Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day At The Spa, er Chinese School

Yes, it would be nice to be at a spa sitting in warm lavender smelling mud...dreaming of my Queen for the Day pedicure coming up in 30 minutes but alas it was not meant to be. Don't get me wrong, my darling preschool painted petunia flower pot, homemade card with droopy paper flower springing out and delightful new cedar bird house for the backyard have me swimming in gratitude. Today, I'm a lucky woman. I have everything I've ever really wanted.

Reality hit today when I marched my 4 year old off to Chinese School, aka the Sino Pressure Pit. Today's class marked the last day of the school year. One full year for Ava and I in two classrooms; she learned to count to 30 in Mandarin, several songs, a few calligraphy characters, almost every body part, and a smattering of light conversation; me, 8 weeks of perfect pronounciation of each pinyin vowel and consonant followed by 4 weeks of an even lighter smattering of pleasant conversation. Wo jiao Perrin. Wo cong meiguo lai.

Overall, I've been pretty pleased with our classes. Admittedly, I struggle philosophically with Ava's teacher. She is a sweet young gal who married and moved here recently. She is unapologetically teaching the traditional Chinese way. Children sit, children study, big test at end of semester. Funny business is not tolerated. Ava is all about the the funny business, so you can only imagine it hasn't exactly been a match made in heaven between teacher and student. I think Ava has done tremendously well keeping up with the bigger kids in class. I've not pushed her at all to study as her teacher suggests to the parents. When she wants to play naming body parts or counting or singing songs we play. When she doesn't...we don't practice. My reasoning being that I do not want to burn my four year old out on formalized classroom education before Kindergarten starts. Ava surprised me this week by easily rattling off counting 1-30 in perfect Mandarin with tones. I thought for sure her teacher would give her a nod. Again, not meant to be. After test time teacher told me Ava disappointed her, not being able to answer all the questions. I was a little disheartened. I guess my expectation of what a young four year old should be expected to accomplish is different than the traditional Chinese way. In the car I told Ava that she did not have to attend teacher's class again in the fall if she did not choose to, we would try another class. We have the summer to think about trying new options at the school.

What an education this year at Chinese school has been. I've learned how hard some parents push their children in the name of academic success. I 've seen a glimpse at how hard first generation immigrants have to work when they arrive in a new country. I've seen cultural differences and have first hand experience in how hard it is not to judge with my own personal values. I've had moments of wanting to walk away from the school and it's people...too different and not comfortable for me. I've had moments of making new friends and seeing people reach out to a greater Mandarin as a second language community bending to be flexible for our needs. I walk away from this semester wondering how we will fit into the mold next semester.

It's Mother's Day. I wonder what my daughter's Chinese birthmother would think of how my daughter and I spent our day together? Would it mean something to her that we are making an attempt to keep something Chinese in our lives? Or would she feel more "culture is as culture does, don't look back"? Would she be happy with what Ava has learned, like I am? Or would she too want a child to be pushed to be the best, the winner, awarded the prize?

We are thinking of her today since she was and is the first mother. I suppose that is what what really matters, all this other stuff is just life filler.

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