Nancy took her tiny little baby and held him down toward Norton."Look Norton," she said, "This is a baby."Norton looked up at Charlie, took him in, and sort of nodded as if assimilating the information.There was a very long pause, and then I heard Nancy gulp."You've finally done it," she said to me."What?" I wanted to know."Most mothers would have said, 'Look, Charlie, this is a cat.'"I started to laugh."Not with Norton," I said.
I've tried to teach what I learned all those years in my mother and father's house, all those things I didn't realize I was learning and that I never knew I'd be so grateful for. When you have love and it's proffered every day in a kind of tender, yet stern insistence and even reckless laughter, when it is given to you and you accept it in life as a thing as natural as rain or snow, or the littler of leaves in fall, you can't help but take it for granted. For a bewildered while you incorrectly understand that the world has given you this becuase it's there in equal measure, everywhere. You never knowuntil it's too late to do anything about it, how seet the effort is: how lasting the human will to love can be in the breast of people who want to make it for you, who want to give it to you, without calculating what's in it fo them, without thinking at all of what it will mean when you grow to full adulthood, see the world as it is, and forget to mention what you have been given.Ever day of my grown-up life, I have wanted to do what my parents did. I have wanted to widen the province of love and weaken hate and bitterness in the hearts of my children. And I've done these things because of what I got from my family, all those lovely years when I was growing up, being loved and cherished and, unbeknown to me, and in the best way, honored, for myself.
Even before i had children, I knew that being a parent was going to be challenging as well as rewarding. But I didn't really know.I didn't know how exhausted it was possible to become, or how clueless it was possible to feel, or how, each time I reached the end of my rope, I would somehow have to find more rope.I didn't understand that sometimes when your kids scream so loudly that the neighbors are ready to call the Department of Child Services, it's because you've served the wrong shape of pasta for dinner.I didn't realize that those deep-breathing exercises mothers are taught in natural-childbirth class dont really start to pay off until long after the child is out.I couldn't have predicted how relieved I'd be to learn that other peoples children struggle with the same issues, and act in some of the same ways, mine do. (Even more liberating is the recognition that other parents, too, have dark moments when they catch themselves not liking their own child, or wondering whether it's all worth it, or entertaining various other unspeakable thoughts).The bottom line is that raising kids is not for whimps.
In thousands of little ways, we pull and push our children to grow up, hurrying them along instead of inviting them to rest. We could never court each other as adults by resisting dependance...Perhaps we feel free to invite the dependance of adults becuase we are not responsible for their growth and maturity. We don't bear the burden of getting them to be independant. Here is the core of the problem: we are assuming too much responsiblity for the maturation of our children. We have forgotten that we are not alone - we have nature as our ally. Independance is the fruit of maturation; our job in raising children is to look after their dependance needs. When we do our job of meeting genuine dependance needs, nature is free to do its job of promoting maturity. In the same way, we don't have to make our children grow taller; we just need to give them food. By forgetting that growth, development and maturation are natural processes, we lose perspective. We become afraid our children will get stuck and never grow up. Perhaps we think that if we don't push a little, they will never leave the nest. Human beings are not like birds in this respect. The more children are pushed, the tighter they cling - or, failing that, they nest with someone else.
There are many things the Chinese do differently from Westerners. There’s the question of extra credit, for example. One time, Lulu came home and told me about a math test she’d just taken. She said she thought it had gone extremely well, which is why she didn’t feel the need to do the extra-credit problems.I was speechless for a second, uncomprehending. “Why not?” I asked. “Why didn’t you do them?”“I didn’t want to miss recess.”A fundamental tenet of being Chinese is that you always do all of the extra credit all of the time.“Why?” asked Lulu, when I explained this to her.For me this was like asking why I should breathe.“None of my friends do it,” Lulu added.“That’s not true,” I said. “I’m 100% sure that Amy and Junno did the extra credit.” Amy and Junno were the Asian kids in Lulu’s class. And I was right about them; Lulu admitted it.“But Rashad and Ian did the extra credit too, and they’re not Asian,” she added.“Aha! So many of your friends did do the extra credit! And I didn’t say only Asians do extra credit. Anyone with good parents knows you have to do the extra credit. I’m in shock, Lulu. What will the teacher think of you? You went to recess instead of doing extra credit?” I was almost in tears. “Extra credit is not extra. It’s just credit. It’s what separates the good students from the bad students.""Aww - recess is so fun," Lulu offered as her final sally. But after that, Lulu, like Sophia. always did the extra credit. Sometimes the girls got more points on extra credit than on the test itself - an absurdity that would never happen in China. Extra credit is one reason that Asian kids get such notoriously good grades in the United States.Rote drilling is another. Once Sophia came in second on a multiplication speed test, which her fifth grade teacher administered every Friday. She lost to a Korean boy named Yoon-seok. Over the next week, I made Sophia do twenty practice tests (of 100 problems each) every night, with me clocking her with a stopwatch. After that, she came in first every time. Poor Yoon-seok. He went back to Korea with his family, but probably not because of the speed test.
Once when I was young-maybe more than once-when I was extremely disrespectful to my mother, my father angrily called me "garbage" in our native Hokkien dialect. It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn't damage my self esteem or anything like that. I knew exactly how highly he thought of me. I didn't actually think I was worthless or feel like a piece of garbage. As an adult, I once did the same thing to Sophie, calling her garbage in English when she acted extremely disrespectful toward me. When I mentioned I had done this at a dinner party, I was immediately ostracized. One guest named Marcy got so upset she broke down in tears and had to leave early. My friend Susan, the host, tried to rehabilitate me with the remaining guests. "Oh dear, it's just a misunderstanding. Amy was speaking metaphorically-right, Amy? you didn't actually call Sophie 'garbage.'""Um, yes I did. But it's all in the context," I tried to explain. "It's a Chinese immigrant thing.