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Entries in children (20)

Wednesday
Jan122011

I Call Someone A Bad Mother For the First Time EVER.

Let me jump on a bandwagon of the flagrant attempt to get people to buy copies of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother or the discussions surrounding "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior." I certainly bear the distinct qualification to pontificate on this matter being not only a mother of Asian origin herself, but a child who was, in fact, raised by an Asian mother.

Amy Chua lists a bunch of little items in her WSJ article that she prohibits her children from doing.

I lived with many of those prohibitions.

I definitely never had a "play date", I was not allowed to sleep over at friends' houses (with the exception of a handful of times), and though I was steadfast in my insistence to participate, I was highly discouraged from participating in school plays.  In fact, the first time I did participate in a school play, it was not known to my parents and wholly attributed to the fact that I could forge my mother's signature.

My brother and I used to participate in a lot of academic competitions, though.  That was completely okay.

Social studies, foreign language, theater, science fairs, etc.  I think I was in the seventh grade when all that started.  In ninth grade, I got second place in the science fair.  I remember my parents reaction vividly.

It was not elation.

They asked me who got first.  They told me not to worry, and that I would do better next time.  I never forgot that.  From that moment on, no matter what, if I competed in something, I was getting first.  I would bring home blue.

I remember getting a "red" (second place) in some competition during my senior year of high school.  I came home hoping that my parents would be too busy to ask me about the competition.  Luckily, they were.  I unpacked my bag and stuffed that red ribbon down at the bottom of the garbage can.  It meant nothing to me because I knew it would mean nothing to them.

I took that lesson with me into adulthood, too.  For a long time, I believed that if you weren't the best at something, you simply didn't matter.  For some people, that works.  That gets them into Harvard, I guess.  For other people, people like me, that makes you feel like everything is pointless.  I gave up on doing a lot of stuff in my twenties because I didn't think I could be the best at it.

I'm not trying to make anyone feel bad for me here.  I am a well adjusted, fairly happy adult who does all sorts of stuff that I'm just mediocre at, now.  Like, you know, writing this blog.

I'm also not saying that my parents were awful.  I love them.  I know they were doing their best.  Everything is fine.

But, I will say this, I don't think this is an ideal way to parent.

I don't think, in fact, that today it is even an acceptable way to parent.

In my parents' defense, I think they didn't know any better.

I really believe that.

They grew up in a country where this was the most acceptable, mostly widely practiced and largely unquestioned style of parenting because it was the only style.  Love and honor are intricately bound... there is relatively no distinguishing between them.  You are honored to be the child of your parents, and you honor them by, well, bringing in more honor.  Love?  Well, duh.  Of course, we all love each other.  Of course, we do.  Don't we... whye arrre you beeing so eemotional, bete*?

But Amy Chua did not grow up where my parents grew up.

In fact, given that Amy Chua grew up here in the United States, I'm kind of offended for my Asian parents that she has tried to categorize herself with them.  I don't know if this will make sense, but I feel as though Amy Chua has taken something that my parents did out of pure innocence and made it into something horrible.  Kind of like what Coca Cola did with "New Coke" back in the 80s.

Anyway, yes, in this instance, I am saying that the mother described in Amy Chua's article is not being the best mother she can be.  I don't think I've ever said that before.  I make it a point not to say bad things about the parenting of others because I have this pesky habit of being a decent person and all.

Really, I know it's awful.  It feels awful to say it, but hear me out.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I take issue with this depiction of "Chinese" mothers (Chua does actually cite that Indian mothers are similar) because I beleive her focus distracts from the real issues and causes of alienation that occur between Asian immigrants and their American children.

The disconnect is not a result of the prohibitive ways that children are raised in this environment.

While I don't agree with making a kid practice violin for two hours, I don't think that is "bad" parenting.  I think it's fine to value ambition, achievement and success.  I don't put the same premium on those values, but, lucky for my kids and their grandchildren's trust funds, my husband does.

I think it's the issue of love that bothers me here.

Love is the problem here.  How it is being used, what she thinks it means and what she is doing with it.

It is my belief that all that children want from their parents is love.  Not even "acceptance." I think they just want to be loved.  And I think the kind of parent that Amy Chua has described uses this intense and singular desire for love as a tool to motivate, shame or punish a child.  I am more than uneasy with that, I find it horrifying.

I cannot begin to imagine how calling your child garbage is (a) something to brag about or (b) even remotely acceptable as a form of motivation or discipline.

I just don't think dangling love in front of your child in order to make them jump through metaphorical hoops of your own values and ambition is a Chinese, Indian, Pakistani, or a whatever Asian country whose kids are the best at math right now way.

I simply think that it's the wrong way.

I'm a disciplinarian with my children.  Probably more so than my non-Asian origin peers, maybe even more than my Asian American peers.  I very strictly limit television, emphasize academics (yes, even with a 5 and 1 year old), and plan on "making" them take music lessons until they are just on the verge of hating me.  I also plan on stressing the importance of getting the absolute best grades they can attain.

But I also plan on communicating with them.

On listening to them... finding out what they like, who they are... who they want to be.

On letting them know that I love them... yes, no matter what.  No.matter.WHAT.

Because, in the end, what they achieve will not belong to me.  It will belong to them.

I don't think the last few lines are special, "above and beyond," or a reflection of parenting choices.

I think they're just part of the "being a good mommy" code.

*bete is a term of endearment which translates to "child"
Tuesday
Dec282010

Fifteen Months

Y. has started to talk, but it's that fifteen month inarticulate toddler speak language.

Like, instead of "milk," he'll say "muk."

Cute, right?

He loves graham crackers, much like every other child in the world BESIDES his sister.

Graham crackers is a long word, too long for his sweet little fifteen month mouth.

So, when he wants his favorite snack, he just starts yelling....

"CRACKAS!! CRACKAS!"

And, of course, nothing completes a snack of graham crackers like a nice cup of juice.

"JOOZ!  JOOOZ!"

I must be doing something right.

My son loves Jews and Crackers.

We may have a shot at world peace, after all.
Sunday
Aug302009

Back To School: A Prayer

Friday.

I kept my head high, as I always do when I’m trying to stave off the itching feeling that I’m headed towards personal failure.  This is me.  The more ominous the feeling of failure, the higher my head.  As if looking more confident will prepare me, no, protect me from the heart crushing realization that I’ve messed up royally.

I glanced to the left of me and passed what seemed like countless classrooms.  Each one filled with happy children.  Happy to be there, well adjusted, not crying, not missing their mommies so bad that they couldn’t calm down long enough to even eat their snacks or lunch.

They had said that the crying usually stopped after the second week.  But, still, that morning when I dropped her off, she had cried.  A lot.  She had pleaded for me not to leave.  But I did.  Because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

You’re supposed to let them go, and let them cry until they figure out how to stop on their own.  They’re supposed to stop.  Even if they are the only one crying.  Even if you hear an aching loneliness in their wailing that is unlike any wail of loneliness you might have ever imagined.

On that first day of week three, I arrived home and logged into the school’s webcam with a hopeful spirit to see if she had stopped crying after I left.  Perhaps, I would see her happily coloring a picture of Strawberry Shortcake.  Perhaps she had come to accept that I would, in fact, be back, and that the place where I had left her wasn’t so bad after all.

The camera loaded and I gazed at the fuzzy pictures trying to make out where my daughter was.  I saw her, she looked happy.  She was listening intently to the guest teacher instructing the children how to count in Japanese.  My little girl seemed surprisingly content, and I let out a big sigh of relief as a smile involuntarily erupted on my face.

Triumph.

And then I noticed her feet, the shoes were red

My daughter wasn’t wearing red shoes when I dropped her off.

That happy, content little girl was not mine.  I looked harder and saw the teacher pass in front of the camera being closely tailed by a petite dark haired three year old who was clearly screaming her head off.

My heart sank.  That one is mine.

Her teacher had told me that almost every day for the past two weeks my baby had been following her around the classroom repeatedly saying “I want my mama” over and over again until I came to pick her up.

The teacher had also assured me that she’d had kids do this before, and I wasn’t to worry.  I noticed, though, that the teacher wasn’t looking at her right now.  She was ignoring my daughter.  Probably some well tested approach that was obviously not working on my child.  She was just walking around doing other stuff while my daughter painfully, tearfully begged for me.

My baby girl was alone.  Completely alone.  And in that moment, every moment of loneliness I had ever felt in my own life surged from my body and formed a big lump in my throat.  I put my head down on my desk and I wept.  Loudly.

After the ocean of tears became a light drizzle, I called my husband.  “I can’t take this anymore.  I’m going to get her.”

“Faiqa,” he said in a calm, reassuring tone, “turn off the webcam.  Go do something else until it’s time to pick her up.”

I wanted to scream at him, “This is all your fault, I told you she wasn’t ready, you made me put her in school, I know her best, you were all wrong...

But, I knew that was the pain speaking and that it just wasn’t true.  The truth was that I had been hypnotized by the promise of bi-weekly Mandarin and Japanese lessons, the possibility of elementary mathematics and the potential of her reading in full sentences by the time she was four.

I hadn’t even considered that maybe all she needed was a place where she could color, be messy, and laugh.

I choked out a barely comprehensible, “OK.”  And, then, in a voice so small and so vulnerable it could have been my own daughter’s, I said, “How long are we going to do this?”

“We’re giving it until the end of the week.  If she’s still crying the whole time by Friday, we’ll pull her out. OK?”  I could hear the sympathy mixed with awe in his voice.

He’s not used to me being like that.  I don’t ask people what I should do or ask for permission to do it.

I sighed and barely croaked out an inaudible, “OK” once more.

Friday came and I happily withdrew her from school.

I hadn’t looked at that stupid webcam all that week. Still, every time I went to pick her up, her teacher smiled and said, “She did alright.”  Then, she would pretend like she was looking at some papers, picking something up or tending to another child and say, “She still cried a lot, though.”

She still cried a lot, though.

Every time I think of those words, my eyes sting with tears caused by a pain that remains fresh and very real.  My heart drops.  Even now, one year later, after seeing my daughter blossom into a more adventurous, yet still markedly reserved four year old, I weep over what in my mind lives as a colossal parenting fail.

Because God knows, that experience wasn’t her failure.  It was mine.  I should have known that she wasn’t ready.  I should have known that this wasn’t the right school for her.  I realize now that her first school was a place where what was being learned was a little more important that who was learning.  I know that now.  I also know that most kids fit into that particular school just fine, but mine didn’t.  I can’t believe to this day that I didn’t realize that right away.

I was never disappointed in my daughter.  I think I will always be disappointed in and ashamed of myself over this.

My little girl starts a new preschool today.  The orientation was this past Thursday, and afterward I slowly approached her new teacher.  I wanted to tell her about last year, and how hard of a time N. had those three weeks.

“I wanted to let you know,” I said, “that we put her in preschool last year, and it was a bad experience, the school... she didn’t fit in...”  Tears started to form in my eyes.  I began to stutter.

If you know me well, you know that I never stutter.  I am never at a loss for words.  I seldom lose it in front of people I know very well, let alone those that I barely know.  I fought those tears back as hard as I could because I could see the discomfort in the other woman’s eyes.

She looked at me and said sympathetically, “Don’t worry, we are very loving and caring here.  We’ll make sure that she’s OK.”

I whispered, “I know, I can see that... I’m just am so worried...”  I tried to regain composure, “Uh, I have these forms...”

“Oh, yes, let me see...”  I could see the new task brought relief to her face and she scurried off as quickly as is humanly possible with those forms.

Tariq walked in and his face flew into a concerned look, “What happened?  Are you crying?” he whispered in surprise.

I looked at him, pleadingly.  Don’t make me talk about this right now. Don’t make me talk about this ever again.

He understood at once and put his arm around my shoulder.  “It’s going to be fine, I think she’ll do well this time.  Insh’Allah.”


Insh’Allah.
As God wills.

God, please let it be your will to make this time easier for my daughter.  And for me.

God, please let it be your will that this new teacher understands my daughter in a way that the last one did not.

God, please let it be your will that this school helps her blossom into the person I know she can be.

God, please let it be your will that everyone else sees how magnificent, funny, voracious, smart and passionate she really is when she’s just being herself and not worrying about what people think.

God, please let it be your will that the pain of my disappointment in myself over this situation fades into a hazy memory instead of remaining fresh in my mind.

And God, please let it be your will that if things go the way they did last year that I will be more forgiving of myself than the last time.

Because, God, I don't think my heart can bear this pain in any more quantity than it's feeling at this moment.*




*I realize, yes, that she's only four, and that there will be many, many heartbreaks and many mistakes on my part (or hers) that will be more painful and more difficult than this time.  I also know that compared to the losses and pain that many of you may be dealing with or have dealt with, this post may seem trivial.  But, I'm living here in this moment... and this is the moment I feel and the reality that I'm living with.
Sunday
Aug162009

I Have Kids

So, as some of you may have heard, we had a baby boy this past Wednesday, August 12th!  And by “we” I mean "I".  I had a baby boy while my husband did the best he could to participate.

Really, though, I feel he was the model husband and father throughout the entire process, being both present and encouraging while looking tremendously guilty all the while.  If it wasn’t confirmed before, it is now... my husband is perfect.

Thank you so much for your comments on the blog and Facebook, I am really overwhelmed by all the love.

In unrelated news, never give your password to Adam Avitable. He may look like a grown up on the outside, but he is, in fact, a twelve ten eight seven year old on the inside.  A very disturbed seven year old that should be going to the school for “bad” kids, but can’t because even they don’t want him.

And, hello, I am not a Democrat.  I’m a fiscally conservative socially conscious liberal with strong suspicions of government involvement in our personal lives and those of other nations.  So, given Tariq’s unabashed love for free market capitalism, I think we may have a libertarian on our hands.

Either way, I am officially a mother of two.  I have kids.  I can say things like, "I have to go pick up the kids."  Or, "Be quiet, the kids are sleeping."

Or, "Aren't my kids beautiful?"

dsc02371

*If you're viewing this post through Facebook and can't see the image, click through to the original post.
Wednesday
Feb252009

Somebody's Gonna Get A Hurt Real Bad

Just in case you missed it, I killed (metaphorically) on last night's episode of Clearly, You're Retarded.

OK, well, most everybody agreed with Adam.  But, whatever.  Being right isn't a popularity contest.  Plus I had the Canadians, Valerie, My Brother the Doctor, and the kosher Jew on my side.

This was, in and of itself, all the victory I needed.

I just want to clarify.  I am not against you spanking your kids.  You are not a bad parent if you spank your children.  I, personally, do not ascribe to this method of discipline, but that's not a judgment on your parenting skills.

(Let's ignore that I said it was lazy.  That was a poor choice of words.  I meant that it seems conveniently expedient.  Gawd.  I should be writing speeches for The Barry.*)

My contention was that it's a little crappy to judge me for not spanking my child.

Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears are not sad excuses for grown ups because they weren't spanked.  There are a variety of reasons why some adults are spoiled and useless.  To attribute their flawed existence to one single perceived deficiency in their upbringing is a bit simplistic.  Don't you think?

Anyway, I mentioned last night that when I was a kid, the preferred method of discipline in my home was a sound beating.  Now, before you go feeling sorry for me, I'd like you to meet my friend Russell Peters, who I believe Karen mentioned in last night's chat.

(Disclaimer: I'm not really friends with Russell Peters.  He should be so lucky).

I haven't confused spanking and beating.  I understand the difference.  I would never, ever accept beating a child as an acceptable form of discipline.  Ever.

So, I know it seems odd that I would laugh about beatings.  But, Russell's comedy bit explains a lot about the various cultural contexts of discipline.  And, in a roundabout way, why Asian kids never talk back to their parents and have higher GPA's than everyone else.

(Kidding.  Not really.)

There's some NSFW language in here, so consider yourself warned.



Oh, and one last thing, if I didn't respond to you in the chat room it was because I'm incapable of reading and talking at the same time.  Sorry.  I went back and read it.  You guys were great.

Even though Adam has obviously brainwashed you into mindlessly agreeing with him over just about anything.

* The Barry = President Barack Obama.
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