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.

How to build up language confidence

Claire enjoys a lot her best friend and classmate Anna. Sometimes, she remains all day grumpy after a disagreement or a quarrel. Since good friends can go though little accident and learn from how to deal it by themselves, I never took seriously her complains and kept myself from being the referee.

One day, she was unusually mad and asked me seriously to stay at school next morning.

“For what?” I tried to figure it out.

“You will tell Anna that this is a U not a V!” she pointed at the word “Hug” printed on her cap.

“This is a U!” I confirmed, “she was just kidding!”

“No, she repeated this was a V. I told her but she thought she didn’t listen.” Claire was about to burst into tears.

“OK. Next time when I see her, I will tell her.”In fact, I just wanted to end this topic, which seemed insignificant.

“Will you tell her tomorrow?” she stared at me.

“OK! OK!” I was making short shrift.

“And don’t forget to tell her that it’s not good to wast hand soap. She always uses too much.” cheered Claire.

I didn’t tell Anna to recognize the right letter the next day. Claire kept reminding me my duty, even on the road to Anna’s house for a play date. I still did nothing, but hoped that Claire would forget it soon. For another reason, I still thought it wasn’t convenient to intervene children’s business.

Claire was disappointed. I could see. I told myself that thy were still best friends, even with this permanent small disagreement. They hugged tightly when Claire left school in the afternoon. The only thing was that Claire began to hate wearing her cap, which had been her favorite item for long time.

Weeks later, when I sent her in, she suddenly appeared frustrated. An idea stroked me and I stooped down to tell her, “I won’t forget to talk to Anna!”

I found her best friend at the play ground. Teachers were surprised to see me there, because usually I dropped my daughter in the classroom and she would go outside by herself to join the others. Anna was embarrassed to see me, for Claire was hiding behind me.

“Hi, Anna, shall we do a game? Guess what is this letter?” I pointed at the word “Hug” and tried to be as gentle as possible.

“U!” she answered in a tiny voice.

“Good job! Now you can hug!” I put Claire’s hand into Anna’s and pushed them together.

Why did I this? Did I intervene too much? At the parking, I had suddenly realized that recognizing the letter U or V was much more important to Claire than anything else. The two are all at the stage to learn alphabet. For Claire, confirming her capacity to learn well this foreign language is essential. She knew well that English is Anna’s native language and she admired native speakers. She could give in if someone pointed out her mistake in naming things or in her pronunciation.

I did that only to make my daughter believe in herself,  make her confident and comfortable with the new language. If she has the right answer but is doubted by others, she might have a inner battle. I must help her to win this battle, because it could be a milestone. She will encounter more language problems, but I wish that she would still have the courage to tell whoever that she is right, if it is.

Keep busy in summer

It was the first time that Claire refused to go to school. She got up  with a stuffy nose and complained about her tummy ache. “O.K.,” we said. She stayed home and enjoyed playing with me. We tried all games that I could imagine : puppet show, painting, writing, Lego, pretending, Playdough… I was exhausted.

The next day, she turned out better but remained reluctant to attend school. Her dad sent me a message: “You daughter refused to get off the car in the parking, so I took her to my office.” It was a wonderful day for Claire but a terrible one for her daddy. “I had no time to work!” sighed he.

The third day, she cried when we pushed her into the car. “No school, no school!” shouted she, as if we were so mean to her.

Almost everyone loves summer, which should be a playful and relaxing period. But I recently realized that kids would not agree with it. They may become very excited to go to the beach, even dream the Disneyland. But most of  the time, they think it’s boring. “it’s boring!” Claire commented on her school day, which surprised me.

Compared with various activities they took in the school year, summer is indeed boring. Her preschool is open to children whose parents need to work.However, most of their teachers take vacations and rotate for the day care. There are several activities, e.g. water play and crafts, but kids spend more time by themselves. At the preschool age, they are easy to be bored without being organized.

“But we paid a lot money for school,” Claire’s dad wanted to be serious, “School is fun and you should keep learning.” To a 4 year-old, reasoning is useless. All she thinks is playing joyfully. All she needs is not time to wonder, nor to stay with her swing, but time to discover new things.

At home, she asked me to be her teacher, who is on vacation now. We repeated the routine school day she had before summer camp : sing a morning song, story time, playing outside, snack time, gym time, art time, games, lunch, dance, writing, counting, etc. “Can we have a valentine’s day in this week? ” me asked she.

“Summer Camp is boring,” asserted she,”it’s silly.” We are disappointed with this situation, wondering if other camps would be a more interesting adventure. I searched information but most of thematic camps are offered to older children and last only for two weeks. We are already lucky to have a preschool which offers flexible hours.

As grownups, we allow ourselves to be lazy and slow in summer. Being busy is so tiring all the year around. We deserve a period with empty head. But kids works another way. They enjoy being busy all the time.

“You should go to school, be good, and then we can go Disneyland.” Sadly, we began to use the last strategy to cheer her up in the morning. Maybe it’s time to have vacation, to change, to satisfy her curiosity.

I heard a lot about “summer slide” for children. In China, summer is a very busy period for kids, especially in big cities. They need to attend different summer schools for maths, English and all kinds of art skill. If they stay at home with TV, they lose not only knowledge but also the studying habit and their curiosity  of learning. School can hopefully keep them busy, while the busy TV at home can only make them inactive.