Monday, October 08, 2012

Unleashing the Potential

-Caution: Amy Chua-esque post below. Please don't yell if your beliefs are totally different-

As a child and teenager, I used to roll my eyes at my mother when she nagged me or alluded that I wasn't achieving what I ought to be. I remember being extremely confident of my abilities and puzzled why others did better than I did even though I knew I was smarter than most of them. Of course, it didn't occur to me that I was an arrogant little thing who thought too highly of herself.

I also remember announcing most proudly to my mother my PSLE results (I really thought I had done well) and my mother responding by asking why that was all I had achieved. It took me years to get over that disappointment and forgive my mother for wanting more than I could achieve.

Packrat recently pointed out to me that I am strict with JED and expect a lot from them. But he also conceded that it wasn't because I was trying to keep up with the rat race that was the Singapore way of bringing up children. He thought the deeper reason for these high expectations was that deep down inside, I felt that had I been pushed harder, I would have made more for myself.

There is truth in it. I see a lot of squandered potential in my past and it often had to do with my not really wanting to do what was unpleasant or too much work or what I didn't have much interest in regardless of how good it was for me. My mother was right to have thought that I could have done better.

And I am beginning to see it from my mother's point of view with the full package of anxiety, stress and frustration and I am seeing too much of myself in Jordan. And that is what worries me.

I see how good she is at a lot of things and how well she does it when it suits her. And when it becomes too much work, she refuses to do it or comes up with a whole long list of excuses that range from her having a stomachache to the fact that she will only do it with Packrat, fully aware that he sometimes doesn't get home till after bedtime. When it does suit her, the focus and attention are amazing and impressive.

On days that she has Chinese class (which I will blog about soon), ballet, swimming or even just regular, she has been known to magically develop ailments or imaginary bullies that might do her harm if she attends. Initially, I was silly enough to buy into it and investigate her complaints. But it didn't take long before we wised up and realised that what all these situations had in common was that it required her to put in effort. Even in the bits that were unfun.

I don't know how to deal with it in the long run. I don't know how to deal with a 'little me'. I know now, on hindsight, that I would have liked to be pushed harder and have had people who were less forgiving and more relentless. In other words, if I were honest with myself, I would probably have benefitted from an Amy Chua like mother. But I am not sure that 11 year old, 16 year old or 22 year old me would have taken that and would I have run away to get as far away from the pressure as possible only to regret it later?

So, while I know what my instinct with Jordan is, I don't know how she will react to it and therefore I dare not do it. On top of that, I am surrounded by people who say that any sort of excess would lead to killing the joy. That sentiment, I remember all too clearly as well.

When I saw her this morning, chasing her brother up and down the void deck, my heart filled with so much pride. As a former athlete, beautiful running form even from a 5 year old catches my eye. When it is my own child, I pay even closer attention to it.

But am I going to do anything about it? No. Not just because she is only 5 years old but because I haven't figured out how to do it. The only thing I know that I have to teach her and that I cannot let her get away with is to give up when things get tough or un-fun. It is difficult to stick to that though. It is so much easier to just allow her to give it up. Then, I wouldn't need to hear all the whining, complaining and excuses.

I suspect what will eventually happen will be that I will have to hope and pray that she figures it out for herself. I figured out some of it, I achieved some of the great things that people thought I could have and for all the other things that I didn't and she possibly wouldn't, I would just have to keep quiet and let her find her own way, figure it out for herself and possibly let her live with that regret.

My mother must have had to bite her tongue a whole lot when I was growing up.

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