Monday, January 31, 2011

The Lullabye of the New Age Hippie Mother

So by now, everyone has read Amy Chua's excerpt from her book, or at least a commentary on, or many comments about The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. This blog isn't really a "MommyBlog" in the vein of most. This is just a family site to share our kids, but sometimes, I find I need to say more. I don't really want to give this book yet more coverage, but I am not one to keep quiet - and it's not like anyone reading is going to go out and buy the book...

Though, as I understand, the book is about the whole arc of discovering parenting and not really as bad as the Wall St Journal excerpt made it seem, the premise, that a "successful" child = one who is top in their class and tops at music (preferably the violin or piano - I guess guitar or drums are not acceptable) is what disturbs me even more than the parenting style. See, many of us are outraged at what appears to border on child abuse. But then, many mainstream articles have suggested maybe we're outraged because she was right. Maybe, we western (US) parents really are just too lazy to put the effort into raising our kids, are too scared to push them to get straight As, too hesitant to deny frivolous things like playdates, sports, crafts and fun.

But again, why is the measure of success getting all As? Leaving aside the issue that only one person can be top of the class, so if we all expected our kids to be perfect, many of us would be disappointed and have kids who view themselves as failures.

Yes, I want my kids to do well in school. I want them to excel at the things they try. But more importantly, I want them to love learning. I want them to work hard at it because the challenge is fun and exciting. I want my kid to continue to come home saying "Mommy! I know things!" because she learned new stuff in school that day as opposed to "Mommy! I need to get 100%!" or pulling out her hair in stress saying "I need to do better than Jane/Tommy/every-other-kid."

I want them to be just as happy picking up the drums as a violin (ok, maybe not the there a quiet musical instrument?) or kicking a soccer ball or twirling like a ballerina or whatever excites them. I want them to be willing to try any activity they think is fun (legal and appropriate of course). Gymnastics? Ballet? Swimming? Diving? Soccer? T-ball? Football? Creative writing? Crafts? Painting? Building? Yes!

Maybe they'll choose one and become the best. Or maybe they'll be second best. Or maybe they'll just do it and have fun and move on to the next thing.

Some might think this will make them non-commital in life, never settling on one thing. But I don't think so. That's pretty much what I did, and at various points in my life, excelled at whatever activity I put my heart into. No, I never became an Olympic diver nor am I likely to win a Nobel Prize, but to date, I've had a pretty dang good life and am pretty happy with all I've done.

Am I willing to push my kids? Yes. I hope, however, that we have the intuition to recognize when they need to be pushed, and when they just need support. If any of my teachers/coaches/parents had called me "garbage" (as Chua does) or threatened to destroy all my toys, or forced me to practice with no water/bathroom breaks, I'd have learned to hate the activity (and to be honest, Angelina can go about 10x longer without a bathroom break than I can).

Negative reinforcement doesn't work. For me. And I don't think it'll work for my kids. Indeed, I have found it takes far more energy to pay attention to them, to learn to understand what it is will motivate them. Much easier to scream and yell and demand, but far more negative emotional energy than any of us wants to live with and it doesn't really work.

I'm pretty sure my kids will be successful in life, because the foundation is one of happiness and love of learning. And most importantly, a love of life and people.

Friday, January 21, 2011

You know you're a parent when....

You accept "gifts" without question...

Laying in bed, nursing Lenaïc to sleep (who, by the way, has already puked on me twice, thanks to a tummy bug acquired from Wednesday's playgroup)....Angelina crawls into bed next to us.

"Goodnight Mommy."
"Goodnight Sweetpea."
"Here you go Mommy" as she puts something into my fingers - I can't tell what, I feel nothing. I think it's some imaginary magic wand or something (she has quite the imagination....and I'm reading Harry Potter)
I continue to swirl my fingers around to see if there's something actually there.

Angelina whispers, sweetly, "Mommy. It's my booger."

Friday, January 14, 2011

Holiday Recap

Finally getting around to uploading some pictures. If you haven't received our holiday card, it's because I never got around to sending them, and here's why... Frédéric had his annual meeting in San Francisco, and another meeting in Switzerland, so we decided to make it a round the world (or at least two continents and one ocean) trip and join him.

We all flew to So Cal together, then he flew up to SF while Angelina, Lenaïc and I stayed with the family for a week. Lots of outings with cousins: beach, Christmas play, Hannah's horse show, walk to see the over-the-top Christmas lights on Thoroughbred in Rancho Cucamonga, picking out and decorating a Christmas tree for Uncle Chris and family, decorating Aunt Loretta and Uncle Bruce's tree, ice skating, playing with cousins....ending on Sat with a family birthday party for Lenaïc, which special guests of honor: Chip and Trisha (Chip is my old diving coach whom I've known since I was 6!). (For pictures see HERE)

Lenaïc was a little grouchy at his birthday party, and a few hours later I learned why. When we woke him at 3:30am to leave for the airport for our 6am flight, he had a temp of 102.7F! Fortunately, a little tylenol brought it down and no more fever after that - Phew!

Then the LOOOOOONG flight to Geneva. Stop in Denver, Stop in Washington Dulles, then overnight flight to Geneva. Apparently, Lenaïc didn't get the memo that overnight flights = sleep. he was feeling fine so not fussy, but so not interested in sleeping. We'd beeen lucky as Angelina has always been a really good (read sleeps a lot) flier. Lenaïc, on the other hand, must have thought this was the party flight. Lucky for us, the flight attendants loved him and were happy to have him join them in the galley and played games with him for a few hours while the rest of the plane slept. Unfortunately, not me. Still, I can't complain too much as he hardly cried.

After a visit with Granpapa, we headed off to Bern so Frederic could work while I played with the kids. We took a lot of walks, and Angelina had an art class at the Paul Klee Museum which was very cool! Then back to L'Abergement for sledding, ice skating, visiting cousins and friends, Christmas parties, New Year Parties, and more! For more pictures, see HERE

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Ice Skating!

It was a holiday of winter sports: Sledding and Ice Skating (no skiing just yet). Trying to figure out what to do on a cold and rainy Friday afternoon in California, cousin Kyle came up with the great idea to go ice skating! Angelina had never been but I'd been wanting to take her.
Along came Hannah, Camille, and Martina (Kyle decided it was no fun with all girls). Nanny came along to watch Lenaïc while I skated and showed off my Dorothy Hamill-era spirals (and became dizzy...there's a reason I didn't last long in figure skating).

Angelina took to it right away and couldn't wait to go again once we got to Switzerland. There's a wonderful lake, Lac de Joux> where we went ice skating 3 years ago and Angelina learned to walk. But it was just too cold, so we decided to stay a little closer to home and go to an indoor rink. We went twice, first with the Gloor Family and a few days later with the Allegrini cousins. By the 3rd time, she was doing really well! Still needing help with the cone, but a lot more confident.

Lenaïc was satisfied to ice skate while in Papa's arms.

Embrace the Mess!

Thise article in the New York Times struck a cord with me.
And no, it's not just an excuse to be messy. Kids really do need space and time to be free. To make up games, to create their own stories, to turn a box, some tupperware, cans, you name it into whatever their imagination decides.

Last night Angelina made a "slide" out of the couch cushions. Realizing it wasn't sturdy enough for her to slide down, she decided it was perfect for her many stuffed animals. So along they came, and "hid" under the remaining cushions.

And of course there's Lenaïc who likes to play the "let's discover what's in the back of the cupboard/bottom of the drawer" game which requires emptying out their contents completely.

While I'd like to have a little less mess, at least there's the Clean Up Song. Clean Up, Clean up, everybody clean up. Let's work together, everyone do their share."

"There's water under the snow!"

Snow Snow everywhere! We arrived in Switzerland following a couple of weeks of snowstorms. Fortunately, the storms were mostly over by the time we landed, so no flight delays.

What we found instead was a winter wonderland. Even more so when it snowed again on Christmas Eve, and then the day after Christmas was spectacularly sunny and gorgeous, so we had this view while sledding on the hill outside Granpapa's house.

Angelina LOVED sledding. Every day. EVERY day. Even when it hadn't snowed again and the snow was so thin we were sledding on grass, she asked for more sledding. Who can blame her? How fun is it to ride fast down a hill?

She even loved it when she crashed, burying her face in the snow she exclaimed "There's water under the snow!"

As for Lenaïc, I think I can safely say he had fun crawling in the snow. We weren't brace enough to go downhill on the sled with him, so he had to content himself with playing in it.

One thing is for certain, these Allegrini kids live life FULLY.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

"All My Cousins"

Not technically cousins, but Angelina believes that all kids in Switzerland are her cousins. My kid is definitely not exclusive. These are some of Frederic's dearest friends, 2 of whom are his godchildren. Angelina is convinced they are her cousins and there's no explaining otherwise. So cousins they are!

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