Photo Credit: Japan Experna
I have used swear words for much of my adult life. I grew up in a culture where swearing was normal and common in conversation. Then I moved across the county to an area that had a very different vibe. One of my first impressions was: “No one here drinks or swears.” Now I know that is not true. It just wasn’t flaunted in the way to which I was accustomed.
I started reeling in my potty mouth because I felt I was coming on too strong. However, I learned over time that many adults in my new locale swore. They just did it privately or with certain people. Still, this experience prompted me to look at how I used language and to fine tune my filter.
Once I had children, I tightened things even further. Before I go on, I want to say I have plenty of friends who swear in front of their kids. I am not judging that. Every home has its own rhythm, and there are many ways to approach a subject. I am reflecting on my own journey.
Part of my decision to abstain from swearing in front of my kids as much as possible came from the fact that I tend to be an all or nothing person. I find it hard to moderate things. If I am going to swear, I am not holding back. Another aspect of this had to do with where to draw the lines. As the mom, I have the ability to shape the culture in my home, and while I want kids to express feelings, I also want them to be thoughtful about how to do it most effectively. Swear words are great because they put a fine point on things like nothing else. That power is undeniable. And because of that, I decided instead of not allowing certain words, I would categorize them as power words and establish some ground rules around them.
Power words for me are more than swears. Power words are anything, good or bad, that merit caution and thought.
On the negative side, this includes name calling (i.e. stupid, idiot, jerk) or overly dramatic statements. Hearing something like “I hate this show” gives me pause. When one of my kids says “hate,” we talk about it. They aren’t in trouble, but we explore the meaning of the word and think on if it’s the best choice for that situation. Sometimes it is. Often it isn’t.
A positive that comes from this attention to speech is that when emotions run hot in our house (and they do get hot), for the most part, we don’t call each other names or throw around negative power words. It’s not a perfect system, but when things break down, we take time to sort it out and find better language to communicate what is really going on.
On the other hand, I don’t leave my kids in a bubble. On a hike with my son, I taught him all the core swear words and their meanings. He’s going to hear them around, and many he already had and just didn’t understand. This subversive lesson was hand in hand with a discussion on the appropriate time and place to use them, if at all, with the caution to not use words of which you don’t know the meaning. A year or two later, after one particularly rough day at middle school involving some nasty behavior from another student, I pulled out some particular swears to sum up the situation. My son paused and said, “Yes, Mom! That’s exactly what it’s like. It’s a **bleepity bleep**.” We then had a conversation about the meat of the issue. It’s not that we can’t use these words, but I never want those words to be all that there is.
Plus, these power word conversations have been a bridge to addressing more racially and sexually charged language with my kids. It gives us a framework. When I started this process ten years ago, I did not envision the open hostility expressed daily in current American society. I think these lessons on power words are even more important now, as much for me as for my kids. I don’t know if I am preparing my children appropriately, but at least between us, we can talk (and swear) with thought and purpose.
Do you swear in front of your children? How does swearing work in your culture?
This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Tara B.
How fast can the years rush by?
Imagine putting your eyes to a kaleidoscope and marveling at the beauty of the image. Now, just a tiny flick of the wrist and the image shifts and coalesces into something completely new. Beautiful, but new. That is the feeling I have each time I get off the phone after talking to my rapidly-growing teenage son, studying 1800 kms away…
Image 1: Abhi at 6 – Ma, I can’t read this book. What lovely pictures! Will you read out one story?…One more, please?…One last story, Ma, promise!
Image 2: Abhi at 19 – Ma, did you read the book I recommended to you?
Me: (sheepishly) Nope, been too busy. But will soon begin.
Abhi: (a trifle exasperated) Ma, promise me you’ll read a chapter today – it’s excellent! I’ve been telling you for ages!
Me: I promise…
Image 3: Abhi at 7 – Ma, I forgot to wear the hoodie jacket. I was having so much fun at the winter carnival! I won’t catch a cold, hopefully.
Image 4: Abhi at 19 – Ma, when will you begin to take your own advice on health? Why are you working so hard? And the next time you are unwell, you are not accepting a new assignment!
Mom with sonny boy with their favourite stray at Gokarna beach, summer of 2017
And so on it goes…My heart turns into a happy mush with equal parts of pride and nostalgia, each time I listen to the oh-so-mature and earnest young man. Wasn’t it just yesterday that the voice by my side chattered excitedly about a hundred random things? Today, the deep voice travelling through all the distance between two cities, tells me the little chick has turned into a bird that can fly on its own.
Motherhood seems like an enchanting journey with twists and bends that are unpredictable and inevitable. No one tells you that one fine day the roles of parenting will get neatly reversed. Or that the constant flow of questions and words of the little one will one day taper down and that the ever-burgeoning timetable of your young one will need you to schedule calls. That you will watch and marvel from a distance while your teen will deal deftly with the demands of life, surprising you with his or her decision-making abilities.
Enjoying the kaleidoscope:
The temptation to step in, to answer the question directly, to supply the ready solution, is still there. But these days, I have learnt to wait. To answer a question with a counter-question. Notwithstanding the vagaries of distance and time. To be patient as he figures out the right solution.
In other words, I am enjoying the kaleidoscope! ☺
Enjoy the shifting patterns of the kaleidoscope!
The author serving as a substitute teacher at a local Chinese-language school in San Diego
I’ve served as a judge at some local children’s Chinese-language speech and recitation contests on several occasions. I still remember my first time. I saw a little boy in a suit and tie, speaking with a crisp voice, saying, “Summer is my favorite season because the sunny days are cheerful and inspire me to do great things for my people.” When speaking, he raised his two fists high in the air.
Then I saw a little girl in a dress and high heels, who with a clear but shy voice said, “Winter is my favorite season because it reminds me the Chinese fairy tale ‘Snow Child,’ a story that describes the noble sentiments of Chinese people.” Then she wiped her eyes in an exaggerated way.
These children were all born in the United States, of Chinese descent. They spoke Chinese in crisp, clear voices, but the speech content was confusing. I really wanted to ask the girl what she meant by “the noble sentiments of Chinese people,” or the boy what “great things” he was going to do for his people. I got the impression that most of the scripts were written by parents.
After the young children spoke, the older kids stepped onstage. A couple of teenagers in T-shirts and shorts hesitantly walked up, muttering things like, “We should respect our teachers, because…because Chinese people believe in their teachers, well I’m American, not Chinese, but… oh well, let’s just respect our teachers” or, “We should respect our parents because…because they are too old to understand anything we say…let’s just listen to them when we are home.”
It was funny to see young people of Chinese appearance speaking with such strong American accents – so strong that I could barely understand them. Nine out of ten parents sitting in the auditorium frowned, clearly not enjoying the speech. Were they sad because their teenagers were not speaking Chinese as well as they had in elementary school? Were they worried because their children’s speech was not good enough to get them into college?
While considering how to score, I thought of my own child. He was then nine months old. I couldn’t help but wonder whether he would be able to tell the fairy tale Snow Child in fluent Mandarin Chinese. Would he become an American kid with an American accent and complain that “Mom is too old to understand anything I say”?
I frowned, like all the parents in the auditorium.
In my family, we speak Chinese at home and English at work or school. My son was a late talker, but our pediatrician comforted us, saying that although bilingual kids can be slow to speak at the beginning, they usually catch up quickly. He encouraged us to insist on speaking Chinese at home.
We tried to create a Chinese-only environment at home with hopes that my son’s first word my son would a Chinese word. But the hope came to naught: his first word was an English word he learned at the daycare: “Daddy”. This was my first failure in raising a bilingual child. In spite of this, we continue to speak Chinese at home. Every night we read bed time stories together in Chinese. By the time he was three, my son could speak fluent Chinese, and tell “Snow Child” and many other fairy tales without help. I was very proud.
But my pride didn’t last for long. Just a couple of months ago, his preschool teacher told me that he had a hitting problem. The theory was that because my son didn’t speak English as well as other kids, his ability to stand up for himself in arguments was limited, and he turned to physical means of expressing himself.
The teacher suggested that we set an “English time” at home to help my son improve his English. I didn’t like the idea: the more I exposed him to English, the less chance he got to speak Chinese. Didn’t he speak a whole lot of English at school already?
But the hitting problem got worse. After consulting our pediatrician and therapist, I finally gave in and started a daily English storytime at home. Kids are really like sponges, and his English improved in no time. He stopped hitting his preschool classmates, but his Chinese language skills went backwards.
I started to understand why I kept seeing the same thing at Chinese speech and recitation contests: the younger the children are, the better their Chinese language skills are. I started to understand that my hope of raising a bilingual child fluent in Chinese might once again come to naught.
I worked as a staff writer at a local Chinese-language newspaper when I was young. Many times, I interviewed outstanding second or third generation Chinese-Americans. When I asked them for a Chinese name for publishing purpose, they often said, “I don’t remember my Chinese name.”
A Chinese-American anti-death penalty activist once “drew” down her Chinese name for me after an interview. I couldn’t read the symbols she had drawn. I tried to guess and wrote down two characters next to her drawing. She read my writing and happily announced, “Yes, that’s my name!”
When the article was published the next day, I got a phone call in the newsroom from an old lady speaking Chinese with a sweet Beijing accent. She identified herself as the mother of the anti-death penalty activist, and said that I had gotten her daughter’s name wrong. I apologized, and she said, “That’s okay, I understand. My daughter must have made the mistake herself. She never remembered her Chinese name. But I just want to let you know.” Then she was silent. “Hello! Hello?” I said, not sure if I should hang up. Then she started to talk again, asking me where I was from, if I was married, and if I had children.
At that time I was married but there were no children yet. The old lady aid earnestly, “Take my advice. When you have your own kids, always speak Chinese to them.”
“Sure, sure,” I said, just saying that to make her happy.
Through the years I’ve seen many second generation Chinese-Americans struggling to learn Chinese.
Since having my own child, I often think of the old lady and her daughter who couldn’t remember her own Chinese name. The thought is almost painful.
It is not just the America-born children who are struggling. The away-from-home adults are also struggling. I am a professional writer who was born to Chinese parents and raised in Taiwan, but who has spent her entire adulthood in the States. I struggled to improve my English during my first years in the United States. Now I write English more then Chinese. I can clearly see that I no longer speak Chinese as well as I used to. When I was in my twenties, I was eager to get rid of my Chinese accent. Now I’m desperate to maintain my Chinese language skill.
My son will soon be four, old enough to go to the Chinese language school. I decided to let him start this fall. He doesn’t like the idea of going to school on weekends, and asks, “Why do I have to learn Chinese?”
I didn’t know how to explain the concept of culture to a toddler. I just told him, “So you can read ‘Journey to the West’.” The other night I read him the chapter “Monkey Subdues White-Skeleton Demon” from the classic novel. He wanted to know if the Monkey eventually returned to his teacher Xuanzang. I wouldn’t tell him. I told him that he will read it one day by himself.
I still hope to raise a bilingual child who speaks fluent English and at least understandable Chinese. I don’t expect him to love the Chinese language right away. Language is always first a tool and then an art. I hope my son will first learn how to use the tool, and then, maybe one day, he’ll truly fall in love with the art.
Are you raising a bilingual child? How do you manage the cultural balance between more than one language?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by T0-Wen Tseng. Photo credit: David Sprouse.
As a new mum, I quickly realised that I wasn’t capable of meeting my baby’s needs, staying alive/sane myself, and having a clean house and the garden the way I would like it. I’m not sure if that’s just me or if it was my baby (eventually three babies) or the way I chose to parent, but it was that simple. I made the only choice I thought I had: the mess ruled, and still does, the babies and I came/come first.
It cost me people: after my anti-natal coffee-group had been around on one particularly messy occasion, I had several in that group who never returned; I had someone close to me, on more than one occasion tell me she couldn’t live this (with dramatic gesture) way, and my ex-father-in-law was postively rude every time he walked in the door.
I care. I cared. It upset me. I like things to be clean and orderly, I’d love my garden to be gorgeous with trimmed lawns. I’d like it done and it drives me nuts that in my otherwise very well organised life, I can’t pull it all off. I’m not sure how others can. How do you?
Now the boys are older (15, 12 & 7.5 – don’t forget the half), and I’m a solo-mum. I work full-time equivalent between two jobs, and the kids and I still come as first as we can. The boys contribute to getting things done and daily/weekly I do the basics like loo and washing, but still outside and inside usually look like a tribe of elephants has been through. I still get people calling in and casting an eye and giving me the frosty-nostril – to the point I’ve never really had visitors come to the house for over two years.
I have lovely friends, and the vast majority would visit me and not my house, but that sense of not being enough remains constant. I rarely even have my parents around for a meal and I’m always watching people’s reactions as they walk in the door. I’m conscious of not meeting some ridiculous standard of perfection. All. The. Time.
I also have no inclination to exercise beyond the incidental 10,000 steps I do each day; none of us is fit – but apparently that’s a capital offense too.
And, there’s the new issue of having been separated for over two years of – why are you still single, have you met anyone yet, time to get online dating, he’s got a new girlfriend, why haven’t you…
And dammit,this all bugs me. I’m 49 years old and pretty damned happy with the way my life is panning out, the boys are well-adjusted and make me very proud (mostly because, kids), I love my work and I have great friends and enough of a social life to keep me feeling part of the world. But these things still get to me: why isn’t my house cleaner and tidier; why isn’t my garden looking pristine; why aren’t we all fit and gorgeous; why can’t I really be bothered to be out looking for a new partner?
And why do I care what other people think?
I still remember that day from last year.
I knew something was not right when the homeroom teacher got the principal, school counselor and some other unfamiliar faces as I sat down in their office.
My gut feelings were right. They pretty much told me my son couldn’t continue in that school for the next school year. In other words, my son got kicked out of school.
“We all agree that it is best for your son to go to a school where they can cater to his needs.“
I felt anger rise in the bottom of my stomach. Anger for receiving the news on such short notice mixed with a sense of panic of where to put my son to school next.
I blamed myself for this. Not my boy, but me…his mother who should’ve done more investigative work before sending him to the closest school to home. When I picked that school it was because they were the closest to our home. If you are familiar with Jakarta’s traffic, you would understand that I just don’t have the heart to send off my child to school before the crack of dawn like many other children have to do. I thought I had picked the right school.
My son has his challenges. Behavior problems that the school simply couldn’t handle anymore.
My sensitive boy has always been different.
He has been tested for behavior issues before and the results showed that he has no psychological problem and that he is a bright kid. He is not autistic. He is just different. He has difficulties controlling his frustrations which end up in him crying. In a way, his emotional intelligence is a little behind than the other kids in his classroom. This made life so difficult for him; He hated going to school and would come up with 1001 excuses to skip school. Being different is not easy.
The school in question was an expensive school that cost my family over $2,000 in enrollment fees alone and they do have great programs, albeit very high academic demands. My son used to come home with a backpack full homework folders. We were both frustrated by the volumes of academic pressure he was under.
One of his teachers told me one time that he was very smart but he’s not the type to sit still and listen to his teacher during class. Yet somehow he managed to ‘absorb’ what the teacher was talking about.
He is different.
When my son got kicked out school, his father (my ex-husband) was diagnosed with cancer and I was under unbelievable pressure from work. The world felt so heavy on my shoulders. I went home from that meeting feeling defeated, crushed. I kicked myself for not being a good mother who could stay home with him like the other moms. I blamed myself for working long hours. Maybe that’s why he is misbehaving at school? To protest the life that he has. A father who lives overseas, a mother who works long hour, no friends around his age at home to play with. The mommy guilt wore me down.
I could not afford to put my son back in school straight away so I kept him at home for about 6 months, missing the first semester of the new school year. I was too embarrassed to talk about this openly until now.
It wasn’t until I found a local school recommended by a fellow single mom friend that the guilt evaporated. Located a little further away, I studied their concept and philosophy and after a trial class for my son, we both fell in love with this new school.
A school where he could be completely himself must feel liberating in a way. Where he is not judged by whether or not he could sit still or if he prefers to sit on the floor. The new school emphasizes on the facts that every child has a different combination of intelligence that makes him/her unique.
My son started this January and he couldn’t be happier. I have never seen him got so excited about school. Yes, he still has some challenges but seeing how happy he is has reassured me that we finally found the right school for him. Looking back, I realized leaving his old school was the best thing that could ever have happened to him.
How about you, Moms? Are you happy with the educations that your children are getting?
This is part II of the two-part interview with Victor Kannan. Part I is also on World Moms Network’s blog, and some of Mr. Kannan’s own written work can be found Here and Here.
S: When you observe today’s youth, from a child of about 8 years to early 20s, what are some of the traits you’ve noticed that seem ‘new school’ that are good and different from traditions we have had before? I know that’s a wide spectrum, but based on your own experience, what are some of the new traits you’ve seen that are good and some that seem to be detrimental to spiritual growth?
V: You know, they have to be looked at in the context of their environment. If I take a broad stroke, I’d say that on average families are smaller. On average the continuity of flow between grandparents, parents and children is getting weak, if you think of it as a river, where the water flows, where the whole thing has the flow of love and life, of knowledge, of caring relationships. There would be four grandparents present for every grandkid and maybe 15 grandchildren for every grandparent. That kind of a breadth of continuity is becoming thinner and thinner.
If you take this river as the flow of energy, of love, of knowledge from grandparents to grandchildren, that river contains less water today than it did before. And naturally what happens is the children have to look externally for their emotional fulfillment. Both of the parents work these days, and many of them are single parents; it’s like a river with very little water.
So somewhere this generational flow of the river of knowledge and love seems to have dwindled. No single person can take the blame, but it is ,unfortunately, the generation that is evolving, because of our value system and because of our excessive materialistic orientation. So, I think that these children are really starved for love and togetherness with their grandparents, and if the parents are both working, the quality of their time with the children is also limited.
Naturally, they are looking for external things and, unfortunately, or fortunately, there are plenty of them. Now, what does that mean? They get lured by the things that gave them company when parents were not available.
The children are with their parents because they are dependent. They can be from a wealthy family, where they may be hanging around for inheritance or expanding the family business. However, if they are born in a poor family, the modern generation will leave the house. There is nothing in the house for them to hang on to. So, under the circumstances, children are struggling to find their groove.
Suppose you take the so-called typical middle-class family: the children go to school, both parents work, and there is not much time, right? The time spent with the children is also compartmentalized with vacation and programs and schedules. There is no free time singing in the garden together on a Tuesday evening. So, I think the children are becoming more and more isolated. Their behavior is not rooted in some kind of value system, whether of a material ambition, or a family where they have given and taken and sacrificed; look at parents having sacrificed, the grandparents sacrificed, the wealth of upbringing, the richness of upbringing… If the children do not see these sacrifices, they take life for granted and become more materialistic in their orientation.
I am thinking that even though today’s children are isolated and feel lonely, and they are more responsive to the senses and the world around them, the situation can be changed around, by parents and schools adopting a value-oriented education system and a value-oriented relationship system, where you begin with spiritual values. You highlight the spiritual values, and not the material success as what you talk about at the dinner table. Then it will slowly change. So the children can be reoriented and possibilities exist because the 30/ 40/ 50-year-old parents today are more exposed to the science and spirituality combination. Not the religious dogmatic type of thing, or rituals without meaning.
In the modern era, due to stress in life, more and more people are adopting meditation. More and more people are beginning to realize that there is neuroplasticity; that it is never too late to grow. It is never too late to change. These kinds of established new scientific facts are giving hope to people. And again, many of these processes are trans-generational in nature, so it will take 20, 30 years before it changes the society.
So the trend for the youth today, is, that they go after what satisfies them sensorily. They lack a depth in their goals that they want to achieve for themselves. There is also a lack of a properly meshed fabric of love, care, duty, responsibility, and relationship in their lives. They are in a very nebulous, tricky situation, But the families that have spiritual values and can inculcate them into the children should be able to quickly reverse course and become stronger individuals in the future.
S: The analogy of the river was quite impressive, I must say. It helped to visualize what you were saying in a very tangible way. Thank you for putting it that way.
V: I do feel worried and anxious for them. They need direction and inspiration to sustain them. Love and care are the roots of such inspiration from parents, teachers, and role models. So when moms embrace spiritual values and spiritualized material existence, including putting meaning behind activities, and have one or two aspirational goals to shoot for and a few practical positive values they can adopt, they will create a solid foundation for their future and hence the future of any society.
S: You said you have a daughter. Does she practice heartfulness meditation?
V: Yes she does. She is also a trainer. We never forced anything on her, but she was part of what we did. When she didn’t like it, we didn’t force her, and fortunately she came back with a lot of interest, and she has expressed some of her thought and experience in articles on meditation.
S: Where could we find them?
V: If you go to heartfulness magazine, you can look for Dr. Swati Kannan. She has written two articles for the Heartfulness Magazine. So, we are quite happy. But again, I take everything with gratitude. Not with expectation. See, the other thing in our association with any type of meditation system is that expecting an outcome is a seed for disappointment. Especially when it is not rational. What I mean by that is if I go to the gym and if I have a trainer, and if I do the routine I am supposed to do, I will see results in myself. That is the correct expectation. But if I go to the gym and do exercise, and then think that I am going to find a star to marry, or that I will swim across the Amazon, that is not a realistic expectation. So in many systems, including the heartfulness system, you will come across people who say that thanks to the meditation system, or the teacher, or their blessings, “my child became a valedictorian” or similar things. I cringe when I hear that. I cringe when I hear that, because we also know that tragedies happen. In any association or group of people. Things we don’t like happen. Right? If we don’t take these things as milestones in our journey, then we have a wrong understanding of life.
Let’s think about the day. The day starts cool, it gets hot, then it becomes cool again. It starts dark, it becomes light and it gets dark again. But if we don’t accept the seasonality of a day, seasonality of life, the ups and downs, we have a wrong understanding of life, a wrong understanding of the systems that we follow to expand our consciousness. So, I don’t know which question I have answered right now, but it’s very important that we don’t have dogmatic, religious overtones to our expectations from a meditation system. In some way, as our consciousness expands we shoot ourselves in the foot less often, and that is a tangible benefit. As our consciousness expands we develop a 360 degree–vision – a wider view of life in its wholeness. This makes us less volatile and reactive and calmer and better responsive. And this alone will make for growth, progress, happiness and joy in life.
S: I can see how what you just said also translates in how we raise our kids or however we live our lives, whatever practices we have and our expectations in what we want our children to do.
V: It’s like saying that if you go to temple, or a church, or a synagogue, you are a better person. But if you make that statement to the children, and they take it seriously, they will either look at others who are not doing that as bad, or they will look at parents and say, “Hey, it doesn’t work.” So it’s a problem.
S: Switching gears a bit, again: Being that you are in finance, what are three things you would tell a child, that could help a child be financially aware, or money aware. For instance, I wasn’t told anything about money. I was given a piggy bank but didn’t know about managing money.
V: Sure. Money is a means of exchange. Exchange things. Sometimes time is measured in money, and the value of products and services is measured in money. So a child needs to know that the things that they use cost money, and that to make money, one has to put in energy. If they waste things, they waste money, and they waste energy. And suppose you say that if the parents go out and put in the energy to make the money to bring in the things that they enjoy, then if they waste that money, they are wasting their parents’ energy. Then you can say that if you don’t waste, the parent can save that energy, spend that energy with the child, going out for a football game, or you know, going out to a movie, or otherwise spend time together. This is how some level of appreciation of what the parents do is inculcated in them that will, in turn, help them when they grow up. The child can tell the parents to spend more time with them and make less money for both require energy to be spent! Energy spent with the children is the greatest investment parents can make. So automatically everything gets balanced with that perspective. So saying money is energy. Save money, save energy. Spend it wisely where it is needed.
S: If you could tell your younger self, anything, what would it be?
V: I don’t know. I am quite content today as I am where I am. But if I were to go back and tell myself anything, I’d say “just think twice before doing anything”. It’s not that I have wasted a lot of time doing this, that, or the other, but I think that would be a general statement that I could make to myself. I could have avoided a few mistakes, and I could have definitely saved time, money, and energy, and that could have been put for my own personal growth, my family’s happiness as well. So that’s what I would tell myself. Think twice before doing anything. Not to procrastinate, but to pause; have a reasonable awareness of the decision that we are making. After doing the best, we accept what comes afterward.
End of Interview.
This is a post for World Moms Network by Sophi at ThinkSayBe. Photo used with permission from Victor Kannan.