Tag Archives: Family

Thoughts on Why Chinese Mothers are Superior

Last week, WSJ blogger Amy Chua posted a controversial post titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior” (http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704111504576059713528698754.html), supposedly an excerpt from a book called Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

I read it with a smile on my face.  Some of the things she wrote is true about some Chinese parent’s attitudes to education and parenting but they are sweeping generalisations.  In my own experience, I’m an Australian Born Chinese (ABC).  Also known as banana (yellow on the outside, white on the inside).  My parents were strict, but not that strict.  But still I can definitely relate to being scared bringing my school report home from school, being encouraged to do more homework than prescribed, I did learn the violin and piano and my extra-curricular activities was basically only music related.  But I was allowed to watch TV, go in school plays, play computer games, etc.

Amy’s post has caused an “uproar” in some areas of the blogging community for all sorts of reasons and I read many of the thoughtful responses over the weekend.

I really don’t know where to start but firstly, I feel sorry for her kids.  Instead of the selfish and conceited title “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior“, maybe the post should be titled “Why Chinese children don’t have as much fun“.  Now that I’ve done my high school, university and have worked for many years, I wonder whether it’s actually worth it.  For example, what’s the point of scoring 100% if you only need 80% to get into the course you want?  Once you’re in the workforce, no-one really cares what you scored for what test, how highly placed you were at High School or University.  True there is a certain level of scores that you may need to progress to the next step or open up more opportunities, but come on..   A instead of an A+?  Taking a few more months to learn The Little White Donkey?

Perhaps these “Chinese children” could do extra-curricular activities that they want, study a bit less, have friends over, watch some TV each week, have more a more fun and varied childhood, yet still get into the course they want if that’s the ultimate goal?  I guess a cynic could read the article and think, wow, Chinese kids must be pretty dumb if they need so much tuition!  And in the end they still get the same jobs as caucasians. 

Yes I’ve been westernised having been born and brought up in Australia (a second gen Chinese Australian), but to me, happiness, self discipline, self responsibility, learning consequences from your own decisions and actions is more important that an extra percent mark on a test.  

Yes I see the value in teaching your kids not to give up if things get hard, that they have the potential to achieve greatly if you put in the effort (10,000 hours?), but is it worth the expense of other facets of a once in a lifetime childhood?  Life and time is precious.  There are things that one would only experience or do as a child in school.

Unfortunately Amy doesn’t touch on the point that I suspect sometimes some Chinese parents are doing this for themselves.  It can sometimes be a sort of “show”, upholding their parents pride or face.  So you can boast that your child learnt Whizzbang Etude No. 2 at the age of 3 with their right hand only and can play it blindfolded backwards.  Or disgrace to your entire family name if you took 1 year to learn The Little White Donkey instead of your cousin who took only 2 weeks.   Maybe this is related to the piano and violin thing.   What’s the point in saying your daughter/son can play all of John Coltrane’s sax solos at the 7 if all your Chinese parent friends only measure success by violin and piano Suzuki book numbers.   Perhaps it’s some in built genetic self preservation mechanism – that if their kids do well, they’ll be successful, earn lots of money, and thus have the money to be able to look after the parents when they’re older.   And what with being number 1?  By definition, there can ONLY BE ONE PERSON at the number 1 position.   What about everyone else in the class/school/country/world?  Are they failures?   Shouldn’t you be happy if your child genuinely tried their hardest?

Now that I’m in the workforce, I’ve learnt that academic scores, although impressive, is not really useful if you don’t have strong people, social or communication skills, haven’t had varied life experiences, don’t take pride in personal presentation, haven’t contributed to the local community or  had team building and leadership experiences, through sports or clubs.  I think these things make a much more well rounded human than one who just did rote learning for hours on end, who is scared to score an A instead of A+ in every maths test, who is brought up with the mantra that they have failed if they’re not the top of the class or was forced to learn an instrument that they didn’t want to.  How about your child trying hard and doing the best they can and if they do, you being proud of that?

One of the things that the post raises that frustrates me is the attitude towards music.  Yes, Chinese children may be forced to learn the violin and piano, but when it comes to university/college, often they are strongly DISCOURAGED from taking up music as a profession.  You must be a doctor or lawyer instead right?   Many end up dropping their musical instrument altogether, perhaps suggesting that it was forced upon them instead of playing for the love of it – perhaps even psychologically ruining their attitude towards music later in life.   And I also hear some rare stories of people who have done the medical, law thing but then after a few years, given it up to do music instead.  If “Chinese mothers” are investing so much of their time and effort into their children to learn a musical instrument, and their children are good at it, then shouldn’t they encourage them to follow through with this into their adult lives?

And the other thing I’m frustrated about – as I’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m seeing younger and younger kids nowadays play musical repetoire that is YEARS beyond their emotional maturity.  Should a 7 year old even be playing The Little White Donkey?  A talented pianist might be able to play the notes, but are they actually making music?  Does it matter if a 5 year old can play the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto like a robot with no genuine feeling of love, romance, longing?

As some other blogs have said, this is a complex issue and everyone’s got their own thoughts.  If anything, this has made people reflect on their own parenting styles and how much influence their heritage/ancestry/own upbringing has played on their parenting style.   Also, many of the things Amy raises is not specific to just Chinese parents either.   There’s no doubt that Amy Chua loves her children.  Everyone has different ways of showing love, and ultimately, as long as her children realise that what she is doing is because that’s the way she’s choosing to show her love and dedication, then all is OK right?

The sad thing is that I’ve read that Amy Chua didn’t have any say into the WSJ piece, and that it’s an edited piece of various parts of her book, which coincidentally has launched into the Top 10.   Is this all just a marketing ploy to generate interest in the book?  Have we been sucked in?

New blog header!

Don’t normally do a weekend blog post, but the girls are all asleep so I decided to do something I’ve been wanting to for ages – create a custom blog header!

I couldn’t decide between putting up one of the photos that I took myself, or putting up a family photo.  Since my blog is not just solely focussed on photography but more about life in general, I decided a family photo reflected the state of my blog at this time!

This great family photo was taken by my cousin’s wife in Singapore over 3 and a half years ago!   She runs a photo studio in Singapore called KidsPictures.  If you’re visiting or currently live in  Singapore and want some great natural family photos or photos of the kids, I definitely recommend going to see Anne.   She was so relaxed with us, made the kids feel really at ease and made us look great!   Visit the website here:  http://www.kidspictures.com.sg/

Camping

Car packed for camping

We went camping on the weekend..  and we froze our butts off!

Yes it was fun!  The kids loved getting back to “nature”, playing in the forest, going on bushwalks, having smo’s on the fire…

But when it came to sleeping time, we freezed all night!  Maybe it was the air mattresses we were on, letting the cold come straight in from the ground (but we did have a groundsheet) but we had to put on extra layers on during the night.  My sleeping bag was rated 5 deg C, but wifey’s was rated -5 deg C and she was still cold.  Next time I’ll have to remember to pack a beanie and get a better sleeping bag, but we wondering if foam mattresses help since the other campers in our group who slept on foam weren’t as cold. 

Wish we could’ve stayed another night to make it worthwhile having packed so much stuff – well, it didn’t seem much, but it just all bulked up.

Here’s what we brought along:

– 4 sleeping bags
– 1 double air mattress, 2 single air matresses for the kids
– 4 pillows
– 1 ground cover
– 1 tent
– 2 camping chairs
– 1 pump, lantern, hammer, torch
– 1 bag of clothes and toiletries
– 4 cold winter jackets
– 1 camera bag with video camera and SLR
– 2 towels
– 2 bags of food, drink, bread rolls, etc

As usual, everytime we go camping we always say to ourselves, why don’t we do this more often?   Am now thinking of when we can do our next trip!

Don’t want to go to school!

This morning, our 7yo didn’t want to get out of bed.

“I don’t want to go to school!” she complained.

“Why?”

Silence.

“Is there something you don’t like at school?”

“We have to do maths for the rest of the week.  I don’t like maths.”

“What are you learning in maths?”

“We’re doing takeaways, like when you go shopping, how much money you have left.”

“That’s important baby.. you have to learn that so you can go shopping.”

“No I don’t.  I can still go shopping,” she replies in a sing-song whining voice.

It just seemed like yesterday when I, myself, was in school and had days that I wanted to wag school!  And now, I’m having to convince my kids that they need to go to school and learn maths.

WHHHYYY??  Does being a parent mean having to get your kids to do the things that you yourself didn’t want to do when you were a kid?

I so wanted to take the day off with her, bring her to the cinemas for a movie, maybe going to Leederville for lunch, go for a walk or cycle then an icecream by the beach…    but…   I have to go work…

Happy Birthday Django!

Dear Django,

Happy Birthday!  It was your second birthday today.

You started the day by waking up in T’s bed.   You were all sprawled out and totally floppy, wrapped in the warm quilt.   The kids woke up and you did your usual morning stretches, first back legs, then front.

Mum served you your favourite and usual breakfast of 2 spoons of yoghurt with half a cup of dry dog biscuits.  As usual, you swallowed it up full.  T made you a cute Birthday card and she presented it to you this morning.  She hugged you tight with all her love whilst she read the card to you.    You love cuddles from the kids and T loves giving them to you!

A Birthday Card for Django
A Birthday Card for Django

Soon it was time for us to go to school and work.  As a special treat this morning, I gave you half a Lix Baked Bone as a reward for your birthday and for going out the back door when I called you.  You have been so good at it lately!  You come when I call, you sit when I ask you to sit, and then you drop when I ask you to drop…  I might try to trick you tomorrow by not having the treat 🙂

I think you spent the rest of the day lazing on the back verandah, guarding our home, awaiting the return of those big creatures that give you food.

Django's Cupcake
Django's Cupcake

This evening we celebrated your birthday with a little blueberry cupcake with a sparkler on top.  A warm rendition of Happy Birthday was sung and then as a special special treat, we let you eat the cupcake on the kitchen bench!  You loved it!

I hope you had a great doggy birthday today!  No walk today, but we’ll get you out on the weekend 🙂  May you continue to bring the family much joy and love.

Family love
Family love

My Saturday

The girls started stirring around 8.30..  light was filtering through the cheap Ikea venetian blinds into our bedroom, the whirrr of the ducted airconditioning in the background..   our 7 year old murmered something about watching the DVD we watched last night again..  I said “yeahh” and rolled back over to sleep.

Jump forward a couple of hours and the 9 year old is at jazz and tap.  I get a few hours to spend just with our 7 year old.

We drive to the local shops, park the car and skip to the shops, S giggling away.   S says “I love this daddy, I love going shopping with just you and me”.  My heart melts…   I wonder why we don’t do this more often.   I say, “Let’s go into DigiLife and take a photo on the computer” at which S lights up and says “YES!”.   We find an iMac that is not being used, start up PhotoBooth and try to decide which effect to use.  We both decide on “glow”, take our photo, then sneak out of the shop laughing 🙂

Skip across to get a Vegemite scroll to stop the tummy growls, then we pass by the Liquorice Gourmet Foods shop.  S can’t resist going in so we get some gummy bears to suck on.

Liquorice Gourmet Foods
Liquorice Gourmet Foods

We then quickly dip into the funky shop Little Posh to find some presents for a party later that day.  S helps choose some Charlie and Lola merchandise and a hair clip, but I did spot some really cool hip clothes that could be future presents for friends 🙂

Shopping at Little Posh
Shopping at Little Posh

We do a quick grocery run.  I notice that S is eating her vegemite scroll by tearing off a piece, scrunching it up in her hand into a ball, then popping it into her mouth.  Gross!   Soon it’s time to pick up T, head home for a quick lunch then to the party!

T and S get on the swings and relive some past challenge to try and touch the top of the shadecloth/sail with their feet by swinging as high as possible.   Eventually I figure out that the swing would literally have to be horizontal from the pivot point… hmm…  is this dangerous?  After a few big pushes, they get there..   I worry that they’re not a good influence on the other kids who are on average 4 years younger than them.

There was a really really good face painter there.  Even T, our resident artist notices and says “Dad, she’s really good!”.  The girls spend ages trying to decide which design to get from a photo album of examples.  The face painter lady warns me, “Don’t let the kids flip to the back pages…  There’s some work and designs there that aren’t suitable for them.. but that I may like.”  Hmm…

A cat!
A cat!
pider Butterfly...  A spifly?
Spider Butterfly... A spifly?

Towards the end of the party, the lady starts making balloon things.  I ask T, “Do you want one?” to which she replies “I want to make my own dog.”  I suddenly realised that my Dad must have taught her that.  She takes a flower from the lady, sneaks away and undoes it, and starts to make a dog.  But the balloon pops..  there wasn’t enough empty space at the end.   She says, “doesn’t matter.”

They also had a butterly pinata.  After it was broken, it was thrown aside, dejected.

Dead Butterfly
Dead Butterfly

We get home, and S bugs me about making some fresh juice.  We cut up the fruit together, and jam it into our old and under-used juicer.  It already looks and smells amazingly healthy..  we drink it and agree – it’s yummy!!!  (and healthy too!)

Making fruit juice
Making fruit juice

Eventually my sister’s family comes over, we whip together some pasta and chill out for the rest of the night, barracking for Cadel Evans in the Tour de France from the comfort of our sofa while sipping tea.

Pasta, meatballs, wine and great company
Pasta, meatballs, wine and great company

Nearing midnight, it’s time to call it a day.   I wonder what Wifey is doing right now.  Only 2 more sleeps until she’s back home..  I can’t wait…

How long can it take to do hair?

OK.  Both my wifey and I work full time and we’ve come to an arrangement where I do the “morning shift” and she’ll do the “afternoon shift”.  Basically what this means is that my morning duties are to get the girls out of bed, ensure they get dressed and beautify, have breakfast, check their school bags and lunches and send them to school.

Easy right?

The thing I’m struggling with is how long it takes for the “get dressed and beautify” part of all of this.  My girls are only 7 and 9 but they can take aaggggeeesss to do this part.  I mean, it’s really just put your clothes on, brush hair, brush teeth, wipe face, etc right?  For a boy, changing is simple, just wack your clothes on – doesn’t matter if it’s pulled up right.  Hair?  No problems.  For me I just run some product through it and 10 seconds later I’m done.

But for my girls, especially T, the most time is spent brushing and doing hair.  Arrghhh..  the hair!! Making sure it’s absolutely neat and fashionable and not so functional.  There’s heaps of decisions to make like looking for a pretty hair clip or hair band that is within the school rules but individual and pretty at the same time.  Then there’s the hair style – they’ll experiment with a few ways of tieing it all up – one pony tail, or two.  Today, do they want the pony tails to be to the side, back, high or low.  Maybe it should be a head band today.  Or maybe plaited in which case they call on Daddy.   Even if it’s plaited, should we tie the ends individually, or together.  Or french (which I can’t do well, if at all!)

And that’s all after it’s been brushed nicely to start with.  No wonder we’re late for school nearly every morning!

It used to be easier when they were little kids and I did their hair for them.  Or maybe..

Anyway, I’ve been experimenting with many ways to speed up the morning routine and have these tips that have worked to some degree:

* Get up earlier!  Yes this seems the most common sense way of not running out of time in the morning. Unfortunately being night owls, even I find it hard to wake up early, let alone the kids.  With both of us working full time, the evening is our main family time.

* Do the hair first!  A strategy from my project manager experience, do the hardest and longest tasks first.  Unfortunately, this sometimes makes T think she has more time to do her hair.

* Do hair at a certain time each morning.  I have a mini agenda each morning – like we have to leave the house at x:xx exactly.  So working backwards, hair should be done by x:xx – Y minutes in the morning.

* Ensure that there is enough equipment!  By this I mean, hair brushes, hair clips, ties, etc.  There is also a balance in teaching kids to look after the hair brushes themselves and putting it away in the right place after using it, but for a while we had only 1 large hair brush between the two girls and this caused major holdups.

* Get hands on – yep, learn how your daughters do their hair.  Learn to plait, braid, tie pony tails.  I’m no expert, but definitely better than before!  Plus, it gets me involved with the girls..   and be able to monitor their head for lice!

Phoning Dad

Another eventful evening, going to help Dad to put together an Ikea shelfing unit.   I feel like a certified Ikea setter upperer after putting so many together!  We put the shelves up in record time without instructions!!  Amazing!

Anyway, got back home and wifey told me that our youngest was crying when she went to bed.   When she asked Skylar what the problem was, she said that her new new mp3 player was “stuck” or not working.  Skylar had taken the cordless phone and tried to call me to help her fix it, but she couldn’t get through to me.   When asked what number she was trying to ring – it was my work number!

Oh, makes my heart cry..

When the kids were much younger and just started talking, they did leave some extremely wonderful messages on my voice messaging system at work.   I had one that I used to play back once in a while of Tallulah trying to “talk” to me, asking “Are you there Dad?” and “When are you coming home Dad?”.   Nothing like that to make you want to come home straight away!