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Engineering Childhood for Future Success August 25, 2014

Filed under: Education,Parenting — Reena @ 6:39 pm
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education, stressed kids, learning, free timeWe all want the best for our children but the philosophies on child rearing have changed quite a bit over the generations.   These days it seems there are more and more families trying to engineer their kids’ childhood to ensure future success.  I don’t know if this is even possible but many seem to be trying.  They are putting their kids in extra academic classes so that they are ahead of their classmates and also participating in several extra-curricular activities.  Parents know that a child needs to be well-rounded to get into a good college or to qualify for scholarships so they are taking extra music classes, joining multiple sports, etc. Kids of previous generations also participated in many extra activities based on their interest.  The difference was that back then many of these were through the school or if they were private, it was because the child really wanted to do it.  There wasn’t as much thought about how this will benefit them on a college application.  Kids used to go to tutors and Kumon because they were having trouble in school and when they were already A-students.  Nowadays, kids are often lacking any sort of free time to just play and imagine because they are in so many structured activities.  Even if they aren’t in a class, they must practice or do related homework.

Is this level of constant pressure, increasing their chances of success?  It may be if you believe that hard work pays off but there are also other things to consider.  Will these over-stressed kids burn out faster?  Will they have less social or soft skills in life because they spent too much time in structured activities over social ones?  Are we robbing them of a precious childhood where things were supposed to be more carefree and relaxed since adulthood is full of work and pressure anyway?  Some argue that there is global competition now and the kids have to work harder because of it.  I do agree that we can’t let our kids slack off and they do have to understand that learning and focus will pay off.  I just also believe that innovation and forward thinking is most often done in free-time and not in a classroom.  I’m sure the kids that are doing all the extra work and classes will eventually get good jobs.  However, to foster the creativity and brilliance that brings amazing new ideas into the world, I think we need to let these kids have some time to find themselves, use their imaginations, make friendships, and navigate uncharted territories.  We as parents have to realize that we can give them opportunities and love but we can’t engineer their childhoods and know a certain outcome.



Not Enough Summer Time July 30, 2014

Filed under: Parenting — Reena @ 9:54 pm
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time-flyingSummertime comes and I have all these grand plans of what I will do with the boys but there doesn’t seem to be enough time.  I want them to be free to play and explore, swim and just hang out with friends who come to the door.  We try to make sure they do a couple of workbook pages so they don’t forget everything they learned last year.  Then, of course, there are the video games which we are a bit more lenient on when school is out.  Trying to fit all this in is hard enough but then there are also camps and classes and play dates and social events.  We also do the summer reading program at the library but they seem to borrow many more books than they ever read.  I try not to fret over it since it is summer and I want them to enjoy their childhood.

I also think of summer as the time when I will get to infuse all kinds of other experiences and lessons into my kids.  I want to meditate with them to help them be calm and focused.  I want to teach them community service by volunteering somewhere or locally.  I want to do arts and crafts with them to inspire their creative side.  There are so many more things I would love to do but time keeps running out.  Their childhood is flying by and I as a mother am trying to give them lessons and experiences that will grow them into happy and successful people but maybe I’m too ambitious.

They say “time flies when you’re having fun” so we must be having fun or just really busy.  Sometimes I just wish time would slow down so I could enjoy all these experiences with the kids and not just feel like we’re running from one activity to the next.  I’m trying my best and maybe I won’t get to everything this summer or next but I will still try to give the kids a fun summer full of structured and unstructured activities to enrich their childhood!


A Soccer Mom’s Perspective on FIFA World Cup June 27, 2014

Filed under: Opinion,Parenting,Sports — Reena @ 8:30 am
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FIFA, Soccer, world cup, soccer momI generally don’t care to play or watch sports. I only watch a few games a year and that is more for the social aspect.  However, now that my son’s both play soccer, I am getting into watching this sport.  It is a constant and exciting game and I find myself fully engaged.  It doesn’t have the long pauses of baseball and American football.  Though those pauses give time for TV commercials and make those sports much more profitable in the U.S.  I guess that is why we hardly see soccer matches on TV here.  However, now there is FIFA World Cup fever going on and it shows that I’m not the only one loving this sport.  Tons of people are talking about it and all the kids who play, along with their soccer moms and dads are getting excited about soccer.  It’s nice to see pro-role models for our young soccer athletes, especially ones from our own country.   It’s also great that this is something I can bond with my boys over and we can enjoy it together as a family.

I think it’s great to watch the talented and skilled players playing for their home countries.  The fact that so many of the players are good-looking is only a plus for female viewership.  My boys picking up ideas for when they kick the ball around is another plus.  One downside was that my kids’ soccer coach canceled their practice because he was too busy watching the U.S. play Ghana!  I guess he was victim to the world cup fever going around.

I think another reason that people here are so engaged is that the matches have not been going as people would have predicted.  Many of the top teams are under-performing and the underdogs are doing surprisingly well.  This means that there could be a surprise every time you watch and people feel a sense of excitement.  I know I do.  I really hope that despite the commercial/financial issues of why we don’t see as much professional soccer in the U.S., I hope things change.  This is a sport I could watch more often and would be sad to see the fun end after the world cup!  Now if only I could figure out how they are scoring and advancing teams…



Life Can Be Shorter Than You Expect June 17, 2014

Filed under: Inspiration,Life,Parenting — Reena @ 7:21 pm
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life is short, loss of friend, friendshipsRecently, I lost a friend to cancer and it really shook me up.  I was sad that he’s gone and I won’t ever get to see him again.  But, I was also really upset that many, many months had gone by and we hadn’t spoken and then it was too late.  I knew he was undergoing treatment but he told me that he had a lot more time even if the treatment failed.  So, as many of us do, I got caught up in day-to-day issues of life and had not spoken to him.

Well, after this tragedy, it made me realize that I really shouldn’t take life and friends for granted and I should reach out a little more often.  I used to be a social butterfly when I was younger but then I think I became socially lazy in the last decade and also much busier with family.  Sometimes, it just feels like too much work to call people and make plans after a week of taking care of kids while my husband is traveling.  I’d rather just go to a movie, or roam around in a mall and relax.  However, I have realized that I do need friends and people in my life other than immediate family and that means putting in some effort.  Many of my friendships have a strong foundation because of past history but they still need some occasional nurturing if they are going to live on.

It is hard to keep up with people when many live at a distance or lead very different lives.  Though I still think it is important to at least shoot an email or make a call every now and then to see how they are doing.  People may be going through a crisis and one can’t assume that no news is good news.  Even if nothing is wrong, as a friend, you should know about the joys in your friends’ lives as well and share it with them.

I’m definitely taking this sad lesson to heart and going to try to do better from now on.  I really don’t like calling people much but I’ll do it sometimes or at least send and email.  I want to teach my kids that it is important to have friendships and to nurture those relationships too.  I guess this is my mid-year resolution so let’s see how long I can hold to it.  Life is short, don’t waste it…


The Fun of NJ ASK Testing May 8, 2014

Filed under: Education,Parenting — Reena @ 10:05 pm
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NJASK, standardized tests, school testsMany of you, like myself, may be dealing with a child who has NJ ASK testing this month.  I’ve got one taking it this week and the other next week.  I think every family has a different approach to these tests.  Some families seem to be very relaxed and feel that the children will perform as they would and the scores will not impact their education.  Others, especially many Asian families I’ve encountered, believe that these are the first of many tests that will determine their rank and success.  These include all the Tiger moms (who of course are not all Asian) that make their kids study for weeks before the ASK tests.  They put a lot of pressure on the kids to do well.

I think I’m somewhere in between in my approach.  I am guilty of buying some workbooks but am not very strict on having them completed.  I think of the workbooks as a review tool to remind my boys what topics will be covered and what type of questions to expect.  I feel this might be helpful for my third grader who has never seen the test before.  As for my older son, his teacher reminded me that if they need a workbook then he hasn’t been doing his job as a teacher.  That was great to hear since I have faith in this teacher but I can’t be sure that every teacher my kids encounter will be as good.  For that reason, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a little review work at home sometimes.

On the other hand, I don’t want to put too much pressure on my kids since they will have to deal with all that when they are in high school.  At this point, they are learning the tools they need to do well, including good study habits and focus.  I still want them to be carefree and enjoy their childhoods.  I also believe that they should be relaxed during the week of the testing so they can think clearly.  I’m not saying they should play video games all week but playing outside, a little TV and reading seem like good ideas.  They should also sleep on time and eat properly so that hunger and fatigue are not keeping them from performing well.  I was impressed that our schools were handing out a snack each morning to make sure no kid was hungry during the testing.  Glad to see that the administration really cares for our kids too.  Good luck to all the kids for their ASK testing!


Feeling Pride and Shame for Our Country in Williamsburg April 21, 2014

marchingLast week we took our kids to Williamsburg for their shortened (by the snow days) spring break.  It was a fun trip overall with a stop at the grandparents and another stop to see Luray Caverns.  The caverns were a spectacular sight and we all enjoyed exploring them.  Then we ventured to Williamsburg and Jamestown and spent a few days soaking in the history and the culture of those early settlements.

It was impressive to hear the reading of the Declaration of Independence and to watch ‘Thomas Jefferson’ speak to the masses about the issues of the time.  Everyone was dressed in colonial garb and stayed in character the whole time.  The reenactments of battles and regular colonial life were quite a sight as well.  It made me proud to see what the founding fathers did and endured to settle this country.  However, there was a flip side to that pride as well.

As much as the settlers fought for independence, many were hypocrites since they owned slaves.  They did not even think of the Blacks wanting freedom or having rights.  We saw the living conditions of the slaves on the plantation and it was horrible.  There were small overcrowded rooms and little food.  The slaves were often tortured and the mortality rates were high.  It was a sad sight to see.

The other aspect of this trip that brought tears to my eyes was seeing the Native American village and its rich culture and hearing about how these people were either killed or chased away from their lands.  It was genocide and awful to think about.  We admired how the Natives lived and their symbiotic relationship with nature.  They didn’t waste anything and they also were very skilled at making things and growing food.  The re-creation of the village and the people dressed as the Native Americans did a really good job of educating us.

So, I came out of this adventure back in time feeling mixed emotions about our history.  It was nice to see the positive things that helped build this great nation but it was awful to think that enslaving Blacks and killing and stealing from the Natives were all part of that past.  I am glad that times have changed and that we are educating our future generations to learn from these mistakes and tragedies.  I think the trip made an impact on my boys and it definitely affected me.  I think it is a great place for a family trip once the kids can understand a bit of the history.


My Son’s First Broken Bone March 11, 2014

Filed under: Parenting — Reena @ 5:19 pm
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broken bones, children's fractures, kid's injuriesAbout six weeks ago, my younger son broke his thumb and it’s been quite an experience.  It happened at a friend’s house while my two boys were playing a board game with their kids.  You would think  a board game wouldn’t be a dangerous activity but my sons started fighting over some cards and then there were tears.  I checked his hand and I didn’t think it was anything serious so we carried on with dinner and playing.  The next day at school he went to the nurse since there was a lot more pain so I took him to the ER.  That’s when we realized from the x-ray that it was broken.  He was bandaged up, arm in a sling, and referred to a hand specialist.  The specialist put him in a huge splint and banned him from sports and activities for at least 6 weeks.  My little guy was being quite brave through all of it and enjoyed telling everyone that his brother pounded his thumb.  This of course put me in an awkward position because I was getting calls from the nurse asking how this happened thanks to the dramatic story that they heard.  I became paranoid that we were going to get reported to social services for basic rough-housing gone wrong!

Well things were going smoothly for about a month.  I helped him write his homework and get dressed but he was managing with most things.  At school he couldn’t go to recess so friends would take turns sitting out with him at the nurse’s office so he had company.  But then after 6 weeks, things changed.  The hand specialist told us to avoid activities for another couple of weeks because of the lingering pain.  We weren’t expecting that.  Suddenly my son’s attitude changed and frustration set in.  He started crying over little things and expressing how hard this injury has been on him.  He had an emotional outpouring about all the things he is left out of and how upset he’s been.  Since that day he has been hypersensitive about everything and though I understand it, it has been exhausting for me and my husband.

I suppose we got very lucky that he had such a good attitude about it all for many weeks.  However, I think we got used to that and took it for granted.  We should have realized that a little kid will not be okay with not playing or doing things with his friends.  Maybe as parents we should have compensated for his loss by giving him special attention for a while.  My mom guilt makes me feel bad about that now but a friend reminded me that this is a lesson for him that sometimes in life we have to deal with difficulties and people won’t coddle us.  It is a fine line between making sure you toughen up your baby and not wanting them to ever experience any pain!  I hope I’ve handled it well enough and hope we have no more big injuries to deal with.



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