Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Iplay Peek-A-Boo

Iplay Peek-A-Boo Bag ?Everything A To ZIplay Peek-A-Boo Bag ?Everything A To Z

Henry's friend got one of these for Christmas and he loves smushing it around looking for different items.  The only problem is he really wants to open it!  We killed 15 minutes on the plane looking at this bag.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Airplane Books

We just returned from a long visit with my mom in San Diego, and the trip was fantastic.  The weather was phenomenal and Henry loved visiting Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, meeting Joanna and Nelson's baby Claire, seeing his Ahma, waking up every morning with his cousins, and of course playing at the beach and swimming in the pool.  Sigh ... back to cold dreary Chicago.  At least we have the Packers game to look forward to!

Henry loved reading these two airport/airplane themed books before, during and after our flights.  Paperbacks are the best for travel!
The Noisy Airplane RideThe Noisy Airplane Ride
Noisy Airplane Ride has great sound works and Airport has fun illustrations.

I am NOT a fan of the Amazon recommended book called Going On a PlaneGoing on a Plane (First Experiences).

Friday, January 14, 2011

The "Superior" Chinese Mother?

Everyone has been asking me about the WSJ article by Amy Chua, "Why Chinese Mothers are Superior."  Below is my personal ABC ("American Born Chinese" - or rather ABT "American Born Taiwanese") reaction to the article.  Note, I haven't yet read the book.

Overall I have mixed feelings about Chua's "Chinese" mothering philosophies.

I love the article for evoking so much fire on both sides of the aisle.  The 5,8733 comments and counting on WSJ's site show how it has really struck a chord with parents and aspiring parents - who ,let's face it, have no idea what they are talking about.  Unfortunately, many of the comments focus on the use of the word "superior" in the title over the actual philosophy.  The pissing matches over who is better, communist China or America are embarrassing.  These readers might as well just write in caps, "USA, USA, USA."  The outrage is particularly surprising.  Are these people seriously in disbelief that parents use these practices?  For me, the article isn't relevant regarding what style of parenting is better.  I think most of us know that different parenting styles are equally effective in shaping "successful" and productive members of society.  For me, it's about the conversation the article sparks and the memories it incites.

Chua's stories immediately brought me back to the sting of past piano practices and the tears I shed after losing tennis matches.  Up until the age of 10, piano practices regularly involved me protesting the second I sat down at the bench, my mother slapping me across the hands and face for embarrassing mistakes and tears shed by both mother and daughter.  Raising three kids alone must have taken a lot of the "Chinese" out of my mother, as she allowed us all to quit piano at a very young age.  I don't regret quitting piano.  

When it came to tennis, however, my mother's same tactics proved to be quite effective.  I practiced 3-5 hours per day, 7 days a week.  My weekends were consumed by tennis tournaments.  My mother did not permit us to watch TV during the week, although we didn't have time, considering once we got home there was only time for dinner and homework.  Maybe she knew that I wanted "it" so bad, and that inspired her to push me to my limits.  A tough tennis loss meant I would endure 3-4 hours of confinement in the car ride home listening to my mother scream at the top of her lungs that I was a "loser.  Second place is nothing.  Winning is everything."  I resented her for trying to live vicariously through my successes.  Once I was accepted by an Ivy League university, I think she realized ripping me a new one was no longer necessary.  I had achieved the holy grail.  Ultimately, I appreciate most of her approach to my tennis career, as her commitment, both financial and emotional, contributed to my acceptance to the college of my choice, and so on and so forth.  I know she was just trying to give me what she didn't have as a child.  I wonder if I could ever commit myself in such a way to my own child's success.  Would I want to?  I'm sure my children wouldn't want that.

As a college athlete, I don't agree that piano and violin are the only acceptable extracurricular activities.  Kids have a ton of excess energy to expend - why not let them unleash it in sports?  More importantly, sports, in the correct environment, have the potential to teach children discipline, team work, social skills, commitment, perseverance, pushing themselves to their physical, mental and emotional limits and can also teach children how to lose.  It's not just about winning.  It's about learning life skills.

I'm still unsure about my feelings on using debasement as a parenting tool.  My mother used to call us losers, fat, dumb, ugly, etc.  "Why can't you be skinny like your sister and your cousins," she would say.  The thought of debasing my little Henry gives me a visceral reaction.  I don't think I could ever do it.  I was born a very confident person, and openly told my mother at a young age that she was "lucky I didn't have an eating disorder."  I often wonder how her tactics formed me as a person. Was I confident despite her critical tactics?  Or would I be a ridiculous egomaniac if she hadn't taken me down a few pegs?  I'm already pretty arrogant, so maybe it's the latter?  Regardless, I know myself and I know that when it comes to my own children, I will definitely be embracing the Western approach to positive reinforcement when appropriate - I won't be one of those parents who praises every little thing.  

I agree with Chua that hard work will result in some success, no matter how limited the talent.  There is really no excuse for failing at something.  You probably just didn't work hard enough.  I know that I will have no regrets if I commit myself 100% to whatever I take on.  If I fail, I'm OK with it, so long as I tried my darndest.  I also agree that things are much more fun when you are great at something, that being great at something requires discipline, and that ultimately being great at something builds valuable self-confidence in children, which will follow them throughout their lives.  In my opinion, the magic equation is finding something the child will simultaneously enjoy and excel at, and once you find that balance, you push them further than they think they can go.  Of course, when it comes to academics, I believe kids must learn that not everything is fun and I have no qualms about forcing Henry and his soon-to-arrive-brother to sit at a desk for hours perfecting homework, etc.  Maybe this hybrid philosophy is an obvious result of my background - raised by an immigrant, but influenced by American peers and an American education.  

I put this philosophy to the test last fall while coaching freshman tennis players.  I initially scoffed at my  players' parents when they beamed with pride as their children lost 6-0, 6-0.  I thought, "Ha.  This is why our team is so bad.  Because the parents don't push their kids hard enough."  During practice, I pushed the kids physically and mentally despite their protest that they "couldn't do it."  One of the girls told me that during a PE physical, she could hear my voice in her head pushing her to keep going.  She was the last girl standing in the endurance run.  When my players lost, and they lost a lot, I encouraged them to work harder and reinforced their strengths.  Additionally, their parents gave them tons of positive reinforcement and support.  They enjoyed tennis and loved me for pushing them to their limits.  This all resulted in tremendous improvement in their confidence and actual tennis ability.  Now that the season is over and I've had time to reflect on how to coach beginners, I don't think the mushy smushy supportive approach is all bad.  There are definitely benefits to positive reinforcement, especially when a child is learning a new skill.  I want them to feel good about what they are doing so they will want to get better.  But, I also believe, if you push them and show them you believe they can do better, they will eventually believe in themselves and ultimately work harder and do better.

Hopefully, taking the "best" from Western and Chinese parenting philosophies will result in the ultimate POWER parenting philosophy and in 20 years, publishers will be begging me to write a book on why hybrid parenting is "Superior."  ;)          

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Turning 2 = Refusal to Sleep?

Happy New Year!  Henry looks peaceful, right?  WRONG.  

Ugh.  Our good little sleeper has disappeared and what remains is a screaming, stomping in place, throwing things, refusing to go to bed, shouting "Momma" at the top of his lungs, toddler.  Once upon a time (from age 5 months through 2 years), Henry was the easiest child to put to bed - not counting illness and travel.  We had a great routine:  diaper, pj's, hold baggie (his old sleepsack that he now holds to his nose and smells like it's crack cocaine - while sucking his thumb), sit in lap, read 3-5 books, get in the crib, lie down by himself, suck thumb, close eyes, sing a song, lights out and he would roll over.  He never made a peep.  And he would be quiet until a reasonable hour in the morning.  Bedtime was one of my favorite times of day.  Oh I really miss those days.  I really miss them.  And I know that a lot of people have NEVER had a good night's sleep since their children were born, but I've had a taste of the good life, and I WANT IT BACK!

Suddenly, just before his 2nd birthday (just after Christmas), he started to protest nap time and bedtime.  For the past week, the second I turn to leave the room he frantically stomps his feet and lets out blood curdling screams.  He shouts "Momma, Mommy, Momma" over and over again.  I can hear him gasping for air.  He's started having night wakings at 2, 3, and 4 am and will scream for hours on end.  Henry is currently screaming and has been screaming for the past hour and a half.  We concocted theories about nightmares (put in a night light), being over-tired and off-schedule from the holidays (put him down early), too many lights (turned off the lights), etc.  Nothing has worked.  Our pediatrician says change in sleep patterns is common at this age, and that Henry is now more willful than ever.  We have to stand firm and be even more consistent with sleep training.  ARGH.  

I'm the first to admit that it's SO much easier to hold him and rock him back to sleep.  He immediately quiets when I re-enter the room.  He snuggles up into my neck and I can feel his body instantly unclench.  Picking him up during a screaming fit seemed to work a few times to get him back to sleep at 4am.  But I also suspect that the nights we gave in to the screaming, reinforced his resolve to scream longer and harder.  And I know it's going to be 10 times harder to get him back on track.  

What am I going to do now?  I'm going to start from the beginning.  Chart the time he starts crying, and chart when I go in to comfort him (without holding him).  Chart the time he quiets.  The chart keeps me disciplined.  And I can only HOPE that sleep training works as well now as it did when he was 4 months old.  It is MUCH more difficult to sleep train at 2 than it was at 4 months, but I know it worked in the past with him, so if I want to sleep ever again ... I have to stick to my guns.  I suppose if anything, this is preparing us for baby boy #2, and reminds us that we have to stand firm with sleep training in order for it to be effective.  

Brutal.  And 2 hours later - he's quiet.  PHEW.

Note:  I wrote this post 2 days ago, and Henry has slept through both nights - with the exception of a brief 1 minute cry at 3am each night.  Sleep training is working!  

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

2010 Year in Review

It's difficult to believe Henry turned 2 last week.  He's so old, he even knew how to blow out the candles on his cake without spitting!

He's such a little man with opinions and interests.  He loves to watch football with his Dad and cheer on the Packers.  He pumps his fist and cheers "Go Pack Go!"  He continues to obsess about cars, trucks, trains and all other types of automobiles.  He loves music, and when a song comes on that he likes, he nods his head and says, "good son."  He means "good song."  He has an eclectic taste in music, which includes Coldplay, Guster, Corduroy Road (our friend's now defunct band), OK-Go, Miley Cyrus, and Jay Z.  He sings along to many songs now, making up words he doesn't know that sound like the lyrics.  His personality since birth has been consistently easy-going.  

In the past year, Henry stopped being a good eater, and then 2 months later started eating like a horse again.  He took his first poo (12/19/10) and pee (12/20/10) on the potty, but then refused to go near the potty ever since.  He learned that he loves riding tricycles and made new friends, including his babysitter's daughter, Kasia.  He got to see his cousins on both sides every week either at their homes or at our home.  We took him trick-or-treating for the first time, which went great, and to see Santa for the first time, which didn't go so great.  He had his first breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes (11/14/10) and threw it all up 3 hours later - maybe too much sugar or caffeine for his little system?  Henry also learned that he loves to "race" with other people around the kitchen, and he learned to blow bubbles in the pool at 22 months.  We discovered he has great fashion sense and will wear anything we put on his little body, including real neck ties (no more clip ons for him) - Note: in both pictures here, he is wearing a tie.  He's become a snacker just like his parents, which we try to curb, but it doesn't help when we are constantly munching.        

On the morning of his birthday, we greeted Henry with a Happy Birthday song and he opened presents from relatives.  Then we went to his favorite diner, Joe's on Prairie, for breakfast.  We took him to the same restaurant we took him to for his first birthday, Chicago Kalbi.  We hope to make this an annual birthday tradition for him.  

See last year's year in review entry.