My friend K. rescued me with that reminder, and it has since gone into my figurative handbook of motherhood mottos.
I ended up enrolling Fred in a Chinese after school program. I e-mailed the principal with questions, managed to land myself a discount, and signed Fred up faster than you can say yi, er, san because…
- He had expressed interest in learning Chinese for some time now (as evidenced in the Char Siu Bao post below).
- The location is just right.
- It would be great for him to get the basics of his family language, and I could, indirectly, do something to make my Chinese parents happy for a change.
- This is a great time cognitively for him to learn a new language.
This was a no-brainer for me.
I then called my Chinese friend to see if she had enrolled her son in the program too. After all, it was just the week before that we were saying how it really is impossible for a child to maintain a language unless s/he were exposed to it on a daily basis. No, she said, she’s going to leave Jack in the regular program because he likes the computer games there so much. Plus the facilities really aren’t ideal. She’ll wait things out and see how the program pans out in another semester. Bump me down a notch on the new mom confidence scale.
Then came the real test. “Fred, Mommy found a Chinese program for you! Aren’t you excited??!” “No,” pout, “bleh,” I forgot how he responded exactly but it was pretty clear where he stood on the matter. My heart was starting to sink as quickly as my guilt was beginning to rise. How instantaneously my maternal instinct that this was the perfect opportunity morphed into self-condemnation that I was pushing my child over the top, tearing him away from his friends and teachers so he can get a head start on the path of academic prowess. NO – get a hold of yourself! (that is, I said to myself) – that was never my intention but how easily I can let a simple protest turn me into a self-labeled monster mom.
Opportunity and future versus comfort and the familiar. My friend K. (who after a few more posts like this really will deserve a real pseudonym of her own) reminded me that I do have a few extra years of experience under my widening maternal belt. Yes, if I were to consider Fred’s “happiness” at every decision, we would be having mac and cheese and ice cream 7 nights a week.
Fred came home from his first day of Chinese school a tad bit obsessed with the Chinese characters, practicing 3 straight hours until bed time. I was giddy with relief and nearly called my mother. Then as we lay in the dark getting ready to sleep, he whimpered, “Mommy, I don’t want to go to Chinese school. I want to go back to the regular after school.” And my heart again took a nosedive.
Over the weeks, I’d come to realize, Fred would continue the back-and-forth until the comfort of his former program was replaced by the faces and rhythm of his new program. He’d have such a ball at Chinese school that it would take us 20 minutes to leave, then when he’s tired or cranky he’ll ask to go back to his other program. Two weeks later, the complaints are coming less frequently. In fact, the other day he said, “You know, in Chinese after school they let you slide down the railings. In regular after school you can’t.”
40 trumps 4. I’ll keep that in mind.