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.

 

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What is American culture?

Halloween is still far away but Claire incessantly plans to be dressed up as Elsa or Anna, the main characters of the famous Disney Film Frozen. Again and again, she draws pictures about them and never seems tired when we read books adapted from the film. She is always seduced by its derivatives, such as T-shirt, Swim Suit, Towel, Headgear, even insisting to buy crackers which has the same theme package.

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“Crazy!””Boring!” “Naive!” These were the usual comments I received from my friends in China, who believe that America is a cultural desert, especially when we actually live in the desert. It’s normal to hold the stereotype. I’m also victim of biased opinion. I understood well the disappointment of my former colleagues and friends in university, who deplored that I would go to US instead of France. Now they seemed to catch enough evidence to ascertain their prediction, when I said that my girl, at school, was singing and dancing with Elle King or Pink on radio. “That’s American cultural, you see, that’s junk food.” The criticism was so fierce that I felt suddenly guilty and hopeless.

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Claire does love princesses best. She wants to be beautiful every day, in skirt. She admires Elsa to have magic, although we have told her many times that Anna is more attractive by her kindness. “That’s silly! You don’t want your daughter to be a doll?!””Princess and prince, very banal dreams!” The concerns were overwhelming. So I replied:”She also loves Clifford, LadyBug Girl, even Peter the cat!”

However, when I see Claire so happy, singing, dancing and dreaming, all my concerns were blown away. We are so mean to a child and unconsciously want to formate him or her as a wise grownup with critical thinking and strong individuality. But we forgot our childhood and even our youth, when we were as much crazy as them for some other silly things.  I love Frozen too and the variety on radio makes me feel free to dance with Claire. Even she is now so narrowed in her taste, she is Happy and Hopeful.

What is American culture? I don’t know, pretending it’s a silly question.

Would you like to have a walk to the trash can?

The community’s recycle trash can is about 200 meters away from our condo, which makes me unwilling to get out immediately our daily waste. Since bottles and papers can wait, I indulge myself in accumulating garbage at home while my husband sometimes cannot overlook my negligence.

It was another tropical day. He was eating his breakfast and would stay at home for work. I quickly rushed out with two bags of bottles, directing to the trash can. There were two more left in the corner of an unoccupied room, so I needed to repeat the journey.

“Where were you?” He was surprised to notice my morning disappearance.

“To throw away recyclable trash.”

“Why didn’t you ask me to go with you? You went there twice?”

This question stunned me. Why? Apparently, there was no need, because I’m not a baby and that’s just a common daily chore.

But why not? Because it’s kind of weird to be seen walking together to the trash can. A middle-aged couple, on a working day morning. Would our neighbors think that we were going to move out? Would they guess wrong about our intimacy or dependence?

This can be a common moment of everyone’s daily life. But why don’t we walk together, to check the mail box, to throw garbage, or just to have a walk.? Young couples feel happy to show their intimacy and stay eager to accompany each other. Old couples generally do things together, as their daily program tend to be the same. While middle-aged couples unconsciously diminish opportunities to be seen together, except for some special reasons.

We divide family chores. We go to grocery shop alone. We walk children or dogs alone. We do workout alone. Maybe we are so busy to lose time for a meaningless help. However, after the dinner, when it’s cooled down outside and we all have time to waste, we are still reluctant to go for a walk together. Maybe we think that we are not old enough.

However, if we walked together to the trash can, what would be different? We may talk? We may enjoy together the morning sunshine that was not yet killing? We may stay silent but feel a little cheered with the presence of another in doing such a mundane affaire?

If so, later, when I see the piles of trash at home, I would not foresee the angry face of my husband criticizing my laziness and incompetence. In stead, I would remember his warm suggestion to walk together these 200 meters.

Exhibit your joy at the risk of gaining hatred

It’s summer. Every social media is flooded by pictures showing magnificent landscapes, stunning discoveries and huge smiles. Judging only by this array of beauty, we might believe that the whole world is on vacation. What’s more? The whole world is happy.

The nature is generous, but we seldom are.

“It’s enough! Don’t post pictures any more. Didn’t you notice that less and less friends had voted ‘like’? You are making them miserable.”

That’s a reasonable comment.

Who would remain calm seeing others enjoy their vacation without a bit of envy? Who would share others’ joy without dreaming that one day he could experience the same? For diverse reasons, many people cannot afford nature’s grandeur in summer. The daily routine appears extremely unbearable when others’ happiness confirms that the world is unfair.

However, I still love posting beautiful pictures in social media.  They have recorded ephemeral moments of our life but magnify good feelings: the bouquet of flowers that I bought from the supermarket, a free ballon offered to my daughter,  a funny drawing that the safeguard made on our receipt, the puddle that reflects my smiling face…

I love appreciating others’ pictures and their joyful discoveries: the green plants on their office desk, their resolution of daily workout, the first steps of their babies, delicious home-made dishes, some interesting graffiti that they passed by…Even we are not on vacation, we still have so many amazing things to admire and to cherish.

When we are happy, we naturally eager to shout out our joy to the world. When we share the beauty of life, we seldom care wether it would gain a consensus of “like” or accumulate “dislike” even “hatred”.

Everyday, we spend too much time on line. Unfortunately most of the news makes us pessimist and uneasy. So why refuse to diverse our eyes and mindset?  In stead of spreading heart-braking news, let’s embrace beauty and happiness in social media.

Exhibit our joy and appreciate others’.

Sacrifice

When I was young, I believed that love was pure and sacred. All those love stories where sacrifice was glorified had been touching me, shaping my own view of a perfect partner and guiding my behavior of being a lover.

Later, when it came to marriage, my mom reminded me that sacrifice was the most important quality as to maintain a long relationship. It is so common in our tradition that most women are proud of having put foreword the interest of their family or their children. For all kinds of reasons, we gave up our own dreams or ambitions. Unfortunately, the society takes it for granted.

Marriage is a long journey and love is a bewildering feeling. We need sacrifices and concessions to coordinate daily life and the long term family project. However, if we keep thinking that our motivation is selfless and that our action is a purely sacrifice, we will  soon or later encounter a stronger compulsive power, which rises from inside calling for justice. Of course, sacrifice can be rewarded. The problem is that we expect rewards so much while the moment of rewards is always delayed. Not mention that most of time there will be no sign of such expected rewards. The calculating of sacrifice from each partner, although in favor of the family’s future, undermines love, marriage, self-esteem, trust, intimacy and relationship with our children.

Now I hate this word”sacrifice”, delusive and poisonous. In every decision, I tell myself that what I will do is not a sacrifice waiting to be glorified and rewarded. What I will do is to give me another chance to impower myself, whether it is to increase my tolerance and patience or to boost my effectiveness and creativity.

A healthy love journey is not to direct a wonderful film where the main characters gain happiness and wealth while you are waiting years later to get the frame in the podium. As a family number, we should thrive with the other members, sharing the daily energy and joy.

So at the 8th anniversary of my marriage, I looked back all the important up and down moments and more detailed trifles in my life.

Congratulations! The success of this love journey is not represented by a positive answer from my husband to such naive questions : Do you still love me? Do you love me more? Do you remember and reward all my sacrifices?

I’m happy because my marriage has enabled me to meet a “better” Me.

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.

When we are old…

When queuing after an old couple in the supermarket,  I turned to my husband and said, “you’d better keep your shape, otherwise I will have problem to carry you when you are old.” It was a spontaneous reaction, as other remarks I made in our daily life. I even didn’t reason before saying it out, but I’m sure it was not a joke, neither of the old couple or of my husband.

In fact, since we always meet lots of old couples doing things together, in the supermarket or on the street, I couldn’t help myself imagine my life at their age. Most of time, beside an empathy towards these old couples, I admire their companionship. It’s rare to see young family handing out together in supermarket, since shopping is considered as a boring routine, a chore that one can handle with alone. However, when people become very old, shopping together in the grocery may turn out to be an essential part of their daily life. Compared with the images where single old women or men push their wheels and pick items with their trembling hands, old couples and their cooperative gestures always convey a joy of deep and long love. This kind of scene warms my heart.

“Even now, you barely can carry me!!” My husband seemed irritated by my words, “I have no hope in depending on you.”

What he said was true but hurting. I held my tongue and we passed to the cashier with a forced smile. At that moment, the picture of our future life appeared miserable.

Such conversation undermines our marriage life, due to the mutual misinterpretations. We definitely have different perspectives. When I foresee our retired life, I depict a companionship whose details are overwhelmed by the harmony tone. When I said “don’t be too heavy”, I just could not fit an over-weighted couple into our own  future’s imaginary. However, my husband is used to focus on realistic details. The picture in his mind underlines all the difficulties that old people may encounter.

We were both mad. I was disappointed that he had belittled my ability as a partner and caregiver, while he was frustrated by the fear of being old and dependent. We’d better avoid this kind of topic.

However, we do share a common perspective which allow us to imagine being together when we are old. We will be together, like this couple in front of us, who may have many problems in life but still or more in love.