For every new job or new mission, we are well prepared and we tell ourselves and others that we can do it and succeed. We have the ability and we are eager to demonstrate it. But there is an important step before we lauch ourselves and go fight for the promissed success, that is to open the door and get that permission to try.

The world is not made of logic niether with pure fairness. There are so many factors that contribute to the success of your own life and career: competitition, relationship and chance. Even if you have the strength and the confidence, the good result is not guaranteed. That’s why we feel frustrated.

When I use this world, I feel hopeless because I have done all that I could but the situation depended on external factors.I do believe that life will compensate those who work hard and keep optimist, but sometimes a pessimist opinion will allow us to consider more realistic obstacles. The New York Times has republished an article that illustrates the same philisophie: The power of negative thinking.

Feeling frustrated is a normal life experience, through which we learn how to see the world from more different perspectives. Yes, nobaby can control us but we neither can control everything.

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.


Being busy is great!

I had a busy September. First, getting a new car means taking more responsibilities in family work. Second, preparing GRE and taking the test were stressful and my brain kept complaining. Third, I finally got a part-time job as a French teacher.  To well begin my new professional life, I should dedicate more time and  energy.

Thus, I had no time to read newspapers, to aliment my blogs, to stay online in social media, neither to hike nor to swim.

However I felt so good. I didn’t mind any annoying comments from my husband which, generally, would make us argue. I didn’t stick to some weird reactions from my friends, which normally made me upset. Especially, I had no time to worry about my future.

Being busy is great. I like to make my agenda full. Although as my husband said, you could not concentrate on everything in order to make sure of your success. He was right and predicted well the frustrating result of my GRE. But I still loved September, because I was hopeful and energetic.

The most regrettable thing is that I didn’t write much, neither for practicing nor for recording my thoughts. If it’s good to be busy, it’s not good to use it as an excuse to give up thinking. I hesitated many times before resisting a writing impulse.

I will embrace a very busy October and I hope to do better everyday.

The language war

Claire’s amazing progress in English has dispelled our worries of her daily life in school. But now she began to refuse to speak Chinese, bringing up another concern. She speaks English when playing by herself, talks in English when dreaming, even answers in English when we ask her in Chinese. Her grandparents felt more frustrated on video call : Claire talked only in English before her dad translated all her sentences in Chinese.

It was so easy and so fast that the language war is ended up by the triumph of English? We do hope that she would attain the native speaker’s fluency. However, we still insist that she master her mother tongue. From different perspectives, Multilingualism is obviously a benefit. The problem is we don’t know what’s the detailed map of her language proficiency, now or in the future.

I tried to keep speaking Chinese with her, but sometimes, unconsciously followed her in English. For example, I usually asked her to sum up her day and pick one thing that she likes most. Following my wish, she would form the first sentence in Chinese and turn quickly to English…I picked Chinese book for story time, only to have the reaction as “I know it already!” One day, she was found telling the story in English while the picture book was in Chinese.

Has she given up her Chinese? Was she too small to understand the importance to learn another language? I am considering to send her to Private Chinese lessons, especially for the writing. While her daddy was cooler, affirming that learning well English is the most important thing for now.”It’s OK. Anyway, Chinese is her first language and she will not forget that.” said he, “There is no need to speak Chinese now and she can pick it up quickly when we go back.”It’s true that at her age, she cannot realize the importance of another language if it’s not used frequently or if it can be replaced.

We all have read several research papers, according to which, one can only have a main language that express the deep thoughts. Even we intervene in Claire’s language acquisition, we cannot ensure that she would pick Chinese as the main language. It is also said that second language has its limits. Soon or later, she will encounter a frustrating dilemma, that she speaks less well English than her classmates in America and less well Chinese than her classmates in China.

One day, she followed me to my workplace, where I talked in French with my boss. The way back home, she suddenly suggested, “Mom, I want to learn French!” I was so surprised,”But you are learning Spanish too! Will you confuse so many foreign languages? ”

What I have learned is that Curiosity is a good motivation. Maybe we should find some strategies to make Chinese more charming.

Because I’m a Chinese girl

At playground, Claire is always reluctant to try the Monkey Bar while other kids seems so good at it. “You can do it, just try!” In spite of our encouragements, she turns herself quickly away. If we continue to push her, she would say, “because I’m a Chinese girl”. She has made a good reasoning, since in China, we hardly see Monkey Bars in Kindergarten and she had never tried them before.

She will soon turn 5 and we are considering to put her bed in her own room. When her friends came for a playdate, we felt embarrassed to explain that she was still sleeping in our room because the other room is downstairs which makes her feel unsafe. In fact, kids and parents co-sleep much longer in China than in other countries. Now she still sticks to this idea and refuses to embrace her freedom: “because I’m a Chinese girl”.

We call her grandma from time to time and each time she reminds us to protect more and better her granddaughter, because Claire is different and the only one. The other day, when we mentioned that American young people were all financially independent and that young couple had tight budget, she repeated that we should absolutely save money in bank for our daughter’s future, because we were definitely a Chinese family.

I never have considered seriously the question of identity, believing that American is after all a “cultural melting pot”. I’m never involved in any discussion about the competition between US and China, believing that nationalism is an evil. We didn’t see much olympic games, avoiding the discussion of national pride at table but cheering for the admirable beauty and strength of certain athletes.

However, even all ethnics can enjoy the equal rights and been treated fairly, we still face so many questions risen from identity. Some are pseudo-problems, like the Monkey Bar, some are traditions, like co-sleeping, some are just personal perspective, like the financement. There are not big deals. But some are serious, like the recent Chinese community protest demonstration in Paris. Living in this multi-culturiste society, I’m shocked everyday by the media focus on race hatred.

One Chinese mom has decided to change school for her daughter, because she is the only Chinese girl in her grade with the majority of white people. She supposed that there would be more bully and more discrimination towards her daughter. She is more concerned about her daughter’s feeling of others’ judgements.

Claire is only 5 and she is lucky. She hasn’t experienced unreasonable harm caused by her identity. When one of her friend told her that his parents would forbid him from going to China even when he was grownup, she just made a sound comment: “Yes, because you may probably be sick by the smog, like me.”Her daddy and me didn’t make any further comments on this story, although we were kind of disappointed by the image of China that these parents might hold.

But Claire does become more and more aware of her identity and attributes it as excuse, guilty, frustration and loneliness. What I want to tell her is: Everyone is different, that’s nature, but everyone can be good, kind and strong. Keep trying!

Whose fault?

One weekend, Claire’s friend Anna made a craft with Aquabeads at our place before asking her to bring it to school the next Monday. Monday morning, we were so busy that we all forgot the thing. I felt sorry for Anna that evening when Claire was back home and mentioned the Heart of beads. “You should remember it!”I repeated to Claire.

It was three days later that I finally kept the idea of put the craft in Claire’s hands before getting on the car. That night, I received an email from Anna’s mom, who thanked Claire for the craft, which ought to be a present that Anna made for her friend. “Claire forgot to bring it as soon as promised. She was always late and in a hurry.” I wrote an email back.

That was not a big deal but the similar situation repeated.  I always apologized in the name of Claire, which seemed to be very modest and polite. However, sometimes I felt so embarrassed. There was something wrong, definitely.

Why was she always late? Who made her in a hurry? Who always forgot things? It was me. Nevertheless, I attributed the mess to her. Maybe, unconsciously, I believed that it was normal and forgivable if children did wrong things while for a grownup it was shameful. That’s a bad excuse.

Claire is only four but I’m thirty-five. If we are all wrong, the best way to avoid the polite apologies is to change my own morning chaos.

Faster, higher, stronger

kids love sports, instinctively. But not all of them. They easily stick to some while abandon others. It usually depends on the sport’s difficulty and one’s confidence. Claire gives up quickly some activity when she has found herself not good at it.

One day, at the local Children’s museum, several volunteers were encouraging kids to do sports. They invited the small ones to sit on a board with wheels and to move foreword by their legs. A 2 year-old can already do this. The lady set the small boy at the start point. After the sign”go”, she turned on a stopwatch, which, for me, was a too serious object that usually doesn’t belong to a children’s playground. The path was only one meter and the little boy arrived easily. After the congratulation words, the lady showed the stopwatch to the boy, in a very surprised and serious manner, “wow, you did great job, only 15 seconds!” The boy thrilled.

It was the stopwatch that attracted Claire’s attention, who wanted to give a shot herself. She was excited to learn that her performance was better. This game was no longer an attractive activity for her age but she insisted to try again. “You can do better,” the lady generously gave her permission.

On the other side of the room, an other lady was animating a game, which is supposed to test the balance ability. Children were asked to hold a wooden spoon with a plastic egg on it and to move foreword. They held in the other hand a measure tap while the lady kept the main part of the measure tap at the start point. Concentrated and staring at the egg, Claire stepped out. “You have walked for 10 feet! Congratulations!” these words cheered her up and made her day. Even at home, she wanted to do it again and asked me to measure up the distance.

I was amazed by these professional tools, which turned to make kids more motivated to try and to practice some sports. We always say, “you can do it! you can do it better!” However, sometimes, these words are so common that thy don’t have a effective impact on kids.

When Claire turns the Hula hoop, she easily gets frustrated and even refuses to do it again. One day, I proposed to write down the number of turns she had achieved. The next day, I suddenly praised her former performance by emphasizing the number:” You did 9 yesterday, great job! You want to try again?” She picked up the hoop. Even she failed to do better, she didn’t appear to be annoyed. Maybe she was impressed by her formal performance that was written down. With some nearly “official count”, kids may imagine that they were acting professionally.

Learning to swim still frighten Claire. “I will always wear my jacket, even I’m thirty years old, one hundred years old, one thousand years old.”swore she. I needed to begin in the bath tub. “Can you put your heard one second under the water?” I suggested. “Too long!” refuted she. “Zero point one second?” I tried another day. “What does it mean?” she seemed interested. “A very very short time,” then I put her mouth under the water and cheered,” wow, you did it.” It was a false one but that made the thing become interesting. I will try another day the “on second” and made it a huge success. If the one second is passed, then two seconds, three seconds…

I’m not an exigent mom and I do believe that achievements should not shadow the joy. Maybe it’s too early to be competitive. Nevertheless, if kids are sensitive with numbers and progress, I will encourage them to do better and be as proud as themselves.

You can do it! You can do it better!

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.


You are my favorite toy

Every day, I spend a lot of time with Claire. But that doesn’t mean I play as much as she expects. Most of time, I take care of her: making her breakfast, lunch pack, snacks, dinner; giving her bath and reading books. When I am not busy with chores, I check my mails, read news and text my friends, letting her play with herself, or with her toys.

“Mom, play with me!” she asks constantly, “you will be Peppa’s friend Susie sheep, you visit my house….” I try to cooperate, but distracted and impatient. Beside, it’s tiring for a grownup to pretend some character of her age and indulge himself in a fictional world. 15 minutes later, I find myself leave her aside, pretending to go to the bathroom. Sometime, I keep my phone at hand and check it from time to time. Half an hour later, it’s always me who ask her to end the game, by suggesting to draw something or taking some snacks. Although watching TV is not encouraged in our family, I don’t feel guilty to let Claire run to her videos after playing “enough” with her. For me, it’s “enough” while for her, it’s a break before soliciting me again to play some other childish games.

Staying at home with Claire all day is exhausting. I certainly prefer to bring her to a public playground, where she can laugh with other kids. As other parents,  I just stay by. I’m responsible to be with her, to take care of her and I always think that I’m doing well. I take her to the library to enjoy some special events, believing that all parents just sacrifice their own interest and bear the time passing by. Am I really enjoy the show as much as Claire? Rarely.”Did you have fun?” I ask her after the show or the special activity. I never question myself if I have enjoyed it too.

In the weekend, we take her to the park. When I am watching her climb the ladder or slide, her father is seeking shadow and checking his phone. We rotate our role to supervise our daughter. “Daddy, slide with me!” demands Claire.”No, it’s only for children!” That’s true, but in fact, do we really think seriously of being as crazy as these kids running and laughing without no limit ? We seldom enjoy the fun of swinging together, side by side. Yet, it’s not a written role that parents cannot swing.

If we take her to the library’s story time, we tend to let her seated on the ground with other kids, while we are 5 feet away on the public chairs. Anyway, we won’t check out how much she has understood, because we haven’t pay attention to the story ourselves, busy with other stuff.

One night, I was tucking Claire in. She suddenly asked me this question:

“Mom, what’s your favorite toy?”

“What do you think?” after hesitating a moment, I threw the question back.

“Your computer? ” she was not certain,”your phone?”

“Why?” Such suspects didn’t surprise me, but I wanted to know her opinion of me.

“Because you played joyfully with them.” she smiled, very confident in her reasoning.

“No! My sweetie, ma favorite toy is YOU!” I hugged her tightly.

“Really? ” in a timid voice, she didn’t refute me, “Thank you!”

Claire was fast asleep, while I remained pondering.

Did I lie? If she was really my favorite toy, why I wasn’t concentrated in playing with her? Why didn’t I enjoy the moments passed with her, the use of her language, the pleasure of being in an imaginary world, the curiosity to discover everything?

Dear Claire, sorry for letting you feel that playing with you is only my sacrifice. Let me share your joy, as your peer. Since you are my favorite toy, I will never be bored to play with you.