I want to play football

I met a woman who is in a dilemma.

His son is now studying in a private high school in California. He went through 8 years in a very competitive public school in China, where sports time was always occupied by the study of other subjects. The situation hasn’t  been changed from my generation to today’s teenagers. Sports in school mean the morning broadcast physical exercise, which lasts ten minutes with more than ten minutes for lining up to go to the playground and to go back to the classroom. In the written curriculum agenda for every week, there is place for sports. However, the math teacher or the literacy teacher will always tell you that we are late for the main courses and the exams are coming, which result in the cancellation of the sports time. Children are supposed to dedicate their free time to exercise, which is never realistic because they are overwhelmed with homework and additional trainings.

So this son, like many others, wanted to leave such a school setting. This mom, like many others, tried all to ensure a better future for her child. Money is not the problem, neither time and energy. She was a wonderful woman, diligent, smart and determined.

Now his son is very happy because he can play football! He enjoys it in school and after school. He made efforts to enroll in the school’s representative team and travels around to have friendly match. He loves school although his English is not yet fluent. He is happy.

Nevertheless, the woman is not totally satisfied with this situation because this high school is not one of the best in California. If her son continues his study there, he would have less opportunities to go to a famous university such as UCLA. To ensure the enrollment to a top university, she must push his son to go to another private high shool which is better ranked. Besides, she is certain that her son, like many other Chinese children, will achieve better academic performance if she pushes more.

“But, it’s highly possible that in that school I would not be enrolled in the football team!” His son is reluctant. He is right. The woman told me that in other private schools, football is more popular and the opportunities for being a member fo school team is limited.

“I cannot decide. All I do is for his good. Short-term or long-term? Happiness for today or Success for tomorrow.” sighed she.

“But why do you want to send him to a top university?” asked I.

She was surprised because my question is non sense. Who don’t expect his or her child to go to Harvard?

We stopped our talk. I have no reason to convince her, and yet I hesitate with my answer.


Love notes

The new school year started and Claire was excited to discover her new class and become one of the Super Stars. Ms Terry, her new teacher, had cut hundreds of heart-formed notes in summer, using various kinds of papers. It would be a terrific idea: Every day, each child brings one heart note written by his parent and Ms Terry has a fixed time to read them all before exhibiting them on the classroom wall.

I quickly embraced this idea although as many parents, I wondered what to write on these notes today or two weeks later. At the Open House Evening, parents were amazed by so many colorful love notes perching on the yellow wall like small butterflies. “So much love !” “So beautiful!”We were curious to reread our own notes and to discover others. Definitely, all kids love this daily activity: reading love notes from parents.

For those new students, who has begun their school life but still have stress in being separated from parents, the love note is a bridge, a connection and an encouragement. I imagine that the little girl must feel better with a little heart in hand when her mom says Goodbye. The moment of sharing everyone’s love note would also be fun, since kinds are proud of being loved and curious towards others’ stories.

I’m right. Claire loves this idea so much! She even draws some nice things between the lines of our message. One day, she told me that her love note had made all class laugh, because I was praising her of washing her underwear by herself. I didn’t mean to make things funny, but I do prefer detailed praise. “Have a good day! Love You !” This was the first note I wrote, as other parents did. Our kids would never feel bored by this kind of daily platitude, but I was unsatisfied with the repetition the day later. I begun to write down some concrete praises and even tried to share some wisdom, although I wasn’t sure she could understand all.

One morning, she insisted to wear a long dress to be a princess, while I disagreed because she would have gym class in the morning. A 4 year-old girl can easily get capricious and stubborn. “I can still do gym in dress.” she was mad at breakfast.I picked up the heart note and wrote:”My dear princess Claire, what ever you wear, you are so beautiful! You can shine by dressing up or at the gym class.” She left with the love note, which I expected would revive our dialogue.

Ms Terry was generous, assuring us that it was OK to forget the love note. Teachers will check and make everyone have one. Even our morning schedule is not tight, sometimes, I wrote the note in a hurry.  So I suggested to share the mission with Claire’s daddy, who accepted it with pleasure. The first time, he wrote down some commonplace before adding several drawings to make the note more charming. The second time, he passed 15 minutes on it without catching an idea.

“Write some details. Describe one situation. Imagine one activity…” I was just suggesting.

Suddenly, so many joyful pictures hopped out and Daddy wrote:”It was so fun to play the ballon with you!” “Even when I was angry, I still love you!””You are so cooperative !””There is no fire, I will protect you.” He could even finished one week’s notes.

Writing love notes can be a routine, but if you put some love in it, it can be a wonderful thing. Sometimes, I copied several beautiful phrase that we read together at bed time. Sometimes, I reminded Claire of her baby stories. Sometimes, I just asked a funny question. Every time I was working on that small love note, even it took me only one minute, I felt so concentrated, so happy and so hopeful, as if my day was lightened up, as if we all could begin a meaningful and joyful day with enough energy.

Diligence and solitude

Recently, a Chinese ordinary migrant worker, YU Jianchun, has found a solution to a complex math problem. His interview by CNN attracted my intention and struck me, as he revealed a very simple truth, which is forgotten by many of us.

“He attributed his talent to diligence and solitude. He’s also modest.” reported CNN. That’s it ! No one is easily talented. Diligence and solitude are two keys for very big success. Unfortunately, we can make ourself diligent, but we have lost the solitude.

Although a migrant work’s day ought to be very busy to keep him survive in a big city like Beijing, I suppose that he is less busy than most of us, who have a smart phone at hand or a computer in front of us.

We are so busy in caring about everything, global news, local news, social media updates.  When we are not reading comments, we are writing our comments. We are not addicted to one certain thing, but indulge ourself to enlarge our focus even we have no special reason to do it.

We did have reason. Our parents and our educators  told us that world is changing and becoming a family, that we should know others to know better ourselves, that opportunities and fortunes are hiding in the social network…

I always admire Gustave Flaubert, a nigh-teen century’s French writer, who passed the major part of his  life in a small town, in a silent house, at night, lonely and desperate, writing his perfect novels. 5 years on Madame Bovary, 5 years  on The sentimental Education, 5 years on Bouvard and Pecuchet. What supported him?  Stubbornness? Arrogance? Anger? Or Passion? Nowadays, we abuse this word “Passion”.

To fight with solitude, Flaubert wrote letters, many and long letters, sometimes only to console himself and upset others. For me, in most of his letters, he was trying to justify himself while no one needed such justification and no one took it seriously. It’s difficult and painful to be obstinate all the time. He was an ordinary man, even an idiot according to Jean-Paul Sartre. Diligence and Solitude saved him and made him one of the greatest writers.

Recently, Sari Botton has suggested to read Proust, which may cure smartphone induced attention deficit. The problem is if we really want to end our addiction to the smartphone. Without willingness, every new subject may only create a new topic, on which we kill off time. I admire Proust since long long ago, but only began to read him when I was pregnant and asked to lay down in bed for days and days to keep the baby from natural abortion. Yet, I had no smartphone.

We all have big project and small immediate missions. Sometimes, we really need solitude, the very pure solitude.


Why I want my kid growing up normal

Reading the post  Why I don’t want my kid growing up normal written by Larinnac, I was deeply moved and would wish to have a mom like that. But in fact, I had a regular childhood and regular adolescence, as most of Chinese kids. We were so disciplined at home and at school, growing up to be a normal citizen and asking ourselves to be good. “Learn well, play moderately and keep safe, then you will have a better future,” my mom always told me. Although she didn’t mean that the present was unlivable, she always made us to dream the future. What is the freedom? We never questioned it.

I lived in a small village and at that time, the only way to leave the countryside was attending a college. “You will have a better life in a big city,”my mom encouraged me and I did believe the logic between a big city and a better life. So I did my best to be a good girl at shool. Then, more doors opened for me. I finally went to a medium city for my bachelor, then a big big city for ma graduate study.I finally I went abroad. Now I live in a country that my mom would never thought of twenty years ago.

Literature told me to be “Me”, to challenge stereotypes, to dream big and to try the impossible. I love literature. But still, for most of my life, I lived a normal life. Every time I came back home, my mom repeated:”learn well, play modestly and keep safe.” The longer distance between us caused her bigger worries.

Now I have a daughter and I am open for various ideas which my mom could never accept. Unconsciously, I tell my kid every day, “learn well and keep safe”, as if I become another person who’s identity is only “Mom”. “No!””No!””No!” I intervene my daughter’s freedom. Maybe because she has a fragile health and I don’t want her to take risks to be sick? Maybe I was too protective and only believe in myself?

I don’t let her to ride too fast on her scooter, neither to jump into the cold water. I have strict rules when it comes to food, especially treats. I told her to be nice to everyone, even others might to jump into the line or happen to push her. “Be nice and never fight,” I asked her to remember.”Concentrate yourself when teacher talks,””Be patient and polite,””Read everyday”…

But sometimes, I gave up my “healthy ideas”.I told her that every kind of cloths has its proper charm and that T shirt and pants could make her more comfortable in sports. She insisted that the others girls in her class wear like princess with their dress. “OK, have common topics and make friends,” I tried to buy her more dresses and tell her stories of princess.

I’m a serious mom, as my mom was. I will push my daughter to love school and homework. I hope she will succeed in studies and have a college degree. As my mom, I have nothing to afford her future life and my concern is modest: “find a job first to feed your life”. To meet a prince? It’s just a chance. Personally, I respect all LGBT and support their fight for deserved rights, but I don’t wish my kid to be anormal. The society is big and violent, but you are so small.

Yes, my sweetie, you can be a princess, a giant, a superhero, but for me, I want you to be normal and live a safe life, because I’m a selfish mom and can’t afford to see your cry. I admire writers, singers, artistes, pop stars and super political women, but, but, if you are one of them, Oh my little heart, I can’t sleep well.

Even I know already that you will not listen to me, but listen to your hear, as I did to my mom’s wishes, I want you to be a normal girl. Anyway, what I want is not important, it’s only useful to comfort me. What you want is important, but wait until you are grown up. I’m preparing you for a decent situation, to offer you more choices for your own path. Maybe I am wrong, forgive me to love you so much.

To change life, change mind first

Recently, there was a widespread article in the most popular Chinese social media Wechat, in which a middle-aged dad released the reasons why he chose to immigrate to the U.S. He was planning to buy an apartment near a good school district in Beijing, which would cost him 3 millions Yuans. But the day he was going to pay the guarantee deposit, the house owner raised the price by 300 000 Yuans. Disappointed with this change, the father decided to use the money on an investment program, which allowed him to get the green card of USA. He thought that life in Beijing was so stressful, including job, housing and education, but life in the U.S means good education, cheaper housing and quality of free time.

Soon, this article triggered different opinions, including those expressed by some American-Chinese people. Another father wrote a long response to this man, having gone through himself the similar experience. He now found that the reality was not as good as expected. Just talking about kids, the Asian children suffer a lot in study. So many suicides occurred in Asian family in California because of pressure. He provided many photos, which show that children spend so much time on math or other competition preparation after school, just as what children do in China. To be accepted by good universities, they should demonstrate more abilities and excellence in special fields. So Chinese parents anxiously look for good school and prepare their kids to artistic performance. If one wants to live nearby a good school, he should afford the high-priced housing.

I didn’t agree with the first father who dropped all just to follow his illusions of U.S. He believed naively all the advantages he could get in the new country. I didn’t agree neither with the second father who still sticks to the single-side definition of success. In many American cities, Asian people still believe that competition is the only way to make people stand out and that children must cherish every minute to prepare for their future.

One day, when dinning with our neighbors, my husband expressed his dream: send Claire to an excellent university, such as Harvard. Since our daughter wants to be a doctor, we should put aside a big amount of money and assure her proficiency in different materials.

“But if she turns out to be an artist?” suggested one old lady.

We didn’t answer. Indeed, Claire loves drawing and she made amazing pictures. But we never imagined an artist career for her, because it was portrayed with pain and misery.  But we cannot control a child’s future, neither their path. We always impose our own dream on our kids and make them accept our definition of success. That’s very stressful for them.

Now we are living in a new country, embracing a very different culture.  The fist thing to learn is to open our mind. If not, we are imprisoned in some biased thoughts. For example, for all Chinese, the optimal success of a child is being a student of Harvard. However, university is just a step of one’s life while life is long, very long.