Lessons on Letting My Kids Face Challenges

When I met C outside school a few weeks ago, I noticed she wasn’t her usual peppy self. She dragged her feet along the sidewalk like she was trudging through mud, and plopped down on the concrete bench next to me with the weight of the world on her small shoulders. I tried to ask what was wrong, but she only answered me with a pout. It wasn’t until half an hour after we got home that she handed me a note detailing her woes:


In case you aren’t familiar with first-gradernese, it reads: “I want to change schools before Thursday or skip Friday please. The jacket, it is bad because K said me and L are twins. Thanks, Mei (little sister).”

We proceeded to have a very long (according to E who was patiently waiting for me to help with homework) discussion about the two issues she wrote about. First, she didn’t want to go to school Friday because her class was having a Thanksgiving/Heritage Day potluck, and her teacher said the kids would need to introduce their dishes using the language of their cultural heritage. Keep in mind, C’s first language was Mandarin and she was speaking 11 word sentences by the time she was 18 months old. And I was only planning on making fried rice, which is only 2 words long. But, it’s been a while (sigh!) since either one of the munchkins have spoken Mandarin fluently, so she was pretty anxious about speaking it in front of her teacher, her classmates and their parents.

Now, the second issue involved a new fuzzy purple jacket I bought for her … which happened to be the same fuzzy purple jacket as another girl, L, in her class. As a result, one of her friends, K, started teasing her that she and L were twins, and refused to sit with C at lunch.

Aiya, right?

I thanked C for telling me what was on her mind, and we started troubleshooting the problems one by one. The first one was fairly simple; we practiced saying the words …

Chao Fan (aka. Fried Rice)

Chao Fan (aka. Fried Rice)

throughout the week until she was comfortable with them. It turned out, she didn’t even need to say the dish in Chinese, but it was a good mini lesson anyway. 😉

The latter issue, however, was much more troublesome and worrisome (or rather, trouble-most and worri-most because honestly, it troubled and worried me a lot!). When C told me about K (and also T) not wanting to sit with her, my heart fell. I could only think about the times I was bullied or felt left out as a kid. I absolutely did NOT want C to go through that. My initial reaction (and also hubby’s when I told him about this) was to say, “We’ll get you a new jacket!” Getting a new non-fuzzy non-purple jacket was sure to solve the problem, right? Actually, not right. It might make things better temporarily, but rescuing C from this conflict wouldn’t help her in the long run … especially when she faced another situation like this again.

Sigh. Double SIGH. (This was one of those times I wished some over-protective parent out there would invent a kid-sized bubble cause I’d be the first one to buy it.)

Even though I desperately wanted to take the easy way out to protect my little girl, I took a deep breath and put on my big girl pants. I told C to sit with her other friends for now, and that K would likely stop teasing her after a while. I tried going the logical route and said, “She’s being silly. Doesn’t she know you all wear the same clothes (uniforms) already?” She replied with an even more logical answer, “Yeah, how can we be twins? We don’t even look the same.” (No kidding, L is blonde!)

LOL. You go, girl! 🙂

This was when I knew she would be okay. Fuzzy purple jacket aside, C is learning how to think for herself and to stand strong in the face of  challenges. It’s definitely not pleasant for me to watch her experience these growing pains, but I’m thankful I can walk alongside her and help her through them. ‘Cause that’s what my job as her mom is about. I can’t put her in a bubble or prevent her from getting scraped and bruised. But I can be there to sit with her, tend to her wounds, and nudge her back into the world … loved and lifted up and stronger than before.

I love the passion in this song by Demi Lovato, “Skyscraper”. It’s all about rising above our circumstances and standing strong in the face of challenges.

Who or what has helped you stand strong in the face of challenges?

Human Beings, Not Doings

I was listening to a sermon the other week when something our pastor said hit me like an overturned bucket of icy water on my head.


“Why do you say you’re just a mom?”

I raised my eyebrows and my eyes darted quickly to my right and then to my left. Is he talking to me?! I wondered. How does he know?

Yes, how did he know? How did he know that ever since I quit my job and became a stay at home mom 7.5 years ago that I have labeled myself as “Just a mom”? That when people ask me, “So what do you do?”, my immediate reaction is to respond in a hesitant voice, “I, uh, stay at home.”

Why do I (and people in general) feel the need to base our worth on what we do? For moms, why is staying at home with the kids not enough? Maybe because in this world, we have been conditioned to base our value on what we do. We grow up thinking we need to get the best grades, go to the best school, secure the best jobs and make the most money. We do, do, do… until we are no longer human beings, but human doings.

With that in mind, another thing our pastor said that made me ponder was this: It’s not just the bad we do (that should concern us). It’s also the good we do that we do with the wrong motives.

For me, it’s the hectic scramble to clean the house – even at the expense of ignoring my kids – before guests arrive, so I look like I have it all together.

It’s the effort to say everything’s fine and redirect the conversation to the other person, so I don’t have to share about my struggles.

Lately, it’s the need to tack on a “I do some writing on the side” to the “I stay at home” response, so I can make myself sound more important.

There is nothing wrong with tidying the house, extending a listening ear to a friend or sharing about my writing endeavors. But when the reasons I do these things stem from a place of fear or pride, I fall into the trap of doing and not being.

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty tired of being a human doing. As a recovering perfectionist, I’ve had plenty of experience doing all the right things at all the right times. What I’ve learned is that when you’re constantly doing, there isn’t much room for error… or for enjoyment. You end up kind of like a zombie – alive, but not really living. And if you’ve ever seen a zombie movie, you know those usually don’t end well.

So I’m on a quest to start being – to be okay with who I am, to make mistakes, to let go of my need to appear calm, cool and collected all the time. It’s time to be a human being, not a human doing. I hope you will join me, too. 🙂

Demi Lovato’s song, “Let It Go” from the movie “Frozen” is a great song for this post.

What do you need to let go of in order to be a human being, not a human doing?