I wanna be a Chinese mom

I doubt China would take me though.

Actually, I just read a Wall Street Journal article about the differences between American (Western) and Chinese (non-Western) parents and I’m thinkin I’ve had this parenting thing a little off all along. One of the key things that hit home with this article was the author’s statement, speaking about Chinese parents’ belief in their children: “They assume strength, not fragility, and as a result they behave very differently.”

Us American moms and dads think of our kids as fragile, easily broken. We assume that by protecting them from struggle, failure, and discouragement we’re somehow building them up. But I really like the idea of assuming my child has strength beyond what I see, resilience, courage.

Sure, there are parts of that article linked to above that I’m not totally on board with. But there are other aspects that I wholeheartedly admire. Like pushing a child to persevere through the tough parts of piano lessons – because the enjoyment will not come until they get through the hard, unforgiving, and joyless bits at the start.

And the idea of demanding more from our kids – demanding excellence because we truly believe they’re capable of it. And because we know that striving harder today will bring character development and long term opportunities for success. What if we saved our praise for truly praiseworthy accomplishments? And got honest with our kids about their non-successes? What if we stopped the “everyone’s a winner” rhetoric?

Let’s take a minute to look at a few of the values I want to teach my kids:

Strength That surely won’t come if I pamper and coddle them.

Courage Again, not gonna happen if I always protect them from falling. They have to earn that on their own.

Respect Hmm… Based on their current level of disrespect, what I’m doing isn’t delivering.

Compassion I think this comes from seeing compassion in action, and the ability to see things through others’ eyes. In other words, it’s not related so much to parenting style, but to lifestyle.

Faith Along with compassion, it comes through experience, and that in any environment, but most effectively in a loving, faithful community.

And finally, I’ve always wanted to give my children that elusive “happy childhood.” Like I had. Like so many people I know had. And like others wish they’d had. But let’s face it. Happiness doesn’t come from hours in front of a TV screen, or even from riding bikes and playing Barbies all day. Lasting happiness is found where we feel we have purpose, are needed, and where we meet challenges. That isn’t the sheltered ‘extended’ childhood most of us strive to give our children. We try to keep them away from anything unpleasant as long as possible, cherishing the innocence of childhood.

I’m just thinking. Maybe our kids would be happier if we pushed them to achieve more. If we didn’t try so hard to keep them happy with ‘stuff’ and lack of responsibility.

Then again, maybe we, as grown-ups, would be happier if we didn’t strive so hard for the white picket fence with 2 luxury cars parked in the garage and a 56″ flat screen hanging on the wall and annual vacations to Cabo…


Note: Don’t be offended by my ramblings. I’m on the verge of changing my parenting style and that makes me feel a little like I’m perched precariously on the edge of a cliff. While balancing on the edge I’m sharing my random thoughts with the whole world. Call me crazy.


Today is a day that will live in infamy. For me, at least.

I enrolled both my boys in full-time daycare, starting Monday, January 3rd. On Monday I’m increasing my workload to full time. The boys will be in school full-time, and I’ll be sending Bean to after school care a few times a week.

That means I am officially a working mom. Well, I’ve been a half-hearted working mom for a while now, but I was always working part-time and trying to hold on to the Stay At Home Mom title for as long as possible. I kind of thought it was better that way.

It got to the point where I was doing mediocre work, and mediocre parenting. Nothing was being done well. The hope is that my kids will all get really good care through the day, and when they’re at home I’ll actually be with them – not dividing my attention between them and a computer screen.

Maybe it’ll make things better. Maybe my kids won’t feel so neglected. Maybe my work will be more consistent. Maybe. Now, excuse me while I jump of this cliff.

Wait. Before I jump I need to take one last foray into Stay at Home Mom-ness. Excuse me while I bake cookies from scratch, knead some bread dough, build Legos, work on subtraction facts, and fashion an intricate castle out of beech wood I whittled while churning butter. And then I’ll tackle that cliff.

My boy is 5

Little Man turned 5 today – kind of hard to believe.

He’s brilliant. He can name the planets in order, from the sun out. He knows his dinosaurs, from Meshikasaurus to Quetzalcoatlus to … well, others that I don’t know. He can put together a skeleton of a human and a manatee – very useful skills to have. He uses big words in regular speech, like ‘ominous’ and ‘conifer.’ He just soaks it all in.

Remember that half a year we spent in Moldova? Did you know that 5 months in he asked if we could please stop speaking English? Romanian was easier for him – at age 3, after only 5 months in country. Of course, he re-learned English in, like, 2 days after we came back state side.

He shocks me with his kindness. Like when he offers to share his cookie with Bruiser or Bean. Or when he decides to share his favorite toy with Bruiser – before I even ask. And he has a great sense of humor. Yesterday’s joke was “Why don’t they gamble in Africa?” “Because there are too many cheetah’s!”

Here’s Liam from 2 1/2 years ago. See that giant head? We still have to buy shirts a size too big to get over his head.

Now, when he asked for a pyramid cake for his birthday, I didn’t think I could pull it off. But pull it off I did. See my artwork?

Instructions are here if you’re doing one of your own.

Make it so

Want to read a great parenting blog today? Check out this post over at This Woman’s Work.

It’s all about telling kids who we think they are. Building their self-knowledge and their character, rather than their self-esteem. It’s about positive communication, and I heartily agree with it.

Silver lining

There’s one good thing about sick kids. One very small thing that makes everything else seem better. Sick kids need extra lovin’. And they do this.

This is bruiser with Gramma today. Have you ever seen anything sweeter?

Who are you…

And what did you do with my child? That’s what we ask Bruiser most days now. A month ago today he started attending preschool 5 half days a week at Bay Life Church’s Lambkins program. Who knew it was just what he needed? Last year he was in a 2-day program at another church program, but it was just a free-play mother’s morning out. He was often a sullen kid who seldom smiled. He yelled a lot. Cried a lot. Was generally single-mindedly disobedient. He gave me a run for my money.

And then a month ago today we took him for his first day at his new preschool. He came home exuberant. Bursting with joy. Animated. I’m not sure what they do there, but my boy is different. Don’t get me wrong, he’d still rather have his own way than obey me, and he gets little notes home in his folder saying that they’re teaching him to ‘use his words’ – in our case that means to use words instead of screeaching at the top of his lungs any time things are not the way he wants them.

But in general… I might just be done with my typical line of questioning at the pediatrician – “Is it normal for him to never ever smile?” “But, I mean, he doesn’t laugh… he only screams.” “Is it ok that he doesn’t seek positive affirmation?’ Because now – he does. He laughs. He smiles. He shows me things and waits for my ‘wow!’ response.

He’s gone from this

To this

I remember struggling with Bean and Little Man to help them adjust to preschool. But Bruiser? He needs adjustment on weekends, when he doesn’t get to see his friends at school. It’s a beautiful thing.

Banish the thumb-sucking!

Years ago we worked tirelessly to keep Bean from sucking on her fingers. 2 kids later Bruiser is almost out of that stage, but when he’s teething the fingers go instantly to his mouth. I know it’s because he’s teething, but I also know that his grimy little hands pick up all sorts of micro-organisms (and macro ones too). And then they end up in his mouth. Ewww…

Today his preschool teacher taught me a trick. A very simple trick. Band-aids. As in, when he’s in that finger sucking mood and I want his grungy little hands out of his mouth, wrap a band-aid around the finger he most likes!

Goodness. Why didn’t someone tell me that 4 years ago? How about you? did you learn something new today?


Over the weekend we moved Bruiser from his crib to a toddler bed. That means I no longer have any crib-dwellers. This is a first in over 6 years. Being that Bruiser has never been one to seek parental approval or obey rules when no one is watching, I was sure that he’d interpret the toddler bed as his own personal release from prison. FREEDOM! I was sure he’d be roaming the halls, endlessly looking for opportunities to postpone bedtime.

I was wrong. We bought a firetruck toddler bed at consignment, and when we brought it home he ‘helped’ me clean it. Once it was assembled in his room, he brought a blanket, gathered his many, many, many lovies, and climbed in. He’s loved it ever since. And he asks permission to get out of it. Now, I’m no fool. I realize that the time will come when he does start to push the limits. But it isn’t here yet.

This morning we had to wake him up for preschool. Hubbs entered the room, watched him snuggle deeper into his blanket, and then gently called out Bruiser’s name. An annoyed “what?” was the response, followed by “it’s not morning yet!” My early riser has learned to sleep in. It’s a beautiful thing.