Thursday, September 14, 2006


I love to hike. Sometimes i am successful in encouraging my family to go with me. When Em was about 4, we made a big fuss one day that we were going to go HIKING and isn't that GREAT and what FUN it will be. With the beautiful enthusiasm of a child, Em was really pumped. We got about a quarter mile from the car when Em says "This hiking is a lot like walking."

I can't fool her for a minute.

This summer i forced her to go for a short hike with me. Because i can still force her to do a few things and i think it's good for her. She kvetched and moaned the whole gentle 2 miles up to a small lake. "I HATE hiking," she told me. "This SUCKS," she said. "My feet HURT!"

We finally made it to the lake, and we sat down on a log next to the water to eat our well-earned meal. A few minutes later this little chap showed up to help Em with her sandwich. While the little guy was nibbling directly from her hand, she turned to me, her face shining with happiness and said, "This is the COOLEST thing that has ever happened to me."

She was even a little sheepish on the way down about all her bitching on the way up.

The reason that i am telling this little story is that i struggle with how much i should push her to do things, with her inertia pulling her the other way. She has an opportunity to go to Japan next April with her Japanese class. She called me from school to beg me to tell the teacher that she couldn't go. Many things that i think she should do, like play a sport, or join a club, or invite a friend over, i don't force upon her. I am going to put my large foot down about this trip, and if gentle persuasion doesn't work, force her to go. (There are two reasons why she doesn't want to go, one is that an internet friend might be here for a day in April, and she doesn't want to miss it. The other reason is that she is scared of going to Japan and trying to speak Japanese with real Japanese people.)

But maybe going to Japan will turn out to be the coolest thing that has ever happened to her.


Andrea Frazer said...

First off, do I win an award for being the first person to comment for once? Second of all, here's my thoughts: On one hand, encouragement is needed. I sometimes wish my parents weren't so flexible in having me quit sports teams or jobs when I got a little gunshy. But going to Japan is pretty far, and that's going to be a huge phone bill if she hates it. But again, if she goes and loves it, she'll thank you forever. In Japanese, no less. I was about as helpful as a kimono with no belt. Sainara. (In a rare act of spell check, I found this cool site. How to say goodbye in 450 different languages.

Marshamlow said...

Japan is awesome and I only know a handful of words. Too bad I am leaving in March.

I too push my daughter to get involved in life. She would rather read. Or at least that was the case for a very long time. Now she signs up to do stuff on her own. I wonder all the time if I should be pushing her or if I should be letting her make her own mistakes. Mandy used to be afraid of everything and it took her a long time to adjust to our lifestyle of moving and traveling. Now that she has adjusted I feel that I did the right thing. I don't want her to grow up to be afraid of change or afraid of failure. I have many family members and friends who are in mariages, jobs, neighborhoods they hate because the alternative is change and they don't do change. I don't want my kid to grow up hating her life each and everyday.

Anonymous said...

My memory is definitely fuzzy, but I think my parents were too easy about letting me give up on things. Your definition of what you let her choose vs. what you would "strongly encourage" her to do sounds reasonable to me. I would definitely boot my kid out the door to Japan.

Lynnea said...

Japan sounds like it could be a chance in a lifetime. But at her age, she may not recognize that. A mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.

Andrea Frazer said...

I just thought of something else. How about an incentive? An "if you go to Japan we'll do X" And before all you moms say "I don't believe in bribery" I would like to state that I see it as less bribery and more of a goal setting. Who at work would deal with a ton of crap if it weren't for a promotion? Oprah is always saying that everyone has an agenda. Perhaps if she had an agenda she really believed in to focus on, she'd forget about hating your agenda (Japan) and then surprise herself when she likes it. Take it or leave it. But if you take my advice, I'll bake you 2 pies.

Bill said...

First, three cheers for Em for calling hiking what it is - walking. What's the difference? For me, the difference is that hiking sounds like something that's supposed to be good for me and walking is something I enjoy for no reason other than I like it. I walk everywhere. (I've never driven a car - I literally don't know how.) I do it for my brain more than my body. It lets me think and watch and wonder. Hiking sounds too goal oriented for me. (Also, some people want you to dress differently when you hike whereas when you walk, you wear what you wear.)

As for Japan ... I don't have children so what I have to say has to be taken with that in mind. However, I was a child and so I do have experience in that sense.

At that age, children don't know Japan from the mall. They are much more in the moment than we are; they don't consider something in terms of its long term benefits/drawbacks. So yeah, if you're a kid it's much more important to be close by the TV to see the episode of that show you want to see rather than be in Japan. And who knows? Maybe the Internet friend or TV show will be more important in the long term. (No, I don't believe that either - maybe the Internet friend, but not the show.)

It may also be that you send Em to Japan and she comes back with nothing.

However, the novel "The Stolen Child" has a quote at the beginning:

"We look at the world once, in childhood,
The rest is memory."

The things I remember best all happened in childhood and a large number of them of are of places my parents dragged me off to, though I didn't want to go, or was sent to when I didn't want to go. This doesn't mean they were of any benefit, or I became a better person or learned anything. But childhood is where the most powerful and enduring memories are made. And in that sense, to me, Japan sounds pretty good. Who cares what she learns? (Though I imagine it would be a benefit to meet people from a culture that is not her own. But maybe not ... you can't know.)

Also, I often think I would prefer, now (not when I was a kid), that my parents had not deferred to me as much as they did. I suspect I would have learned more and, more importantly, might have developed aspects of my personality differently and possibly better - but that's just a guess, I don't know.

But that's the thing. You can never know, or predict, what the impact will be. Everyone, and this includes children, is different. You can never know how something will affect someone; you can only make your best guess and do what you think is best. And I believe that the more you encounter, the more information you have, the better off you are.

To me,the biggest concern would be the distance. It's a long way away.

(Wow! That was long-winded!)

Carolie said...

Oh, oh, oh! I LOVE Japan! Tell Em she can read my blog, Adventures in Japan...and that she'll LOVE it here! Everyone here has been very kind to me and gentle with my pathetic attempts to speak the little bit of Japanese I've leared. Yay, Japan!

(The young lady I used to nanny, many years ago, had an opportunity to go to Paris when she was eleven. Everyone said "oh, she won't appreciate it"...but to this day--she's in her twenties--she recalls that experience as one of the highlights of her life.)

Anonymous said...

I think Japan might turn out to be cooler than hand-feeding chipmunks.

Bob said...

travel to another country - any country - is an opportunity not to be missed. she will remember it for the rest of her life. The opportunity to see how other cultures live, to see the world through their eyes is something everyone should do. It will be such a formative experience for her, it will continue to shape her opinions for years to come. I think that you will find a way to allay her fears and to convince her that this is a trip not to be missed. And just like the "hike" she will see for herself that it is worth it.

meno said...

mamap, it's only for a week, so i think she would survive. Also, incentives (i.e. bribes), are totally cool in my book. I'll have to think about what i should get her. Maybe a pony? Nah.

marsha, that's why i too push a little, it's finding the right balance that is sometimes a struggle.

de, my parents just weren't paying attention to what i did, or didn't, do. Hell, i'd go to Japan in a heartbeat if i was her.

maggie, wonder if i'll win "meanest mom" again this year if i make her go.

bill, as you can see, you are not the first one to say that their parents may have deferred too much to their wishes. I'll be keeping that in mind when i push her out the car door at the airport. It is a long way away, but she will be 16 by then, and old enough to handle it.

carolie, thanks for the words of encouragment! I think she'll have a great time too.

antonia, yes!

bob, i will work heartily towards that goal.

Imez said...

See, I'm starting to feel to attached to Em, since that post you wrote about her earlier.

Is another reason she doesn't want to go possibly have anything to do with not feeling comfortable with the other kids, being the youngest and being really alone over there?

You're her mom, you know what is best with this kind of thing. But I do think it's best to face what we're scared of. Even if someone else forces us to.

meno said...

esereth, i will do some listening to find out if there is another impediment.
And i am attached to her too. :) She really is a great, quirky, funny girl.
You are going to have so much fun with yours.

Mignon said...

I really like what Bill said. About hiking being too goal-oriented. It's always "go go go, we gotta get to the TOP." Whatever. I loved that WaterStrider photo.

Anyway, I can't particularly relate to Em, but I can to you, because Madeleine tends to be a homebody already. We're suffering through the same push-pull with her Taekwondo class right now. Every day it's "I don't wanna GOOOO!" then 2 hours later "Mommy that was so FUN!"

I went to Japan when I was in high school - a 100-day trip that went by in a blink. And here's the thing: they all wanted to practice their English on me! I didn't have to speak Japanese hardly EVER. I had 2 years of a very bad high school Japanese class under my belt and I got along famously. They thought I was the smartest person in the world for telling them I was full and that the food was delicious. (Actually, in hindsight, they were probably mocking me but their innate politeness made me feel like a queen. A QUEEN I tell ya.)

Teri M. said...

Ok, I'm finally catching up here. I think she will thank you for making her go. (Just maybe not outload, know how kids don't want us to know that we were right!)

Teri M. said...

I also meant to mention that I love the waterbug picture.