Thursday, December 11, 2008

Joyous effort, joyous season

This is the season to be silly. We eat too much and spend too much. Last week, a bunch of us got together to celebrate the end of the year in the spirit of merry-making.

There were a few things that stood out in this gathering – the amazing food, the friendship and camaraderie. But our kids -- they stood out in particular because they did us proud with their achievements.

Remember, we are a bunch of sometimes pushy moms who stand behind our kids and make them do what our moms made us do – our homework, our practice, whatever it might have been. We Asian moms carry inherent DNA in us that forges our survival. We carry this survival kit, everyday, every moment, seldom easy if we let go.

I was particularly awestruck by 2 kids in our group who made a choice last year to apply to get into architecture school at university. That was plan A. These 2 girls had no plan B, their parents told me. They were so confident of making it. They did. And this week, watching those 2 girls again – made me realise their true prowess. These 2 young adults played the piano for us – they sounded discordant because they didn’t have their own music. But they obliged us. What they lack for in prepared-ness, they made up for in gung-ho-ness. I have no doubt they can play the piano. After a few songs, they told me there were a musical duo to be reckoned with.

Many talent in one bundle
Then we heard another kid (young man) whose parents told me he finished university ahead of time. I know from the past he was a competitive swimmer. He has a formidable upper torso, I am sure. And when we heard him play the piano, I am sure music, studies, sports – they excel within this being at real ease.

One young boy went from having zero Mandarin, to being conversant. I always have admiration for this young man – when he was in college, he came to tutor Princess of the House. He has a great gentleness and patience about him. My admiration for him grew when he started speaking to my parents in Mandarin (from having no Mandarin a few years ago). Oh, then he also grew in stature because he also likes Orson Scott-Card who is my all-time favourite author. He sang us a Chinese song. I think he lost his tune because I know this song. But he earned my respect for taking on a difficult language and becoming so good at it. His mom has raised a fine young man.

Our hostess’ teenage son played Pachelbel’s Canon on the piano – heavenly enough to bring angels down to earth. He also entertained us on his diabolo (a juggling contraption) which made me certain he is a man with many hidden talents. I am also convinced the juggling takes real concentration and effort. He was gentleman enough to play down to Princess’ level at table tennis – very awesome.

Other parents in our crowd have similarly outstanding children who were not there. My Princess was game enough to do 2 pieces on the piano. I noticed her mistakes with Shubert's Moment Musical but then I am used to Vladimir Horowitz’s rendition of the same piece on YouTube. Yet, she did well with Rihanna’s Take a Bow. I am particularly awestruck by Princess because she missed 8 weeks of school, had many surgical procedures and never let that stop her from picking up and continuing as if life was normal.

Behind every success is effort
We Asian parents celebrate our success through our kids. And this is despite all of us being successful people in our own areas of work. A few of us hold full-time jobs, others part-time. We are different in how we lead our lives from our mothers who were mostly stay-at-home moms. But we are no different from our stay-at-home moms who pushed us beyond our limits.

Comfort zone is a dirty word. I think we parents push our kids beyond their comfort zones so they can rise above the ordinary. I don’t mind ordinary people. But it bugs me when Princess skips over the effort bit. Children can do extraordinary things -- with effort. Effort lends itself to success. One of the 6 perfections which the Buddha taught his followers was joyous effort. The other perfections are generosity, patience, concentration, ethics, wisdom – I forget in which order. How wise to master all 6.

So, here’s a celebration of our kids – who do have been practicing effort, concentration and patience (if not wisdom and ethics or generosity). And here’s a celebration of moms and dads who stood behind these great children, ever loyal and faithful, every step of the way.