Tuesday, May 26, 2009

To Push or Not?

This past week, I got an email reminding me that Chinese culture camp is coming up in July near my home. I told my daughter about it and got a very firm, "I don't want to go" in return. It didn't surprise me completely, as she also told me this year that she didn't want to go to Chinese New Year with our FCC group, and when I insisted she attend, she told me that she wanted to wear jeans this year and not "one of those Chinese dresses". I assured her that was fine with me.

So today I have been wondering when to push and when to not.

I grew up in a family of people who loved to play music. My grandmother was an accomplished organist, and I would love listening to her play. My parents signed me up for piano lessons, and like most kids, I did it for awhile. But then the fun of playing with my friends was calling, and warm summer days, and I planted my feet firmly and told my mom that I did not want to take lessons anymore, and she said, "fine". Of course now...I am like many of the adults out there who quit music lessons in that I say to my mom quite unfairly, "why in the world didn't you just make me keep doing piano!" I've heard it from my grown daughter about letting her quit violin as well. : -) There's that age old line of "why didn't you just make me knowing it was for my own good???"

I was talking to a friend today about the culture camp and she compared it to Chinese language school as well. Her daughters from China wanted to play soccer on the weekends, and didn't have any desire to go to Chinese school if it meant missing out on playing that sport with their friends. She has struggled with her decision to not force them to learn Mandarin.

We as transcultural adopters try to parent in the best way possible by learning from those who were adopted from Vietnam and Korea in the past. And of course one of the things the more vocal adoptees stress is that they felt a disconnect when their parents ignored their culture of birth. But what about those of us as parents who want more than anything to have our children know their birth culture, but who are now parenting kids 9-15 who only want to be "American"? (whatever that means exactly?) Who just want to hang out with their friends and discuss the latest episode of iCarly and Edward from Twilight, and who balk at the idea of going to camp to learn about China or going to Saturday classes to learn Mandarin.

When do you push? When do you let them take the lead?

I sure would love to know your thoughts, especially with the deadline for camp fast approaching!



  1. While I think it is important to provide SOME cultural connection whether our kids want it or not, we don't need to feel required to provide ALL cultural connections. We attend Chinese school, are active in FCC and seek out cultural activities like the annual Asian Festival.

    Last year my daughter resisted Chinese school. Part of the resistance was her previous teacher was not a trained teacher and the class tended to be boring. This year, her teacher was very good and she didn't resist going at all.

    My opinion on the culture camp would be has she ever gone? Does it conflict with something else she wants to do this year? If she hasn't ever gone and there are no other conflicts, I'd send her. If she has gone and wants to do something different, I'd give her a pass this year, but think about next year.

    We went through this with arts camps this summer. My daughter picked one and I signed her up for that and one of my choosing. She didn't want the second one, but I wanted her to try since I think she will like it. If she doesn't like it, I won't ask her to do it again.

    A friend went through this with her daughter about Chinese school and gave her daughter a year off. This year, the daughter wanted to do it again, so whatever the phase, it passed and the mom was glad she didn't push it, but offered the option again.

  2. Could it also depend on whether or not she has friends going to camp with her? I could see if she's going by herself and would rather be with friends, how that would make her not want to go. However, if you have a local group of friends and they're going, the choice to go might be easier.
    If she's already told you that she doesn't want to go and you overrule, you can't feel bad if the trip seems a waste if she chooses to not participate or be difficult.
    If you haven't already, have a discussion with why you want her to go and then listen to why she doesn't want to go. Is it because she would rather watch movies with her friends? Or does she not have an interest in what the camp has to offer? A clear line of communication is best.
    Good luck and keep us posted!

  3. umm .. my 12 year old has LOVED Chinese dance classes for the last 5 years. She is a natural performer and this suited ...but it was more, I could see she enjoyed just being there too. Was it an ethnic belonging?? the class was a mix of children born in China and other born in Ireland of Chinese parents. All I know is that she loved it! - until this year. "I'm quitting ... do I have to finish this term?" Well Sunday was the last day and there is a fairly special performance coming this Thurs. I turned to another friend while my daughter was in earshot to comment on this being the final showdown, but, immediately my daughter stopped me by saying "NO! I'm staying ... I don't want to give it up"
    Gee ... I actually have no idea what changed her mind! 12 year olds - give me a book to read about how to handle the teen years!!!

  4. I have no thoughts yet, as my little one is only 21 months old. But I sure appreciate the input and the ideas. It's a lot to think about and I'd imagine there's no right answer per kid, per family, per community. We ARE blessed to be close in proximity to our agency, and they sponsor wonderful events occasionally, so I know we'll continue to take advantage of that resource. And this blog is so helpful to think about these things and plan some ideas for future seasons! thanks guys.

  5. My husband is Chinese (moved here when he was 10) and he and other Chinese-American friends share that it is practically a rite of passage to try to get out of going to Chinese school (around tween age)for them too. My husband's parents weren't strict and let him stop. You guessed it- he regrets that they did!

    That being said I don't make my kids go to a school where they would be the only kids from an English speaking home. Some kids could handle that, for others that would be too rough.

  6. We have decided to let our kids take a "pass" this summer since they are pretty adamant they don't want to go. I am hoping that it is just a short phase and that next year they will want to return. I am grateful for all of your comments!