“You hurt my feelings”

It was time to go to bed but Claire was still excited. She asked us for more TV and refused to go brush her teeth. I lost my patience and raised my voice.

“You hurt my feelings ! Why you are always making me sad!” She began to cry.

I felt confused and meanwhile angry. Like the majority of parents, I always believe that all I have done is for my daughter’s sake. In the name of protecting her, loving her and preparing her for a good future, I only listen to my reason and tend to become one of the tiger moms. To raise a child is not to spoild her! After coming to US, I tried to change my attitude and remind myself not to push her into something that can be learned later, such as writing, math and piano. Yet, I’m still tough with discipline, so she is never allowed to eat two icecreams per day, nither to skip the breakfast.

My husband sighed, pointing out that Claire has already adopted the American style, which might give kids too much freedom and thus let them become egocentric. Instead of deploring the culture difference, I tried to see the good side of her “defense”.

I would wish that in my life I could have had the courage to say “no” to my parents. Yes, they did a lot for me, for my hapiness and success. But in most Chinese families, the communication is only one-way talk, from what they suppose to be right and good for kids to kids’ obedience. Even we don’t agree with them, we should be thankful and understand their good reasons.

It would be a huge sin if I told my parents that they had hurt my feelings, especially when they thought it as a right thing which would benefit only me but not themselves. “You hurt my feelings ” would be a too direct and sharp  way to express the disagreement.

Now Claire seems to abuse these words, which I guess that she had learned from school life. It’s a good defense way amongst peers. For us, how to react and adjust the situation is an important lesson. If we continue to instill the traditional vertus of being a nice kid, we will certainly increase the gap between two generations. I need to learn and find a balance between the respect and the discipline.

If she can say “no”, I can say “no” too. When her caprices caught her, I said:” you hurt my feeelings!” She was stunned. Of course, I would compensate her kindness by repeating that “you make me happy.”  I’m trying.

The traditional one-way communication always begins with the subject “I”: I think, I do this to… How about be direct and tell the others that they are responsible for their good and had behaviors. That’s about love, but not about the love that we try to beautify.

Parenting Styles

The Brangelina broke up, frustrating so many young hearts who were almost likely to believe in marriage and in love. Why? For now, we only know that they have different styles of parenting. That must be a more acceptable reason for a divorce, compared to some extramarital affaires. But still why?  Didn’t they both affirm their equal love towards their 6 children?

It is a dilemma. People make decision in name of love while they hold different views of love. When it comes to parenting, things can easily be magnified, because we are making decision for our kids’ future, in name of a whole-life love. We might change our political views, but it’s not easy for us to change our beliefs of a good parenting style.

Yet, recently, Hidden Brain(NPR) has reveals that our political views might have been formed  by our parenting style, in other words, by our ideal of the family life and our ideal of how to prepare kids for the future. Republicans and Democrats all view the nation as a family, but apply different parenting models. Do American people need stricter parents or empathetic ones? After all, both sides believe they are doing good for the kids’ future.

Parenting is now bewildering and intimidating. I’m even surprised by myself borrowing a parenting guide book from the library. Am I consumed by curiosity or doubts? Having grasped some advocated golden rules, I unconsciously increased the chance of arguing with my husband. So when Angelina filed the divorce files, she would naturally be supported by most mothers, although they even didn’t care the details,”Oh, women definitely know better than men in parenting!”

In the name of love, I accused my husband of being rude to Claire. The most frequent example is how to deal with kid’s cry. I was patiently bearing the screaming while he wanted a immediate stop. For him, the discipline is vital and it can help to shape the right behavior. In fact, I hold my own views of discipline. While for me, Claire ought to make the bed daily, her daddy will let her skip some “meaningless” chores.

For a long time, I was so disappointed with the difference in our couple’s parenting styles, which were driven and formed by our own origin family patterns. But now I’m more relaxed, because I have discovered the benefit of the balance. We can not overprotect our children, neither ensure the harmony and homogeneity of the society that they will encounter. Claire loves me, even I’m so strict with her daily mission. She loves her daddy, even he sometimes shouts at her. Parenting doesn’t mean building up a fictional castle with endless happiness and pure love.

The other day, when she was clumsy in moving her bicycle out of the door, my husband lost patience and grumped at her. “You cannot do that to me! Stop!” Claire refuted, which made us stunned before turning into a big laughter. She was assertive and making right response.

The world is complex. What our kids are learning is so tremendous that any parenting could never ensure their safety and success in the future. Fortunately, we all value “family” and, in the name of family, we can tolerate differences and try to take advantage of the apparently unbearable disagreement.

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.