Monday, March 28, 2016

Parenting month 65: kindness and confidence

We have always been concerned about T being too shy and quiet in public. Getting into kindergarten was a near thing, not because of his abilities or behavior (preschool staff could testify that was not a problem), but the fact that he had to be able to perform in front of strangers at some point in any assessment. In the end the kindergarten assessment was helped by the fact that the school took a very sane approach to how the assessment was done (observation over a period long enough for him to get comfortable with the setting, and long term assessments by the preschool carried weight), and the fact that he was changing himself (right around the same time preschool staff happily noted he went from a very quiet kid to someone who occasionally had to be told to be quiet.)  But the next step is how he would act as he got exposed to a larger world.

One advantage of not having many scheduled activities for my son is that I get a lot of time with him as he has been growing up. So we get to interact with many people and things. And he loves it. I think even from the beginning all of these outings have been mini-adventures and he got to practice being brave, even though he knew he was not.  As he has gotten older we've been giving him more space to interact with others (and his little sister).

I got your hat!
This is my hat
This month was marked with play dates, a trip to Chicago, and some other events in new spaces. Some anecdotes:

1.  Playing with a couple of older and more rambunctious boys. At one point T told them that they needed to play gentler around his younger sister and be more provident (that is a word that they use at his Catholic school). That got a "what does that mean" type of reaction as they went on their way. We were surprised that he could be so confrontational.

Look, there is a catfish hiding in that log
Can you see the catfish in there?
2. Chicago. We went for my father's 100 day remembrance. There were a couple of times where we stationed him in front of a door to greet people. And he did (in a place where he knew almost noone, and certainly not any of the aunties and uncles who wanted to talk to him). Curtesy is turning into his way of dealing with the big unknown world. And there are worse ways to react.

Helping a friend put on her wristband
Here is how to put on a wristband
3.  At a church event where we were invited by a chinese family who did not know what was going on, he  taught the kids the games and cheered when they won. Later at the Easter egg hunt, once he got his limit, he went around the field helping the younger kids find Easter eggs.

4.  Taekwondo. One of the moms commented that her daughter liked it when T was at class, because her daughter is also one of the smaller ones and T is closer to her size, and because T is controlled enough that he does not threaten to run her over during sparring.

Like a lot of asian american upper middle class suburban parents, we are somewhat ambitious about where we think our kids will be academically (*pause as people who know us, especially my wife, finish laughing*)  But as we learn what some of the practices in our area are like, we also want our children to be sane. When we watch T and how he has grown, we often jokingly ask "can we keep him?", because we realize that while he is still a kid, he behaves much better than we can reasonably expect kids of his age to behave. While in no way we are going to cut back on our quest to keep him academically challenged, we are very thankful that he is turning out kind.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Parenting Month 64: Focus and persistance

The parenting topic that has been on our minds the most this month was what to do about summer. We have not done any formal activities in the past, but we are aware that the other kids in suburbia have been sending their kids to various week long summer camps for art, music, dance, and a whole range of academic and semi-academic camps in addition to the outdoor activity camps. (to be fair, my wife runs one of these, so we probably are a part of that ecosystem, just not from the side of the consumer). But we had not done this with T, instead having mommy school (piano, chinese), daddy school (which involved museums, hikes, and something that had a strong resemblance to playing with LEGO), and grandparent school (swimming) supplemented with taekwondo. But we were aware this whole time that our neighbors (especially the asian ones) were enrolling kids in multiple programs.

So this coming summer, with the end of kindergarten we started looking at what the market had.  We found numerous offerings at various private schools in the area, a couple of colleges had offerings (alas, C-MITES at Carnegie Mellon University is no more), YMCA camps and a plethora of dance, sports, arts and crafts, and general activity camps. But what we noticed is that the majority of these were in one week chunks, and the ones that were longer had a large list of activities that they had planned for their campers. Which means that they will be moving from activity to activity throughout the day.

Our goal was to find activities that would reward focus and persistence (and make sure he got a reasonable amount of outside time!) So this summer will be in three acts. June is mommy and daddy school. July is a series of one week camps (piano, LEGO, and science) and August is decompression/getting ready to go back to school.  Mommy school is piano and chinese (with curriculum!), daddy school is going to be computers (Raspberry Pi and Scratch) and LEGO (simple machines and storytelling). And we are going to continue taekwondo.

Ready for testing
Ready before testing
Other developments. We are starting to note a slightly more rebellious attitude in T (5yr old). Considerable resistance to mommy, grandma, and grandpa (oddly enough, daddy does not get to experience this very much) (And A(1 yr old) is like this too, we actually do not know who is feeding off of whom.)  Some of this may just be the standard testing of boundaries, another may be the fact that he is now picking this up from other kids (peer pressure really did not do anything to him in preschool). I remind mommy that this is incredibly mild compared to most 5 yr old or kindergartners. Of course, this does not help. Neither does the fact that teachers (school and outside) routinely comment about how well behaved T is.
Self defense exercises
Back stance during self-defense testing
Taekwondo is continuing along. He is still quite good for his age. One benefit of going up the ranks is that most of the kids in the middle color belts are a year older than him and better coordinated. So the standard surrounding him is better than him. Another development is that I started taekwondo as well, and once a week we go to the family class together. The general comment is that he is watching me with a big smile the entire time we are in class.  Since he is a few belts ahead of me, he gets a kick about going into teacher mode when we practice at home. We have been getting some training gear from the school because of students that we have referred to them. So our house is generating an overall background noise of martial arts and Star Wars. Mommy is not sure about how that happened in her house.

His sense of sequence still needs work. He essentially has three time periods, past, now, and future. And, consistent with age, all things past tends to get mixed together.

School is still working on finding his level. We are happy that they have continued escalating his reading. The books he is bringing home from the school library are getting harder. Actually, I think that they are too hard, because he discovered the Star Wars section of the library. Fortunately, we have a reasonable amount of appropriate books at home as well as what I read to him.
Round kick during sparring
Round kick during sparring
A is adding willful to being a babbler. And that means she can express desires deliberately and strongly in two languages. I commented that with T we pretty much got a pass on the terrible twos and threes. While A can communicate (which does eliminate a good portion of tantrums), we are not going to get a pass on this one.