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Teaching the Law of Cause and Effect … work hard, or …

“That’s what happens when you don’t work hard!,” a silent but firm message, often in no unforgiving tones is regularly sent to young Chinese children.
In most cases, the parent quite openly and unashamedly points out to the garbage collector or the person sweeping the street or even the maid.

Whether or not the message is true is of little of often no consequence, the core of the lesson is to instil the ethic of work, and perhaps more importantly, the idea that dreams come true when you work for it.

Having lived in the UK for quite a while now, I had gotten used to the complete political-correctness of never talking down your fellow human. I had unknowingly accepted the Western notion that when someone is in a fairly low-level job, it may be because, a) he enjoys doing it (and that’s what matters) or b) he’s in a rough patch. Come to think of it, there’s even a song about “The Dump Truck”

Never in all my years here had this been a subject of conversation with any of my peers, who incidentally come from a wide range of professions, from Professors to cooks in a Chinese take-away.

So naturally when Georgia starts negotiating to ‘practise her cello tomorrow’ and ‘do five sums’ instead of ten, I turn to my mum and bemoan the fact that, she’s becoming lazy.

“Wait till you come back here (to Malaysia) for a holiday, then you can point out the cleaners in my building,” she mentions reassuringly.

And so the time comes, we pack our bags, lock up our house and fly half-way across the world, to see what lessons we can impart to our nearly 6-year-old.

In the whirlwind of meeting up with relatives and friends, we take occasional refuge relaxing in the swimming pool when we happen to chance upon a couple of cleaners, walking round with mops and brooms.

“Great! Time for a lesson,” I think to myself.

“Hey G, you see those cleaners over there? Do you know why they have to clean other people’s houses?”

“Dunno…” she nonchalantly shrugs of the questions and goes back to her game of shooting her water gun at various toys she’d arranged around the pool.

“Well you know how we always tell you, you have to work hard at school?”

“Uh-huh,” she becomes a little bit more interested now and turns to look straight at me, wide-eyed.

And the lesson hits, “Well, if you don’t work hard and do your best, well then you won’t be able to find a good job and buy all the things you like….and you’ll have to end up cleaning,” I try to say this with as much seriousness and conviction as possible, trying to sell the idea that being a cleaner is just not good enough.

And just as serious and with as much conviction comes her reply “But Mummy! I like cleaning!”

And there it is! Does it matter that our society defines the worth and value of an individual by their occupation or that, it is in Asian terms ‘losing face’ when one’s child does not succeed?

Wrapped up in G’s immediate responses, was my lesson “Love what you do”.

Cello: The Beginning

About two years ago, we, rather randomly spotted the Bristol Violins shop on one of our weekend jaunts and decided to drop in to see if they had any baby cellos (1/4 and 1/8). She was about 3 at the time.

From my own experience, I was fairly certain that Georgia would benefit most from starting out on a String instrument before moving on to any other instrument she wanted. I also desperately wanted her to start before age 6. Yes I am a pushy parent but I’ll also explain why.

Starting a musical instrument before age 6, has roots in the concept that babies and children all have perfect pitch. They are born with a sense of natural rhythm and if there are no hearing deficiencies, they can hear and reproduce sounds almost perfectly pitch-wise.

As they grow, this skill, unless nurtured and practised, apparently seems to start becoming lost. And it does actually make sense, in the haze of everyday life, little children’s brains pick up and learn so much, so even if they had pitch perfect hearing, if it was a skill that was not important and did not contribute to daily life, it is natural that it would gradually diminish both in importance and in ability.

Being a pianist and picking up the cello and the flute at Uni, I came to the realisation that of all the instruments to learn, strings are quite possibly by far the hardest, mainly because it relies wholly on the ear to create the pitch perfect note.

You see, unlike a piano, where a fixed sound is made when a key is depressed, or guitars where there are frets to guide your fingering. The accuracy of a note, to be played on a string instrument relies entirely on the positioning of the finger on the finger board. If it is tilted, even by the tiniest angle, it would affect the sound, changing it either sharper (higher) or flatter (lower)

So anyway, we were really lucky then as we did find an 1/8 size cello which we managed to borrow on loan (for free!) for two weeks.

The amazing thing was Georgia turned out to be a complete natural. Not once did she make that squeaky sound, common with all first time string players. She played the open strings (when you don’t press any notes) really confidently.

So we went away and eventually came back, £80 poorer, 4 months later, to return the baby cello, having spoken to numerous cello teachers. None of whom would even consider taking her on at her age then, 4 – simply because they had no experience. Oh Shame!

May 17, 2011 - Family, Life, Parenting, Uncategorized    7 Comments

The Untold Story – Part 3: My Life Now

Phew! Part 2 – was some story eh?….If you’re still with me – Thank you.

And so we have moved on…but not without the tonnes of support and sympathy from friends and family. I must at this point thank all my fantastic friends and family who lent listening ears, hugs and loads of encouragement and advice through those dark days, and most importantly, I need to thank my DH for understanding, being there and being supportive through it all (can we get a cocker spaniel now? :))

So what happened next? Basically in the year post resignation, I took a proper time-out and realised that I had a child, I thought I knew, but didn’t actually (1 hour evenings, and busy weekends really don’t count for anything!). Read more »

CAN’T is for Wusses

Why CAN’T is banned in our house…

One of the things we noticed recently, was that Georgia had picked up and was very generously sharing was the use of the word Can’t.

Being Asian, born and bred, we have grown up rather far removed from the Can’t ideology, “You do as you’re told” was the overarching philosophy of the day. Not that you couldn’t ever say Can’t, you had to have at least tried before you gave up!

And because we generally are pretty optimistic, positive people (at least I like to believe so!) we found then as Can’t became more and more prevalent in our household, it became both frustrating and annoying, and we just had to do something about it.

It was extremely encouraging to read then, in Jack Canfield’s book, Success Principles, that one should never ever use the word Can’t. In it’s essence, Can’t is the epitome of self-limit. It imposes a restriction within the mind, before one is even able or willing to try something.

When children start using Can’t as an excuse not to do something, it seems to completely negate all possibility, all hope of even trying, it becomes both frustrating and really quite sad.

When you think about it, Can or Can’t both refer to choices (a positive choice or a negative choice) however it is very different from I don’t want to, I will not or I should not all of which state a preference.

And so we set forth to restrict the use of the word Can’t. In our house, you’re allowed to state a preference preferably with an explanation, I’d rather not (Don’t want to),  you’re allowed to decline, No thank you but Can’t is simply unacceptable.

Generally though, our main response to ‘I can’t’ tends to be ‘You CAN, you just need to try!’

And how has it been going? Great! Given that, because can’t as an automatic response is no longer acceptable, Georgia has started to weigh up her responses and think about whether she really doesn’t want to do something, and for what reason.

Apart from the obvious (swear words et al.), are there any words that are ‘banned’ in your house? Why?

If Chinese Mothers are supposed to be superior….

then why don’t I feel like I’m the best mother in the World?

A recent article Why Chinese Mothers are Superior in the Wall Street Journal has caused a lot of controversy and raised a lot of emotion amongst it readers and it’s certainly worth a read. Being an immigrant (Malaysian Chinese) to a Western culture (we now live in the UK), this article has certainly struck a chord for many reasons….not least because I too am, to a certain extent, trying to instill my child with ‘Asian values’ while being surrounded by Western Culture (I wrote about this when Georgia was little more than 1 here);

Read more »

May 16, 2009 - Uncategorized    No Comments

A Cello on Approval!

We had quite a day out today – — decided to have dim sum for lunch – hadn’t had it for ages and we went to Bristol which is across the Severn Bridge (30-40 mins drive) not that far but it does cost 5.40 to cross the bridge – we used to go to Bristol really often when we were both working as we had the bridge tag which was paid monthly so the weekend crossing didn’t really add to the cost – but lately it’s counting pennies 😀

So anyway – fab news is — i figured while we were there, we’d try to get to the (Bristol Violins) violin/cello shop for Georgia to be sized up for a cello – and woo hoo they actually had an 1/8th cello in.

And initially the man said that she looked a bit small but she was quite a natual with it.
It was rather pricey – nearly £300 so we weren’t really looking at buying it – but asked about options cause they do a rental scheme too.
But the guy, Neil, I think his name was, he was not too sure about how well she was sized up and recommended that we come in to meet the professional cellist — so we’ve an appointment on June 6th to see Juliet the cellist.

And we were just going to leave without the cello – and Georgie was really keen on going home with one. And they had a fabulous suggestion – they allowed us to have the cello on approval – which means basically we got it on loan and cost all of £3! for insurance!

We got home pretty late and Georgia immediately wanted to play it – so we set it up and sat her down on her chair and I was very surprised – she’s actually quite good a producing sounds! – She doesn’t bow very well – as in the bow does run up and down where it shouldn’t but other than that – she seems very natural at it – which is quite amazing.
So anyway – we’re heading back to Bristol on the 6th of June to have more advice and perhaps find out more about possible teachers who will take her on at this stage.

I had a little play around and i’m glad i still remember bits from my uni days … so i think we’ll be playing a little every day and see how it goes!

Feb 16, 2009 - Uncategorized    1 Comment

First Day of Sunshine 2009!

A beautiful day of sunshine and temperatures of 12 degrees! We went out without coats and played in the park.
Went to McD’s for a treat and got some gardening gloves – don’t be silly – of course they had to be pink!