Or at least get a yellow card.
Is that a weird thing for me to say to my daughter? She's exhausted. Completely and utterly exhausted. I've been seeing it in the last few weeks. Yesterday at music, even a friend remarked on it, it was that obvious. The year has taken it's toll. The maintaining 6's and 7's on a report card, getting distinction for a speech exam, memorising 2 Suzuki cello books, running, playing football, doing taichi, reading enough books in both English and Chinese to get awards for both, being a nice conscientious kid who gets on with everyone, smiles all the time, doesn't forget clothing or lunch boxes or water bottles at school, never gets a yellow card for not handing in homework. And does this all unassisted by parents or tutors. It's hard work. And the system is relentless. It's never good enough. She spent ages on a beautiful poster highlighting everything she'd learnt in Chinese maths this year. I was shocked and astounded when it came back and I found her redoing it all. The teacher said it was 60% OK and I had to make some adjustments and then it would be 95% and then my final draft would be 100%. What does a parent do? I said I thought her first effort was really great, and wouldn't have found reason to re-do it. Sure the next effort was even better. But do the teachers have any idea at what cost? I see the joy and enthusiasm disappearing. Not to mention the energy. Despite 10-11 hours of sleep a night she's tired. Tired, tired tired to the bone. It will take more than sleep to get rid of that tiredness.
I have an angry frustrated son. "It's just not fair," he exclaimed yesterday. "They stole my double English period from me and used it for a long boring assembly to give out awards to all the kids." (Subtext, except for him). "And we're learning about Australia and it's so interesting. And did you know what a Dunny is? " A while later he punches his sister in the stomach on an unrelated incident. But it's not about the incident. It's about her getting the awards and him not.
I take him aside for a chat. He didn't even get a "Love of reading" certificate. "How come" I ask, "you did everything you had to do." Obviously he didn't do the paper work. That's not unusual for him (or for me, we both hate filling out forms). I tell him I love them both with our without bits of paper that come home with them. I say that I know he loves reading. "I do love reading" he says. "Well, if you know it and I know it, then that's all that's important. When the bits of paper are lost and disappeared, you'll still love reading and that's the whole point."
"And some kids didn't even do everything but they filled in the form and got the award, it's not fair." "Getting an award won't mean they love reading. It's not about an award. "
But it is when you're 7. How can you not care when the system puts so much time and effort into the system of awards. Obviously you can see that it's about awards. Even if your mother says it isn't. How the deck is stacked in our home.
When I was young and sweeping up all the awards I never paused to think about those who weren't. What motherhood has given me.
I watched "the race to nowhere yesterday" It's a scary film. I was a little disappointed in the discussion afterwards. There was a lot of denial. Oh that's a specific part of the USA, oh, that's an American problem, oh, that's political, it's the rich kids, it's the poor kids. It's the high achieving parents.
Of course homework is the elephant in the room. They side-stepped that one nicely. The problem was that the parents raising the issue did so in far to specific and personal terms. The discussion was closed before I could say anything. I've gone back and forth on this homework thing. What I believed and what I think now keep on changing, and I think it will change further as we go on. As they get older and as I get older and wiser and learn more and read more and experience more.
My view this morning, 3 June 2011 at 8:06am (my 17th wedding anniversary), is the following. For us personally homework is getting in the way of what my kids need. And what they need, differs from day to day and week to week. In general terms, my daughter puts in 120% of her effort at school. At the end of the day she needs time on her own to read and write and process it all. She's exhausted. My son, on the other hand, is exhausted in another way. For him to achieve a fraction of what she and other kids can get from their ability to concentrate and focus all the time, takes a lot out of him. He mainly thrives from the social and community aspect of school. When he comes home, he needs down time and then he needs very specific one on one help with the bits that he didn't get at school. Between myself and the teachers it's not very hard to identify what those bits are. But generic one size fits all homework with tons of deliverables gets in the way of that.
And they both need to read and be read to. By the time all those bits of paper and forms and worksheets have been filled in there is just not enough time for reading. It's a crying shame. I can see how people go to homeschool.
Friday, 3 June 2011
Or at least get a yellow card.
Wednesday, 1 June 2011
My son jumped into my bed this morning for an early cuddle.
I remarked that I could feel his heartbeat.
"yes, the rhythm is different when I'm with you" says he
"how come?" I asked
"I don't know, maybe there is one rhythm for loving and pumping blood and another just for pumping blood" he replies
Posted by Gweipo at 6:36 am
Tuesday, 31 May 2011
A few posts ago I was writing about the difficulties with asking for help. I think a parallel affliction, which my psychologist keeps on at me about is appreciation. If not external, then at least self-appreciation. As I log my life with her, open for external examination, she periodically asks me the most embarrassing of all questions "did you appreciate yourself for doing that?". Even though she's been asking this question for the last year or so, each time it catches me out and each time I find myself cringing with the very thought. Well, no, I don't appreciate myself for doing that. What do I do?
I examine my days and hours under this magnifying glass which amplifies all and every sin against everyone around me, not to mention my self-destructive streaks of over-eating and under-exercising. Shouting at a child weighs about 10,000,000 and helping them with homework or reading to them or hugging them weighs the inverse 1/10,000,000.
I was explaining to her all the reading I've been doing around the issues my son is facing at school and with schooling and with learning and memory. And she stopped me to remind myself to appreciate myself. And I told her all I could do was berate myself for not having been onto the case earlier or at least what to do constructively besides any mere labelling and brow-beating before. And yet I do know that what I have found and what seems to be working I discovered serendipitously by accident by chance conversations with people I seldom see, in a completely different context. And by an email forwarded by another friend on an unrelated topic.
All that diagnosis stuff is so limiting, so irrelevant even. What is needed is just to know what to do and when and how and how often and why. To be able to move forward so that everyone sees and feels progress and is positive and happy about it.
I sometimes think that parallel to my Chinese studies I'm doing a degree in developmental and educational psychology. Do I appreciate myself? No. What else is a mother supposed to do?
My daughter came home with her chinese test. The one that she'd had problems with. She'd not done so well she said as an introduction, but it wasn't the worst she'd ever done. We went through it, I tried to emphasise that what was important for me wasn't what she'd got right or wrong, but whether she now understood the bits that she'd had a problem with during the test. We found the sections that she'd done well in, and mutually tutted over a section she'd overlooked in her panic to finish on time (time is a weapon in Chinese teacher's hands). I commiserated with the feeling of panic and how everything could drain from your mind when you needed it only to reappear the minute you handed the paper in. Has studying Chinese made me a more understanding parent? Yes. Do I appreciate myself for that? Hell no, I didn't do it to be a more empathetic person. Does the reason matter? Or just the result?
I know though, that this lack of self-love and appreciation gets in the way of other things. I know, deep down that she's right. I know that in the loving-kindness meditation the first hurdle one has to cross is to give the loving kindness and compassion to yourself. For if you don't, it's very hard to really be able to give it to others. I have not meditated and I have not exercised in a while. I keep on putting it off with other more pressing things - and yet, that would be the first act of loving myself - to take better care of the mental and physical.
Is this another girl thing? Or do all people struggle with the "pat on the own back" thing?
Monday, 30 May 2011
I found myself asking this question for two reasons. A few weeks ago, one of my friends here told me she's seriously thinking of going "back home" after nearly 15 years away from her 'motherland'. We spoke about it, and I told her that my experience, and that of many many people has been that the move back home is the hardest move you'll ever make.
Then this morning I was flicking through the NY Times and there was an article about military personnel being sent back home after their deployment in Afghanistan and the myriad of problems that awaited them there.
My motherland? Well, it shares many commonalities with what I consider my land to be now - Hong Kong. There I was a white face in a sea of non-white. Considered a usurper by historical accident. Here I'm an accidental face in a sea of oriental. Despite no links to the HK colonial past, I occasionally have racial slurs slung upon me or assumptions made based on my skin colour. At yet I try to make these places my home. South Africa is a beautiful, violent mother. It's beauty lures one into suppressing memories of its violence.
What about your motherland? What kind of mother is she?
Sunday, 29 May 2011
With little over a month to go we've started that phase of consumption without replacement. As supplies get wound down I'm admonishing my helper not to replace them, but rather to substitute, to cook up recipies with stuff that's been in the cupboards un-used for far too long. Soaps and shampoos are shifting from large bottles to the stuff brought back from hotels.
We've started making lists. Last night we managed to get to La Baguette in Kennedy town - and not a moment too soon, turns out that from today they'll be closed for a while for renovations. We had a good meal while hashing out what needs to be sold, used, given away, adopted, passed on, thrown, have address changes etc. etc.
May I admit that the process made me feel a little anxious? A little panicy. Particularly when my husband reminded me that he'd not be here in HK for most of the coming time. Right now I know how rabbits with their eyes caught in the headlights feel. Not good.