Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Making "Special" Time

Back when Kai-Kai was born, my pediatrician told me I needed to have “special time” with 2 year old Ling-Ling—time set aside just for her even if it was only 10 minutes a day.  “Then when you can’t give her attention, you can remind her that you will have special time later in the day.”

Well I didn’t do it.  And it wasn’t like Ling wanted any time with me—she coped with a new sibling by ignoring me for an entire month—wouldn’t look me in the eye, wouldn’t let me hug her, wouldn’t let me do anything for her at all.  “No!  Grandma or Daddy!” she’d insist, head down, averting her gaze.

After she started talking with me again, I was so overwhelmed with 2 kids that I didn’t even try to make special time.  I never could figure out how to stagger their schedules enough for time alone with a kid—especially when I was doggedly attempting to keep their nap schedules synchronized so I could work my job during each afternoon nap. 

My pediatrician’s words haunted me for years to come.

All that changed 6 years ago when I realized the girls were old enough to be left and I could take advantage of the “babysitting” Ren’s tae kwon do classes provided.  From then on, once a week, each kid got 50 minutes of “special time.”

99% of the time, I buy them a treat.  Occasionally, a kid wants to do “Dance Dance Revolution” or be taken to Staples—but even then, they still want a treat.

Whole Foods has been a favorite haunt because the gelato’s delicious, cheap, and there’s nothing better than free snacks scattered around the store.  We scavenge our way through fruits, then cheese, then sidle to the meat case to see if there’s sausage, then around to seafood (where there’s always smoked salmon dip with crackers these days), then to dessert, and finally back to gelato where we sample at least 2 flavors before ordering.

Then I buy gelato for the kid but not myself because soon into our “special time” routine I learned that my waistline can’t take 3 extra desserts a week.

Most of the time the kids just want the treat.  They look forward to special time and ask for special time because they want something sweet and delicious.  Most of the time the conversation’s pretty superficial, and they’re ready to head out as soon as the treat’s consumed.  But every now and then we have a deep conversation, one where I’m able to hear my kid really share.  Even rarer, sometimes a kid actually wants some of my input.

Yesterday, Kai called me on her way home from cross-country announcing that she had very little homework and was available for special time.  “I don’t know if I can,” I said, “I have to walk 2 miles to the auto shop and pick up Dad’s car before 5:30.  You could walk with me and then we could get a treat after.” 

To my surprise, she agreed.  So we walked and chatted and when I asked, “How’s cross-country going?” a stream of conversation started that lasted for the next 25 minutes. 

I think I like “walking” special time better than “treat” special time—there’s not much to do other than talk when you walk.  Plus I get more steps on my Fitbit.

 And feel less guilty when we have cannoli at the end.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What Top 5 Attributes Do You Want to Pass On?

Tonight Kai came home with a homework assignment and said I had to help.  “I’ve been through 9thgrade, I don’t do my kids homework,” said I, the loving, supportive, full of energy Mom of the year.
“Mom!  You need to help me—it’s an assignment.”
“Where?” Suspicious.  “Let me see the assignment.”
“Mom!  I’m so hurt!  You don’t believe me??  Nobody else’s parents don’t believe them!  This is supposed to be a learning experience between us.”
She showed me the assignment.  She was right.  Oops.
So here’s the assignment:
Create a list about the 5 attributes you’d want for your kids and grandkids—compare and contrast.
So I took 5 minutes to write my top thoughts–both easier and harder than I initially thought.
Here’s my list:
1.     Vibrant authentic relationship with God/Jesus
2.     Healthy, life-giving relationships—family, spouse, friendships, community
3.     Meaningful work that adds value to the world and can sustain them
4.     Healthy life patterns of moderation, exercise (mind, body, spirit, emotion), rest, work& fun
5.    A joyful sense of gratitude at the abundance they’re given that leads to generosity, hospitality, fruitful stewardship and a sense of responsibility for those who aren’t as blessed.
Here’s Kai’s:
1.     Love of reading-believing a good book can be better than television
2.     Really bonding relationships with friends—loving them, being supportive
3.     Compassion towards everything and everyone—being empathetic
4.     Being able to have perspective on life—seeing the good and being able to deal with the bad
5.    The ability to be humble and modest
“Wow!  Yours are so deep compared to mine,” said Kai when I read mine aloud.
“Well I’ve had years to think about it,” I said.  Pretty much the sum total of my parenting years in fact.
She laughed. “I knew you’d have the God piece. My friends all think you’re super religious and super cheap.”  Apparently, one friend thinks it’s funny that I took them out for lunch because my Groupon was expiring that day.  I like to think that’s frugal and generous at the same time.
Her list made me smile—I guess Scott and I preach about reading, friendship, perspective and compassion more regularly than grandiose visions of the good life—but it’s good to see that she’s absorbed something!  I’ll take “believing a good book is better than television” any day!
What top 5 attributes would you like to see in your kids and grandkids? 
What legacy would you like to pass down?
You may also be interested in reading:
This was first published on What She Said

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Can You Take the Heat?

Before they married, Mama told Baba she wanted to raise her children as Christians.  He agreed, neglecting to tell her until after their wedding that he was actually an apostate.  Throughout my childhood, Baba’s apostasy brought out the energy in him.
Baba and Ren
Baba and my son at Tuanapalooza 2012–a Disney cruise celebrating Baba’s 80th birthday
“I,” he would proclaim, pointer finger in the air, chuckling with glee, deep dimples carving grooves into his round cheeks, “am an APOSTATE!  Ha ha!”
I never understood why he thought this was so funny, or what an apostate actually was.  Yet that this word merited not only the raised finger, but chortles and a devilish glint behind his tortoiseshell glasses, didn’t bode well for his eternal life in heaven.
When I found out that apostates purposefully leave their faith, presumably because they’ve lost all faith, I was even more horrified.  For while there may be some grace for those who backslide, for those who purposefully turn their backs on Jesus–chuckling no less–surely only damnation and the fires of hell await?
Then, when I was in 8th grade Baba came back to Jesus.  And I began to learn his faith history, a great story I don’t have space to give justice.  In sum, as the first Chinese to win an Open Scholarship to Oxford, Baba dreamt of becoming the first Chinese Oxford don (professor).  All this internal pressure led to a near nervous breakdown during his finals at Oxford.   A lady campus minister who loved internationals prayed with him and introduced him to Jesus.
4 years later, when his mother died of pancreatic cancer, he rejected the same Jesus who had saved his mental health.  Although the doctors saw no hope, Baba spent all night in the hospital chapel beseeching God for his mother’s life.  She made a turn for the better.  And then she died.
It felt like God didn’t just stab him with a knife, but twisted and turned it with glee.  He didn’t stop believing God existed.  He just didn’t want to follow a God who allowed such pain.  So he became an apostate for over 20 years.
Tomorrow, I direct a graduate student retreat with 201 attendees where we’ll study the story of Daniel and his friends with the theme “Can You Take the Heat?”  Sunday we’ll focus on Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego who are thrown in the fiery furnace for refusing to bow and worship the idol King Nebuchadnezzer creates out of gold.
Baba says if he had read or understood the faith of these 3 friends, he would never have become an apostate.  Like Baba, these men were international students living in exile.  Like Baba, they’d been extraordinarily successful.  But when faced with a crisis, they said:
King Nebuchadnezzar. . . if we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it. . . But even if he does not. . . we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up. Daniel 3: 16-18
In the same exuberant way he used to wave his forefinger and proclaim his apostasy, Baba now proclaims, “That’s what I didn’t understand!  Their God is ABLE to deliver them, but EVEN IF HE DOES NOT!!!!  They still will not bow.”
God sometimes says yes and sometimes says no.  But no matter what He says, the good news is God shows up in the furnace–the fourth figure in the fire.  In the story, the 3 friends can “take the heat” because God shows up to bear it with them.
55 years ago, Baba’s fragile faith couldn’t handle God saying no.  It’s hard for me too.   But 55 years ago, in the furnace of grief, Jesus stood with Baba in the pain even if he couldn’t see Him.  And 35 years ago, Jesus welcomed Baba back–raised forefinger and all.
This was first published on What She Said