chinese parenting, not so “superior”

Amy Chua, the mom who boasted that Chinese parenting is superior, in her new book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, was in Seattle promoting it. According to the local news, a Queen Anne area bookstore had invited her to do a reading. I glimpsed part of the report, the most significant aspect of it, I think.

When the Wall Street Journal ran its 2 page article on Amy Chua and her philosophy on parenting, I was left with the impression that she was fiercely and adamantly in support of her arguments. So I was surprised, pleasantly I might add, to learn that she ends Tiger Mother acknowledging that she might have gone too far. It seems being hated by one of her daughters made Chua realize that she had to back off from her unrelenting, authoritative mothering. Her daughter couldn’t withstand the barrage of demanding abuse. Good for Chua, knowing and admitting that she needed to change her ways for the sake of her child, and their relationship!

In an interview with Oprah, Chua retracts part of what she’s strongly upheld, deciding that perhaps she went too far.

O: What is the single thing you wish you’d done differently?

AC: I wish that I’d paid a bit more attention to the individual personalities of the girls, their temperaments and needs. I wish I’d realized earlier that parenting cannot just be one size fits all. 

Two moms were briefly interviewed during the broadcast. Both disagreed with the severity of Chua’s mothering style. One in particular, a Chinese woman raising 2 young daughters, disputed Chua’s portrayal that all mothers of their race parented like her.

One thing is true, however. Amy Chua has had one heck of a publicity ride. The controversy stirred up a lot of national attention, even in the blogosphere. I noticed a number of posts on wordpress.com, which spoke of the brouhaha swirling around her. So it seems all’s well that ends well. Chua’s book will go on to make the New York Time’s Bestseller’s List. Parents of the world will close ranks in their common goal to raise upstanding citizens. And best of all, Chua’s daughters get a well-deserved break from all her harassing.

chua’s come over to the “dark side,” hooray…hugmamma.

“freddie the leaf, the fall of”

The only author I can wholeheartedly call my favorite is Leo Buscaglia. Otherwise, I select books according to their subject matter. But I’ve enjoyed reading every one of  Buscaglia’s books. A postscript to one of my favorites, reads:

“Leo Buscaglia approached life with joy and enthusiasm. He pursued a path of perpetual learning that took him to places of wonder, excitement, and enlightenment. His sense of urgency to live life now and explore all that is possible was contagious to all who knew him. His life was dedicated to the single concept of ‘Love’ and all the beautiful and positive elements that it encompasses. …He died of heart failure on June 29th, 1998, at his home in Lake Tahoe, Nevada at the age of 74. A note was found on his typewriter the next day. It read, ‘Every moment spent in unhappiness is a moment of happiness lost.’

In 2004 I was in Chautauqua, New York, visiting my daughter while she danced in a summer program. Browsing through the bookstore housed in a charming building, I happened upon “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf” by Leo Buscaglia. Tucking myself away in a corner, I read it. A lump formed in my throat for the story was written to assuage a child’s loss of someone special, to death. The book, in its 20th edition, is a “beloved classic that has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.” I’d like to share it with you now, in the hopes that it might someday do the same for you.

Spring had passed. So had summer. Freddie, the leaf, had grown large. His mid-section was wide and strong, and his five extensions were firm and pointed. He had first appeared in Spring as a small sprout on a rather large branch near the top of a tall tree.

Freddie was surrounded by hundreds of other leaves just like himself, or so it seemed. Soon he discovered that no two leaves were alike, even though they were on the same tree. Alfred was the leaf next to him. Ben was the leaf on his right side, and Clare was the lovely leaf overhead. They had all grown up together. They had learned to dance in the Spring breezes, bask lazily in the Summer sun and wash off in the cooling rains.

But it was Daniel who was Freddie’s best friend. He was the largest leaf on the limb and seemed to have been there before anyone else. It appeared to Freddie that Daniel was also the wisest among them. It was Daniel who told them that they were part of a tree. It was Daniel who explained that they were growing in a public park. It was Daniel who told them that the tree had strong roots which were hidden in the ground below. He explained about the birds who came to sit on their branch and sing morning songs. He explained about the sun, the moon, the stars and the seasons.

Freddie loved being a leaf. He loved his branch, his light leafy friends, his place high in the sky, the wind that jostled him about, the sun rays that warmed him, the moon that covered him with soft, white shadows.

Summer had been especially nice. The long hot days felt good and the warm nights were peaceful and dreamy. There were many people in the park that Summer. They often came and sat under Freddie’s tree. Daniel told him that giving shade was part of his purpose.

“What’s a purpose?” Freddie had asked. “A reason for being,” Daniel had answered. “To make things more pleasant for others is a reason for being. To make shade for old people who come to escape the heat of their homes is a reason for being. To provide a cool place for children to come and play. To fan with our leaves the picnickers who come to eat on checkered tablecloths. These are all reasons for being.”

Freddie especially liked the old people. They sat so quietly on the cool grass and hardly ever moved. They talked in whispers of times past. The children were fun, too, even though they sometimes tore holes in the bark of the tree or carved their names into it. Still, it was fun to watch them move so fast and to laugh so much.

But Freddie’s Summer soon passed. It vanished on an October night. He had never felt it so cold. All the leaves shivered with the cold. They were coated with a thin layer of white which quickly melted and left them dew drenched and sparkling in the morning sun. Again, it was Daniel who explained that they had experienced their first frost, the sign that it was Fall and that Winter would come soon.

Almost at once, the whole tree, in fact, the whole park was transformed into a blaze of color. There was hardly a green leaf left. Alfred had turned a deep yellow. Ben had become a blazing red, Daniel a deep purple and Freddie was red and gold and blue. How beautiful they all looked. Freddie and his friends had made their tree a rainbow.

“Why did we turn different colors,” Freddie asked, “when we are on the same tree?” “Each of us is different. We have had different experiences. We have faced the sun differently. We have cast shade differently. Why should we not have different colors?” Daniel said matter-of-factly. Daniel told Freddie that this wonderful season was called Fall.

One day a very strange thing happened. The same breezes that, in the past, had made them dance began to push and pull at their stems, almost as if they were angry. This caused some of the leaves to be torn from their branches and swept up in the wind, tossed about and dropped softly to the ground. All the leaves became frightened. “What’s happening?” they asked each other in whispers. “It’s what happens in Fall,” Daniel told them. “It’s the time for leaves to change their home. Some people call it to die.” 

“Will we all die?” Freddie asked. “Yes,” Daniel answered. “Everything dies. No matter how big or small, how weak or strong. We first do our job. We experience the sun and the moon, the wind and the rain. We learn to dance and to laugh. Then we die.” “I won’t die!” said Freddie with determination. “Will you, Daniel?” “Yes,” answered Daniel, “when it’s my time.” “When is that?” asked Freddie. “No one knows for sure,” Daniel responded.

Freddie noticed that the other leaves continued to fall. He thought, “It must be their time.” He saw that some of the leaves lashed back at the wind before they fell, others simply let go and dropped quietly. Soon the tree was almost bare. “I’m afraid to die,” Freddie told Daniel. “I don’t know what’s down there.” “We all fear what we don’t know, Freddie. It’s natural,” Daniel reassured him. “Yet, you were not afraid when Spring became Summer. You were not afraid when Summer became Fall. They were natural changes. Why should you be afraid of the season of death?”

“Does the tree die, too?” Freddie asked. “Someday. But there is something stronger than the tree. It is Life. That lasts forever and we are all a part of Life.” “Where will we go when we die?” “No one knows for sure. That’s the great mystery!” “Will we return in the Spring?” “We may not, but Life will.” “Then what has been the reason for all of this?” Freddie continued to question. “Why were we here at all if we only have to fall and die?”

Daniel answered in his matter-of-fact way, “It’s been about the sun and the moon. It’s been about happy times together. It’s been about the shade and the old people and the children. It’s been about colors in Fall. It’s been about seasons. Isn’t that enough?” That afternoon, in the golden light of dusk, Daniel let go. He fell effortlessly. He seemed to smile peacefully as he fell. “Goodbye for now, Freddie,” he said. Then, Freddie was alone, the only leaf left on his branch.

The first snow fell the following morning. It was soft, white, and gentle; but it was bitter cold. There was hardly any sun that day, and the day was very short. Freddie found himself losing his color, becoming brittle. It was constantly cold and the snow weighed heavily upon him. At dawn the wind came that took Freddie from his branch. It didn’t hurt at all. He felt himself float quietly, gently and softly downward. As he fell, he saw the whole tree for the first time. How strong and firm it was! He was sure that it would live for a long time and he knew that he had been a part of its life and it made him proud.

Freddie landed on a clump of snow. It somehow felt soft and even warm. In this new position he was more comfortable than he had ever been. He closed his eyes and fell asleep. He did not know that Spring would follow Winter and that the snow would melt into water. He did not know that what appeared to be his useless dried self would join with the water and serve to make the tree stronger. Most of all, he did not know that there, asleep in the tree and the ground, were already plans for new leaves in the Spring.

The Beginning.

Having purchased the book as a keepsake for my daughter, I turned to the first blank page and penned the following inscription.

Summer 2004

Dearest daughter,

I discovered Leo Buscaglia in Chautauqua this summer. Reading his  words was like looking at my soul through a mirror. He wrote, and lectured about, and lived a life of love, always having a positive attitude. “The Fall of Freddie the Leaf ” continues Buscaglia’s outlook thru to the final stage in life. 

 Live each day to the fullest, love hugely and passionately, strive always to have a positive attitude toward yourself, others and life. These are what I leave to you, when I fall from the “Tree of Life.” And I know you will do the same for your children, when your turn comes.

I will always be with you in spirit until we are together again, where all leaves spend eternal springtime together. Think of me as your “Daniel.”

All my love, forever…Mom

my sentiments for you, as well…hugmamma.

a treasure trove

Deciding to enjoy a day in the sun, hubby and I briefly visited friends to see what goodies they were selling in their neighborhood yard sale. I snapped up a set of 4 square, etched glass lunch plates with matching mugs for $10. While there I did a little rearranging, bringing to the front items that would catch the eyes of passers-by. I left, hoping the changes would increase sales.

Residential communities and shopping plazas behind us, we found solace in the wide open spaces the farther along we drove. Heading toward a favorite restaurant for lunch, I saw a street sign out the corner of my eye. I immediately asked my husband to “Go Back!” Turning the steering wheel, he made a quick right turn. It put us on a road that was sure to connect with the one we’d passed. After a short drive, we came to a stop sign. As we turned left, I knew we’d been here before. It was deja vu.

As buildings came into view at the bottom of the street, I squealed with delight. Ahead lay the historical train depot with its museum, the bookstore that carried “out of print” titles, and the restaurant/bakery that served up “to-die-for” home cooked meals and baked goods. We’d eaten there 12 years before when we first moved West. At the time it seemed we’d driven umpteen miles in search of a haunt favored by the locals. 

Impatient to see if the inside looked the same, I jumped out the door as soon as the car was parked. Not waiting for my husband, I entered the restaurant. It seemed more spacious than I remembered; but it had the same, comfortable vibe as before. Looking around, I saw people smiling and chatting as they munched away at their food. I was so happy that we’d found this “hidden gem” again.

After dining on a hearty meatloaf sandwich, coffee and lemon meringue pie, I was ready to explore. Contentedly burying himself behind his e-book, my husband waited while I browsed the nearby shops. He helped carry an armload of old books, mostly biographies, that I’d purchased for “pennies.” (Compared to what I pay at big retail bookstores.)

Expecting to make a quick stop at the train station museum, I did so only because it was there. I half-heartedly hoped that the antique shop I’d visited before was still housed within. But I was pretty sure it had gone out of business a while ago. Walking through the front door, I felt I had traveled back in time.

An avid collector of vintage items, I’ve searched for treasures from Hawaii to New England to Venice. But I wasn’t prepared for the overwhelming inventory of memorabilia I saw before me. Wherever I looked there were walls of old black and white photographs, wedding certificates, baseball uniforms, tools and so much more. There were glass cases displaying old typewriters, a mannequin dressed in a vintage wedding gown, hats, dolls and a miniaturized train depot complete with trains, tracks, landscaping, and the like. There was a bank safe and a phone booth. Both looked like they might still service customers. There was a grouping of old Singer sewing machines, and a small cart that might have been a child’s or one used for delivering goods.

I couldn’t stop “oohing” and “aahing” as I marveled at several vignettes. One was of a barbershop; another of a classroom with children sitting at old school desks, filled bookcases alongside. A third showed a kitchen complete with all sorts of cooking and eating paraphernalia from bygone days. For me, the most significant find stood at the foot of the stairs descending to the basement, a ringer-washing machine. I smiled remembering my childhood encounter with that antiquated contraption. 

At 9 or 10 years of age, I helped my older, married sister put the washed clothes through the ringer of the machine, ridding them of water. In shocked horror I watched as my hand got caught in the rollers. I probably waited to see how close my fingers could get before letting go. Blood curdling screams brought my sister, and everyonelse in the house, running to see what had happened. I’m happy to say I escaped, fingers, hand and arm completely intact. I made sure not to tempt fate a second time.

The curator couldn’t have been lovelier, allowing me to snap some pictures, as well as sharing tidbits about preserving the antiques and explaining how they came to be in the museum. We parted friends, deciding to keep in touch via emails, blogs and Facebook.

I rejoined my husband,  who was patiently sitting on a bench just outside. He listened as I recounted all the details of the past hour or so. He hadn’t realized that more than train artifacts were on display. He might have come inside had he known. Well there’s always the next time, for we’ll be back.

trust me,we will return…hugmamma.