Parenting · School

Snowplow Parent: Failing to Prepare Kids for the Real World

It’s been a while since I wrote a parenting post (writer’s block maybe?), but reading a very interesting article in the New York Times made me think, and rethink: Am I preparing my kids for the real world?

The article calls our kids age the “everyone-gets-a-trophy generation” which is absolutely true and frustrating. See it started in kindergarten sports day, there is no winner or loser. You think it’s ok, they are just kids and who wants to deal with 20+ temper tantrums on a day that’s supposed to be fun for the kids?

Then it slowly, without realizing it, started creeping to the older kids. See in our school we have houses with different colors. These four houses compete against each other on sports day and the winning house gets a reward like a pizza party or something. Three years ago it was the blue house (not my kids team), two years ago it was the reds (yay our team!), but last year and this year .. there were no winners. It wasn’t like announced that it’s not a real competition and ‘everyone wins’, but the lack of winners/losers seemed to make everyone happy.
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And it’s not only that. Last week we had the IT fair in our school. There were 15+ teams showing their robots that they created. Some were better than others but at the end, every single team won. Every team was called up on stage and given a certificate and a medal. They had different categories like: most creative, most innovative, best looking robot .. etc. I feel bad for the person who had to come up with 15+ different categories, just so everyone could ‘win’.

I asked one of the judging teachers and she said that they had to do that because of the amount of angry complaints from parents they get each year.

I for one don’t like the everyone wins policy and kind of felt like the school was a pushover for giving into parents complaints .. until I saw for myself first hand how ruthless it can be.

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Just three days after having that conversation with the teacher, my daughter took part in the awaited Battle of the Books. Each year, our librarian chooses a list of 20 books for the grade to read. Five students from each class are chose to compete (this is done by student voting in class). These five students have to read the list of 20 books between themselves, so each student reads four books (you can read more if you like) in almost two months. (My daughter read Pippi Longstocking, Loser, Mostly Ghostly: Have you met my Ghoulfriend?, Holes, and Hatchet).

So anyways, we moms were excited as this is the first year we get to participate (only grades 4 and 5 have it). We created a booklet with questions so they can summarize their books in, took them to Starbucks so they can have book discussions and so on. It was so much fun and in the end, all we wanted is to build a love of reading in our kids.

Fast forward to the morning of the battle, my girl was very nervous. I told her it doesn’t matter if she wins or loses because in my eyes she is already a winner as she did a great job in reading and summarizing all those books. And I’m proud of her for stepping in and helping her friends when they couldn’t finish reading all their books. So as a reward for all her efforts, I am taking her out and buying her a gift, no matter what the outcome of the battle is.

I really really wanted my daughter’s team to win. They hot a couple of questions wrong, and it was nerve wracking but did end up winning in the end. What surprised me was the amount of temper tantrums/crying the other teams had (keep in mind they are 9 – 10 years old). What surprised me even more was the amount of temper tantrums the moms had!

The amount of abuse the organizing teacher got was ridiculous! He put the effort from his personal time (he has twin babies btw so I’m sure he could’ve spent this time in many other ways) to organize the competition, come up with the questions, and host it, all to provide the kids with an enjoyable event and to promote reading. And what did he get in return?! Screaming, angry parents accusing him of cheating, neglect, and being reckless with kids emotions. Looking at all their angry faces I don’t think they realize how ridiculous they look!

So we took out the winning team to dinner and on the way there I had a talk with my daughter about what happened. I asked her to think about what happened and how Mr. S must’ve felt. And I told her if she participates again next year, if her team doesn’t win, I want her to be an example for the rest and congratulate the winning team and lift the spirits of her own team. As for me, I promised to take her out next year to celebrate as long as she finishes her four books and summarizes them, because I reward effort and not just medals.
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So, what are we teaching our kids by bulldozing all obstacles they face? I know it’s hard to see your kids fail, not win, be disappointed, but shouldn’t we teach them how to deal with these emotions? Shouldn’t we model behavior instead of screaming at a teacher? If a child sees his mom doing it, what will stop them from doing it and disrespecting their teachers in the future?

I’m sure these parents don’t mean to do wrong towards their kids and their parenting. On the contrary, they believe by doing this, they are protecting their kids and always ensure they have a leg up on anything they want to accomplish. But by doing that, they rob their kids of experiencing failure.

The NY Times article points out that failure teaches kids to “solve problems, take risks, and overcome frustration.” These are “crucial life skills” that kids need to build up in order to face the real world. The article goes on to list examples of students who got accepted to top universities like Stanford but dropped out after the first semester because they didn’t have the tools to cope by themselves.

My oldest is just 10 years old and I still feel new to all this and trying my best to figure it all out. I’m sure I made a million mistakes on the way that I really hope doesn’t mess my kids up forever. But I am happy, after reading this article, that I didn’t send my daughter’s math book to school when she forgot it at home after doing her improper fractions homework. I told her a million times she is responsible for her books and schoolbag. Now she will always remember to put her homework back in her bag and I’m glad I didn’t bail her out (even though I thought about it). This might seem like a small thing but hopefully, it’s a correct mindset and heading towards the right direction in a world where everyone-gets-a-trophy.

I am writing this post after just coming back from my niece and nephew’s birthday party. My daughter won the book “Oh the Places you’ll Go!” What a fitting book to end my discussion with her, and to end my post too.

So will conclude this with the wittier of the cleverest.. Dr. Suess:

Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best                                                                   Wherever you go, you will top all the rest                                                                            Except when you don’t                                                                                                          Because, sometimes, you won’t                                                                                                      I’m sorry to say so                                                                                                                            but, sadly, it’s true                                                                                                                           that Bang-ups                                                                                                                                    and Hang-ups                                                                                                                                    can happen to you …

But on you will go                                                                                                                      though the weather be foul                                                                                                             On you will go                                                                                                                             though your enemies prowl …

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

Here’s to hoping all our kids will move their awaiting mountain, and we just be proud parents with as little meddling as possible.

Because just as we should be proud of our achievements, they should be proud of theirs too!

Book Reviews · Reading

Old Man Goriot Book Review (#86)

Book: Old Man Goriot by Honore de Balzac

#86 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A-

What is the story about?

The story is about Eugene de Rastignac, a student coming from a loving family from the South pursuing his education in Paris. He lodged in Madame Vaquer’s boarding house where he met Old Man Goriot as well as other interesting characters. Here, he learned the workings of Paris’ upper society.

Verdict?

Before I get into this review, you have to know one thing about me: I’m a classics girl. After reading a number of books in this list from different genre’s, it was very nice and comforting to read a classic, it’s like going back home again after a wonderful whirlwind adventure.

And what a classis this is! I loved it and really enjoyed reading it. It’s not like most classics where its very slow in the beginning then it picks up. It was interesting from the start.

About society .. my mom used to always talk about the ‘good old days’, how life was simpler, people had more respect and values. This book shows that no not really. Since the 1800’s (and I’m sure even before that), it was, is, and always will be about the money.

When Rastignac saw the workings of society, he gave up on his studies because he knew it won’t get him anywhere. It’s all about your connections, who you know and who can take you places, and your street smarts too.

He also knew that wealth brings power and respect. He knew that he had to look the part so he can be accepted in the highest circles of society. So he borrowed money from his mom and sisters knowing very well they really needed it, but he had to get it so he can be seen in the correct waistcoat. And surely enough when he was dressed correctly, he earned people’s respect.

Just like in this day if you drive a monster of a car that costs a fortune, people show respect on road. And I’m sure many inappropriate incidents were laughed off just because the perpetrators are filthy rich.

Another theme that I really enjoyed in this book is human nature. Take Vautrin for example. He is the famous villain in Balzac’s novels. Even though he was a runaway convict, you can still see he has some good in him. Then you have people like Mademoiselle Michonneou, a vile spinster who talks behind everyones back, lives for gossip, and would sell her own mother for money. As Vautrin himself says “we bear less infamy on our shoulders than any of you do in your hearts.”

Another theme that Balzac got into is marriage, which he painted in a very bleak way. No wife in this book is loyal to her husband and none are happy with this institution they are in. Though I agree with most of Balzac’s ideas presented in this book, this is one that I do not agree with.

This leads us to the most important event in this book, which is, as a parent, truly heart wrenching to read.

Old man Goriot is a selfless loving father of two girls (Rastignac was in love with one of them). He gave everything to his two girls, he lives for them. They, on the other hand, are ungrateful kids who only come to their father when they need money. One of them went crying to Goriot because she doesn’t have a decent gown to wear to the ball. Her father, who was already sick, took all he owned and sold it just to get the 1000 francs she needed for her gown. She then sent her maid to collect the money and didn’t even have the decency to collect it herself.

The other one, Rastignac himself said that “he sensed that she would walk over her father’s dead body to get to the ball,” which in the end both daughters did as they were not present at their father’s deathbed, burial, or funeral. It was really painful to read the loving father call out painfully for his daughters but not finding them there next to him when he needed them most.

What I didn’t really get (which is why my rating has a minus in it) is the ending, but it might be lost in translation a bit (think if I read it in French it will be clearer). My version ends with Rastignac telling the city of Paris: “Now let us fight it out!” which I wasn’t sure if he meant he will fight society because of what it did to his dear old Goriot, which he regarded as a father figure by the end.

But I know in other version the line was translated differently and the word ‘fight’ wasn’t used. So did Rastignac fight the social injustices he saw, or did he yield to the social norms and accept them to move forward?

When I further looked into it, looks like he chose the latter path as apparently, the word ‘Rastignac’ is now used in France to name a social climber, who will do anything to better his social status.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. It was entertaining and full of meaning in almost every page. A true classic!


Next book:

#85 on the list: The Reb and the Black by Stendhal .. another classic!

Happy reading 🙂

Book Reviews · Reading

On the Road Book Review (#87)

Book: On the Road by Jack Kerouac

# 87 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: F

What is the story about?

The book is basically about a road trip, or several trips that the main character, Sal, and his best friend Dean go on.

Verdict?

I did it! I finished the book!

I persevered and powered through endless nonsense, more nonsense, and even more nonsense.

Sometimes I read a book on this list and say: Yes! This is exactly why I started this journey following this list .. to get out of my comfort zone and find a gem of a book.

Not this time. This time is the time where you think: how in the world did this book land on this list?!

The Telegraph says Kerouac wrote the book in “three near-sleepless weeks” and it clearly shows. He must’ve been drunk too because it’s not really a coherent story.

It’s like having my almost 3 year old talking about Peppa Pig then jumping to what happened in preschool then teasing her younger brother then going back to Peppa Pig again. Only difference is my 3 year old’s babbling is actually more interesting and cuter than the incoherent ramblings of Kerouac.

It’s like having a narrow minded, arrogant frat boy showing off his conquests and going on and on about his endless partying, drinking, girls, and outings.

Although I read some book’s I did not enjoy on this list, this is the first book that I have no favorite quotes from.

Maybe you have to be drunk to find one?


Next book: Old Goriot by Honore de Balzac. I’ll be happy if this book actually has a point to it.

Book Reviews · Reading

Eugene Onegin Book Review (#88)

Book: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

#88 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: A

What is the story about?

Simple answer: Eugene Onegin. Follows a part of his life and covers everything from love, friendship, society, values, and life in general.

Verdict?

I decided that I love Pushkin even more than Shakespeare.

While Shakespeare writes in beautiful lyrical verses, his words and stories are so magical but out of this world. They can’t happen in real life, melodramatic tragedy.

Pushkin, on the other hand, is like chatting to your best friend. It’s like having a witty and fun conversation with your close friend and the irony and satire makes you laugh out loud.

Even though this is a tragedy in all sense of the word, it’s funny, witty, clever and so well written that I now feel like if I ever somehow meet Pushkin, and speak Russian, we would hit it off immediately.

Keep in mind this is a translation so hats off to Mr. James E. Falen. I’m sure it’s not easy to translate from Russian, especially while trying to capture the essence of it and keeping the rhyme in this novel written in verse.

So imagine reading it in Russian!

When I know this was a novel written in verse I was skeptical and honestly dreaded to read it. But I loved it!

It was a quick and light read. It was clever and witty. It was insightful and sad. It was simply amazing!

No wonder it turned into the famous opera act composed by Tchaikovsky!

Out of all the books I read on this list so far, this was the most novel I can relate with when it comes to views of social norms and life overall. Funny the novel I saw myself the most in was one set in 1820’s imperial Russia, but that just shows you how clever and timeless Pushkin is.

If you get a chance to read this book, please do. You won’t regret it!


Next book: # 87 on the list: On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Again a book I know nothing about, excited to read it!

Till next time ❤

Book Reviews · Reading

The Golden Notebook Book Review (#89)

Book: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

#89 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: F

What is the story about?

This book is very complicated but I will try my best to describe it. It follows the life, or is mainly about Anna Wulf, a disgruntled, divorced, communist writer who is dealing with, among many other things, writer’s block.

She has 4 notebooks: 1) a black notebook (about her past in Africa), 2) a red notebook (mainly about the British Communist Party), 3) a yellow notebook (to write fictional stories in), and 4) a  blue notebook (her diary). At the end, she tries to combine the four notebooks into one golden notebook.

Verdict:

Wow Ms. Lessing, I hope you have found the peace you deserve because I honestly don’t believe you were 100% ok while writing this book.

I imagine Ms. Lessing was brainstorming what styles should she write in: should it be a memoir? A novel? A diary? A short story? Let’s just do them all so I can show the world I am capable of each.

Then she brainstormed topics: should it be about politics? Communism? Race? Feminism? Relationships? Mental state? Depression? You know what, Let’s just do it all in one big book because hey why not?

But having all these loaded topics all in one book just makes it so messy and actually takes away from whatever message she was trying to make in all these topics. (I’m sure there’s a lot more topics she tackled but throughout the 620 page mess of a book I forgot them).

This takes me to another point, this book is so freaking hard to read! There are no chapters. It is sectioned off in parts that supposedly should free women (free women 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5). What is ironic and hilarious is the greater you get into freeing these women, the crazier it all gets until Anna comes close to a complete mental breakdown.

The build up to this mental breakdown is so intense and described in such scrutiny that you can’t help but get sucked into the darkness as well.

But low and behold, at save the women number 5, it took an American wanderer 3 days to magically heal her by pulling down all the crazy newspaper cuttings on her wall. This “healing” took place over a max of 4 pages, while the complete and utter breakdown took 600 pages to build up and explain. (This is why I believe Ms. Lessing was not in a very healthy state of mind while writing this as she described anxiety, depression, and the breakdown of reality so realistically, but did not realistically write down how this woman got out of it).

So each section (except saving #5) starts with a ‘real’ scene in Anna’s current life, mainly with her daughter Julie and her friend Molly. Then it goes through the four different notebooks, which to me where as follows:

  • Black notebook –> complete degeneration of society & disregard to any morale code anyone follows.
  • Red notebook –> hypocrisy of politics; lies people on all sides of the political spectrum say and do for their individual gains.
  • Yellow notebook –> relationships; mainly being the mistress; the ‘other’ woman (progressive, unbound by social norms yet they all define themselves by their men).
  • Blue notebook –> mind numbingly boring conversations between Anna and her psychiatrist; oh and a list of her ‘meaningful’ dreams.

But, Doris Lessing did stay true to one main theme throughout the entirety of 630 pages: sex. This includes: extra-marital sex, homosexuality, female orgasm, endless sex-capades, and last but not least, a detailed study into an insect sexual encounter.

If I come across as angry throughout this book review, yes I have to admit I am angry. This book was a complete waste of my time. I even googled why the heck this book won a Nobel Prize.

Bottom line is, if you have a choice whether to read this book or not, my advice is: run! Run as fast as you can in the other direction. Do not waste your time on this insanity.


Next book on the list: Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. Hope this one is good after two disappointing reads.

Happy reading!

Book Reviews · Reading · Uncategorized

Under the Net Book Review (# 90)

Book: Under the Net by Iris Murdoch

# 90 on the Telegraph’s 100 novels everyone should read.

Grade: D

What is the story about?

The story starts with Jake Donaghue being kicked out of his current living arrangement. He is almost broke and doesn’t hold a steady job as he is an ‘intellectual’, as he puts it. He sometimes translates book as a way to get money.

He then goes on a crazy journey that is filled with past loves and acquaintances, skinny dipping in the Thames, stealing a dog, some politics and some philosophy, only to find himself coming full circle and ending up where he started off: homeless and almost broke, just with a dog.

Verdict:

Why does one read books? To learn something? To be entertained? To follow an interesting story? To tick a title off a list?

Well I did tick the book off my list.

Was I entertained? For the first 100 pages yes, then it became very slow, and picked up a little at the end.

Did I follow an interesting story? It was a really crazy storyline with a lot of different episodes; but it might’ve been too crazy for me.

Did I learn anything? Not really. No wonder the philosophical book Jake published was a complete flop as the philosophy in this book was a bore to me and without any real substance or meaning.

Maybe the whole point of the story is to not be a lazy, immoral, opportunistic bum and to actually get a job (Jake decided to get a job at the end of the story).

And definitely get a dog (but not steal one). The only character I liked in this book is Max, the handsome loyal dog. Makes me kind of think of saying yes to my son when he keeps nagging to get one. On second thought, I don’t think I’m ready to take care of a fifth baby lol.

I can’t really say much about this book. It was a light read. It was entertaining for the most part. But will I recommend it to my loved ones? No.


Next book:

# 89 on the list: The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing.

The Telegraph explains it as having some communism, women’s liberation, and “inner space fiction.” No idea what that means .. should be interesting.

Till next time ❤

 

Book Reviews · Reading

Mini Reviews Books 100 – 91

Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating and happy holidays!

I finally finished the first 10 books on the Telegraph’s 100 greatest novels of all time. (well not really I stopped reading 2 books based on principle, more on this below).

So here it is: an overview and mini reviews of the first 10 books on the list.

# 100: Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

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Grade: A
Favorite Quote:

Some believe that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I’ve found. I found it is the small things. Every day deeds by ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. – Gandalf

Mini Review:

I usually hate anything too whimsical and unrealistic. I need to be able to relate to something to love it so imagine my great surprise when I LOVED this book. Tolkien is a genius! Amazing read!

Click here to read the full review.

# 99: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

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Grade: B
Favorite Quote:

The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.

Mini Review:

Great book, wonderful moral and very powerful message. That being said, I understand why the book is studied at middle school (high school) levels. Can’t wait till my kids get to read it!

Click here to read the full review.

# 98: The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore

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Grade: C
Favorite Quote:

What I really feel is this, that those who cannot find food for their enthusiasm in a knowledge of their country as it actually is, or those who cannot love men because they are men, – whose needs must shout and deify their country in order to keep up their excitement, – those love excitement more than their country.

Mini Review:

It is an honor to read a book written by a man who wrote the Indian National Anthem and get a greater understanding of the political struggles in the region at that time. But, its philosophical writing made it a bit of a hard read for me.

Click here to read the full review.

#97: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

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Grade: C
Favorite Quote:

This planet has – or rather had – a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

Mini Review:

This to me is a one liner book. On the book back cover, the Washington Post Book World calls it “inspired lunacy.” I think it’s more of lunacy with some inspiration scattered through.

Click here to read the full review.

# 96: One Thousand and One Nights by Anon

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Grade: n/a (stopped reading based on principle)

I honestly can’t believe this book is so popular and considered one of the classics. The racism, sexuality, and vulgarity in it is repulsive. I not only refuse to continue reading it, but refuse to actually have it in my home.

# 95: The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang Goethe

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Grade: D
Favorite Quote:

All the high-flown schoolteachers and tutors agree that children do not know why they want; but that grown-ups too tumble around like children on the face of the earth, not knowing where they come from or where they are going, acting as little from true purpose, and just as ruled by biscuits and cakes and birch rods: no one really wants to believe that …

Mini Review:

The story was very sad; not as in heartbreaking sad, but pathetic sad, Young Werther, Come on! Be a man, get over it and move on.

Click here to read the full review.

# 94: Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie

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Grade: A
Favorite Quote:

… where the truth is what it is instructed to be, reality quite literally ceases to exist

Mini Review:

Beautiful. Amazing story where history comes alive and emotions are so raw, your heart aches for them. Loved it!

Click here to read the full review.

# 93: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carre

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Grade: A
Favorite Quote:

“We’ve had enough.” He took back the report and jammed it under his arm. “We’ve had a bellyful, in fact.” “And like everyone who’s had enough,” said Control as Alleline noisily left the room, “he wants more.”

Mini Review:

This is not an action filled spy story but a gripping psychological thriller that is so beautifully written. It will keep you engaged and intrigued from beginning to end.

Click here to read the full review.

# 92: Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

cold-comfort-farm-673x1024Grade: C
Favorite Quote:

Here was an occasion, she thought, for indulging in that deliberate rudeness which only persons with habitually good manners have the right to commit…

Mini Review:

Apparently, this book is a satire. And going through this book, you really do feel like the writer is trying to make a joke, but you don’t really know at who or why you should laugh. So yeah, I don’t get the joke really.

Click here to read the full review.

#91: The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki

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Grade: n/a (stopped reading; based on principle .. again)

Second book from this list (and ever) that I decide to stop reading. I approached this list with an open mind, just like I approached this book. I was adamant on finishing all the books I read, no matter how ‘boring’ they are.

But, I realized, there are books that I can’t read based on what I personally believe and my principals.

Just like the 1001 nights, I stopped reading this book when Genji kidnapped a child from her home and forced her to sleep next to him even when she was crying for her nanny. That was it for me really.

There it is. Overviews and mini reviews of the 1st 10 books on the Telegraph’s 100 greatest novels of all time.

It only took me over a year to finish these. At this rate, it will take me 10 years to finish the list lol. Hopefully now that my almost one year old boy is staring to sleep better, I can get more reading done.

Next read:

Under the Net by Doris Lessing. I always get excited when its a book I know nothing about. Hope it is good and I get to write the next 10 reviews in less than a year.

Happy reading!