positively sure if that happened, he would not be able to go to the kind of college that he is in.

It is important that we do not lose sight of the big goal. Sometimes, in order to reach your goal, it is crucial that parents know how to be flexible and how to bargain some terms with the children so that both sides give in a little inch and move forward a whole mile. It is stupid to insist on parental authority all the time as if parents were always right. It is even more stupid to think that a parent is the boss of the family and must have the final word and must be the winner in any fight with the children. What kind of victory is that when a parent defeats the children? When the children lose, no one wins in the end.

The Damage of a Fight

While I was in China, I was very concerned about my daughter and the other adult.

Indeed, fight occurred between the two as I was afraid all the time, and with rather disastrous consequence. After I got back, I saw something broken in the house, a telephone and a small table — my daughter did it when she was mad at the other adult.

“He promised to take me to bookstore after I have finished my homework and piano practice. After I’ve done everything, he still wouldn’t take me,” explained my daughter.

The other adult said he had not promised and my daughter had not finished her work. More important, she would have a chapter test the next day and should have prepared for it.

My daughter thought the other adult was unreasonable and threatened not to go to school any more. “Fine with me. I don’t care,” was the answer. This droved her so mad that she started expressing her anger in as forceful manner as she felt pleased.

The consequence of the fight:
(1) My daughter did not go to bookstore
(2) She wasted the whole unknown amount of time without preparing for the upcoming test.
(3) The result of that chapter test turned out to be the worst of all, directly threatened the whole semester grade and more.
(4) My small table became a shambles
(5) A telephone and others are out of use.

To me, the biggest damage is her study. Both my daughter and I were nearly speechless when we saw the test result. For the rest of the semester, she needs to muster all her energy to pull herself out of the mess. I will have to think twice next time I go back to China.

The fight was ugly to the extreme. It is what it is.

Coming to America: The Long-Enduring Theme of a Journey

When I was talking with the newly-arrived relative about her son’s coming to America in May 2006, both of us believed it was beneficial to the young man in the long run in terms of his life’s experience and his maturity, even though it might not make economic sense as he sees one of his cousins started working right after college and has started building up wealth and seniority.

In the large context of a person’s life, this young man’s coming to America can be interpreted as imbarking upon a journey, a long-enduring theme in a literary work both in western and Chinese cultures. It is a journey to a faraway land in the quest of adventure, excitement, something new and better, through which the hero will eventually achieve the final triumph after repeated conquests over evils, devils and diverse adversities.

Very often, in the process of this journey, when the challenge is too overwhelmed, the protagonist inevitably suffers from the agony of setback and failures, to the point he/she even entertains moments of doubt and question. “It might be an unwise move to take on this journey,” or “After all, what is the meaning of it all?” — cropping up these questions.

In the case of those who embark the journey to America, the adversity presents itself in the form of unfamiliar language and the total social and cultural environment. Again, like the heroes in traditional journey novels, final triumph belongs to those who overcome all adversities in the land. I am fortunate to personally know numerous Chinese who have achieved high and great through this exciting journey. Again as for all epics, final triumph belongs to the brave and diligent.

Children Come Into Parents’ Lives for a Season

A friend of mine sent me a long piece on why people come into our lives. I cite the season part below.

“People come into your life for a REASON, a SEASON or a LIFETIME. When you know which one it is, you will know what to do for that person.

Some people come into your life for a SEASON, because your turn has come to share, grow or learn. They bring you an experience of peace or make you laugh. They may teach you something you have never done. They usually give you an unbelievable amount of joy. Believe it, it is real. But only for a season.

They are your children who come into the lives of their parents only for a season. When the season is over, they move on to their own lives. Therefore, treasure every moment of it when the season is still in.

P.S. I contacted two college classmates the next day after I arrived in Beijing, whom I have not seen for some years. To my surprise, the two reacted differently to my contact, with one sounding warm-heartedly and the other communicating coldness and suspiciousness, as if … Well, very interesting because they come from different social backgrounds.

Shoveling Snow and a Lesson on Christmas Day

A heavy snow greeted us on the Christmas morning, 12/25/2009. I knew we expected a family coming over for dinner and we might have to drive out in the morning, so I started out shoveling the snow on our drive way. Boy, it was a backbreaking and lip-biting task! I felt like going to collaps after this unwilling workout.

Back home I thought it a good opportunity for my daughter to learn a lesson. So I told her, “Get up quickly. You got a good opportunity to earn some spending money. Just go to one of our neighbors and said, “Merry Christmas. Can I shovel snow on your drive way for $10?”

She welcomed the idea and went out cheerfully but she had no idea how hard the job was. I thought she would appreciate this hard-earned money after this exercise. My son went to help her. Actually my son did the large part of shoveling. The neighbor lady was so kind and gave her $40 instead. She gave her brother half of it but her brother did not take it.

I was so proud of my daughter. When she got back home, she was exhausted. “Are you happy you did it?” I asked. “Yea, sure,” said she.

P.S. Back to work and in some way to a break, after a long weekend at home with many people running around and equal number of high-pitched voices yelling in the sky. More on this later.

The Greatest Help That I Can Count On

So much has been going on at the same time — my son came back last Friday, my daughter just finished the finals yesterday, and I am in the process of moving into another clinic, a bit further away from home, but a welcome move as people at the new site are much nicer than some that I have been working with.

Yesterday evening the whole family plus the relative went to take a walk at a big mall, which did not end up pleasantly. After that my son and I took a long walk outside, talking and exchanging views on issues that concerned both of us. By the time we got home, it was after 10 PM. He took away a novel that his sister was reading, drove her to a local bookstore, where he wanted to get her a good book. I know he will have some serious talk with his sister.

I am so glad he is home. I know he will be of tremendous help to me. In fact he is the only help that I can count on. I cannot think of anyone beside him who genuinely cares for his sister. With his help, the future should be bright. Let’s hope.

Children Cheat Themselves When They Try to Outsmart Their Parents

Toward the evening of 12/17/2009, I talked to one of my high school classmates over the phone about the education of our youngsters, her child being the same grade as mine. She told me something rather amusing on the surface but equally disturbing when I dwell more upon it.

Her child loves watching TV and spends large chunks of time in front of it. Knowing her parents’ position on her TV passion, she would turn it off right before her parents return home. This reminds me of my children who minimize the Internet page when I approach them, knowing too well that they are doing something they are not supposed to. Children are so good at this hiding game.

I often tell my children that the worst part of this game is they are cheating themselves. What really happens is they cheat away their time and their lives. They victimize themselves while trying to outsmart their parents. What a huge loss! I wish my children are smarter than this.

By the way, we went to the airport tonight to meet my son. So glad to have him back.

Thanksgiving Break with My Son

One week has passed since my son left for college last Monday, 11/30/2009. Each time he comes back, I can see the change in him and he is getting more mature than before.

Study is a privilege,” he told his sister. Not many young people at his age have come to this realization. One acquaintance of mine talked about going back to school this way, “It’s fun to go back to school.” I find it difficult to see fun in such a privilege as they are not even remotely related. Indeed, we often come to value this privilege after we left school.

He is getting better with time management. In fact, he talked to his sister on her time management problem. “When you come back home, go straight to your homework. Don’t say, ‘Oh, I work the whole day at school. I need to take a break before I hit books again.’ Because very often, before you realize it, many hours have gone and you have not started on your homework.” Indeed, this is exactly what happen right now. One of his friends often surfed around on the Internet until it is around midnight, “OMG, I have homework due tomorrow.” Then down into the night the student goes.

Another good advice to his sister — “Don’t turn on the computer as long as you can. Work on your book as much as possible. Because time runs very fast once you are on the computer.” Oh boy, don’t we know all this! I wish she could take this advice seriously.

Right now, a lot of their high school homeworks are posted on the internet. It seems you can hardly get anything done without the Internet. My son advised his sister, “When you take a 5-minute break from computer homework, stand up and do something else instead of staying on the internet. Chances are you will spend a lot longer on the computer if you use the break to surf the net.” Indeed, once you are online, there seems millions of icons screaming for your attention. With one click after another, pretty soon your time and life are sadly consumed, of no avail.

Knowing his sister was going to take SAT the next Saturday, he spent a large chunk of time working with her, explaining to her difficult concepts, much more clear and effective than anyone else. She rates him as the best tutor of all. I can’t believe he is getting so much better as a tutor.

We walked around the Plaza and Town Center. Such a blessing to have him back.

Never Express Your Anger by Inflicting Self-Injury

On 11/21/2009, my daughter was going to do homework and prepare for SAT that Saturday afternoon. Certain conflict occurred between she and another adult in the family. When she was extremely upset over what she perceived as unreasonableness, she said “If you are unreasonable, I am going to be unseasonable, too.” Next, she declared loudly that she was not going to take SAT, that she did not care going to college any more. Whatever she said, the other adult was non-stop playing on the computer as if the words fell on deaf ears.

That reminded me of an incident when my son was around her age. The other adult threatened to disconnect the internet service, my son was so agitated that he said he would not go to school if the internet was disconnected. “Whom do you threaten? I am not afraid of your not going to school at all. Go ahead” was the answer. Same thing happened to my daughter again.

Overly concerned was I at that moment, watching my daughter wasting the afternoon on the internet, doing something that she knew she should not do, just to express her anger. She had exactly two weeks before SAT and an exam early next week. I knew I had to do something to bring sense to her. So I took her out and we talked and talked, then finally she decided to go back to her study, saying “I have been acting like a simpleton.” Indeed, she later had to make up for the lost hours by working till two hours after midnight while the other adult was still on the computer, oblivious of anything outside the gaming world.

While giving my hearty applaud to my children’s quick return to sense, I am looking ahead not without concerns. I have these words for my children–

Losing a few hours of sleep is but a small price that you have to pay now. It could cost you a lot more in the future if you don’t grow out of this immature, irresponsible and totally senseless behavior. Things often happen even if we cannot make sense of them. No matter what happens and how upset you are with whatever unreasonableness, never express anger or any hard feelings by punishing yourself. Never lose sight of your big goal and your ideal self. Indeed, when you quit school or give up SAT, you are ruining your own future and your own life. Nothing can be as stupid as spitting out your anger by inflicting self-injury. I hope they can learn to bypass any negativity on their way to success.

High School– the Crazy Years Before Graduation

A few days ago, a high school friend of mine exchanged notes with me on high school children, each of us having one with the same grade. Both of us feel exhausted over these children. Before my son left for college, he was the most busy person in the family. Now is my daughter’s turn or should be hers. But as it is, I seem to be that busy person. Up at 6 and off for work at 6:15, this way I can be home around 3 PM and be with my daughter. Each day ends with me feeling on the brink of breakdown. Good thing she appreciates it greatly now.

I told my daughter, “In a sense, getting ready for college is more crucial than getting a job.” If you fail to get one job or even a hundred offers, you forever have the second chance, as long as you don’t give up. College application is an once-in-life chance. If you fail to be admitted into your dream place for your bachelor, too bad, no more second time for the majority of people. You can only try getting there for your master or Ph.D. later in your life, as my son will do.

This is also the most busy years for parents. As the children approach graduation, parents realize time’s running out and feel the urgency of getting them ready for the big leap out of their first nest. Once they leave their first home, you can see they become more and more independent and moving faster and farther away from home. And as their world, full of new friends and all kinds of ventures, is moving farther away from yours, those precious moments prior to their high school graduation are also becoming distant memory.

With this thought, I appreciate driving her to art class, piano lesson, her friend’s home, library, bookstore, community service center, and even clothes shopping.

Parents and Adult Children, Two Worlds Are Far Apart

On Saturday morning, I took my daughter to Union Station for a high school science seminar. This time the topic was on global warming. It was exciting seeing so many high schoolers gathering here. Every time I talk to my son over the phone, I always have this overwhelming sense of campus life, imagining his college life full of young blood, activities, competitions, fun and friends. By contrast, it must be super boring to return to his Kansas home, without anything to brighten his day or lift up his spirit. Our worlds are not just far apart, but also vastly different. Not much we can do to narrow the gap. Still, we will have him coming back for a brief Thanksgiving break, a nice little break before he will hurl full speed toward the big finals.

One of our relatives is coming to visit us. Her son plans to meet his mother at Chicago airport by driving there with his friend. But the young man’s uncle is displeased, because he wants to go with his nephew. The young man must believe it is so much fun being with his friend instead of having his uncle around, truly reminding me of my son. My only concern is I don’t trust the young man’s driving and it would save us lots of trouble if she could get off the plane in Kansas. Otherwise, it is better to let young people have their fun in their own world. Of course, it takes some maturity and a lot of common sense to understand, accept and appreciate the young people’s world.

Treating Adult Children as Adults

On 11/16, this Monday evening, I talked to a relative of mine over the Skype, whose son is currently in the US. To be sure, she is greatly concerned over her adult child. “I am determined not to support him any more after his graduation,” said she. She further asked me what I thought of it. I told her, “Well, it is not proper for me to say anything to him since he is a 26-year-old adult.”

“Say it to him. Say whatever you want to say to him. Don’t be afraid. You should give him a lesson. He doesn’t listen to me, but he will listen to you.” Quickly came her encouragement. She thought I would not say anything because he was not my child. She missed my point by a wide margin. Even if I am his senior, he is not a child and we are equal in this sense. To be sure, he is not far from being 30, I need to respect him and should not volunteer my advice as if he were a little kid willingly accepting lectures from adults. We parents should have left him alone even after his college graduation.

My relative’s attitude reminds me of my experience with my parents after I reached adulthood. I don’t want to play that role myself. I remember clearly how resentful I was when my parents lectured me and still treated me as less-than-adult even in my early 20s. Not until I left for America did I finally enjoy freedom from parental lectures and supervision, though most of them were given out of their loving hearts. Out of respect for them, I often just listened and made no comments. Outside home, I enjoyed conversations with other adults who treated me as equal. A friend of mine here told me how unpleasant she felt when her parents continued talking down to her like she were a child each time she went back to China. For this reason, she doesn’t want to go back to her parents.

From my own experience, I believe strongly in treating adult children as equal, with due respect and trust them, letting them make their own decisions and go on their own life’s journey. Trust me they will respect you more because of this.

Back to School Night, Shopping, and Preparation for High School

On 8/20/09, I walked to SMS high school for the Back-to-School Night, hoping to meet and get to know all her new teachers at high school, as part of my preparation for her upcoming school. Some of my colleagues asked me if I had taken my daughter to back-to-school shopping. I thought it strange as I have always related school to study not to shopping. Beside, what is it to buy when the school provides all the books?

Being in the states for a quarter of a century, I am still an old-fashioned parent, believing nothing is as important as study, without being unable to comprehend the meaning of back-to-school, that is, until my daughter repeatedly asked me to take her out for clothes shopping. I hear some girls spend nearly two hours in the morning to get themselves ready, make-up and dress-up, for showing up in school. Some go clothe-shopping every week. Many of them feel they must dress up to the latest fashion. Otherwise, they will lose face or don’t look decent enough to be seen. They are forever a puzzle to me.

Realistically, I don’t expect my children to accept my value. Still, while they still listen to me, I will make my view known to both of them and hope they will come to accept it some day. Even if you don’t spend as much as others in clothes and don’t look up-to-the-minute, you won’t compromise your dignity and value as long as you take good care of your mind and body. I understand it takes some courage and maturity to be able to throw out of windows those transient fads and fancies and rise above them all. No criticism of whatsoever.

Children and their Objective Appreciation of their Parents

I was so glad to hear my son calling from Detroit yesterday. He came back from China on Wednesday, 8/26/09. We talked a lot as he seemed to be impressed by many things that he saw on his trip to China.

One of the things that we talked was on the role that parents played in shaping their children’s perception of their future. When a parent fails to provide a positive role model, I believe most children would not say ill of their parents, even if they can be objective and truthful on other matters. I think it takes certain degree of maturity to be able to appreciate their parents objectively. Same is true with my children. I don’t expect them to say what they truly think of their parents as they do not want to see their parents getting hurt.

To be sure, our reflections and memories of the past are always emotionally charged, going to two extremes — either positive or negative. An acquaintance of mine has an unpleasant past experience with her mother, so much so that she cannot conceal her anger and rather intolerable negative comments on her mother now, as if her mother had absolutely no redeeming quality at all.

No matter what they may say now, I believe my children will choose their path based on their own judgment and the role model they decide to follow, just as their cousins choose their path. Whatever they choose will reveal, without words, the role model they have in mind. If they choose to game away their hours off work, that clearly shows they have chosen to follow the path different from mine. Whatever they choose, it is their decision and they will receive nothing but respect for their own decision.

Children Need to Know Negative Side of the Parents

I know of a parent who has tried to keep her child in the dark about any fights or disagreement among the two adults in the household for fear of alienating the child from the faulty parent or exposing negative side of another adult.

I think as soon as the child is mature enough to understand, we parents should not hide anything from the child. As I once told my children, “You hear nothing but truth from me.” Otherwise, the child will feel hurt for not being trusted to be informed or feel cheated.

Understandably, we parents all wish to shield our children from any negative or unpleasant side of life. Too bad we do not live in a perfect world. It is our responsibility to prepare our children for the not-so-perfect reality of the world, so that they will be better equipped mentally, emotionally and psychologically when they are on their own. Or they will know how to avoid or how to handle a fight or a similar situation. Otherwise, how can they learn to be wise?

For example, sometimes when I feel hurt over a disrespectful remark, I make sure both of my children are aware of it. I don’t really care what they think but I do want them to understand that disrespectful remarks do hurt people. Of course, they do care when I feel hurt. I feel so blessed afterwards.

Another parenting tip from me.

My Son’s Visit to His Grandparent in South

My son seemed to have a good time there, relaxing, eating profusely and going out nearly everyday with one of his relatives in south, spending time with the grandparent, being able to remain in contact with his friends here.

Expectedly, the grandparent was full of nice words for her grandson and only wished he could stay there longer.

I am glad that he has no problem communicating with people and has been safe and sound so far. He was on the train to Beijing Monday evening and arrived there this morning.

So far I don’t have any detail of his stay in south as it is not convenient for us to talk over the internet. I wish he could keep a journal of his trip, at least keep track of his weight and waistline.

An Eventful and Unforgettable Visit of the Grandparents Part 3

The total cost of her hospitalization and surgeries exceeded $40,000. As a graduate student existing on scholarship, this seemed an insurmountable amount. We were told there was a federal aid that we could apply. It is called alien emergency medical aid. So we applied and had Uncle Sam covered everything.

The grandmother spent the rest of her visit trying to recover from the illness. By May 1990, after she was fully recovered, they went back to China.

During the fall of 1990, I was teaching at our sociology department, taking care of my son, working on my dissertation, with another adult suffering from frequent gallstone attacks ever since. I tried to get my mother over and help me shouldering some of the burden.

My mother was in her late 50s and still in good health. But she was rejected many times, with this or that excuse. Finally she was told frankly by the embassy not to come again because, “Your daughter, with her son, does not have the ability to sponsor you or anyone.” My mother was hugely puzzled because she had not even told the embassy that I was married, “How did they know you are married and even have a son?”

The puzzle was explained later when a friend revealed to me what an immigration lawyer told her, it was the $40k government money that disqualified me as a sponsor. “Don’t think it easy to get money from government. It will come back to you in some form, unfortunately.” That’s why she paid for her mother’s medical cost when her mother broke her hip bone.

It was nearly 20 years since their visit. It was one of those hard times for me until my son was big enough to go to a babysitter in July 1991. When looking back, I don’t know what to say. If I feel anything, I only feel amazed over myself. I can’t believe I was so tough and so great, being able to pull through this ordeal. I am going to tell my children this is a must-read chapter in my life.

The end. Yes, everything must end, finally.

An Eventful and Unforgettable Visit of the Grandparents Part 2

Thirdly, I was consumed with flu, probably from sleep-deprivation, cold and overly exhaustion with taking care of the sick baby and hospital visits. You cannot imagine how chaotic it was and how exhausted I was during those days.

Lastly, the grandmother ended up in hospital within one month of her arrival in US — the rupture of her gallbladder and was in hospital for nearly two months.

Why was it so long? When the grandmother was in hospital and receiving infusion for her daily nutrients after operation, the hospital sent her easy-to-digest food, hoping she could gradually start using her own digestive system and wean off the IV bag.

After a few days, the nurse saw the meals were all eaten, assuming the grandmother could intake food by herself. So they took away IV bag from her. It turned out the grandfather was the one who finished all the meals on her behalf. The nurse had to re-port the nutrient infusion and more trouble followed.

An accident occurred during the second IV infusion, causing air to enter into her thorax cavity. Another operation had to be carried out to extract the air out of her thorax.

To be continued tomorrow…

P.S. Today is Saturday. We went to a friend’s house in the evening. They have three children, only the youngest one was home with her friend. My daughter did not go with us as she was at her friend’s house.

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