Parenting by far is the hardest kind of job to a lot of people! Numerous educators have written about it and tons of research have been done on the topic. No matter how much we read about it before we take on the job or how much we follow and practice the principles, we never seem to do it right. This is PARENTING!
After 27 years, I still find myself learning to be a good parent (or a good friend by now). I have always tried to be a good listener and not too judgmental (which is way harder said than done). Great relationships always begin with good communication and trust. Parents really have to understand their children’s personalities, strengths, and weaknesses before they could help their children develop their potentials and enjoy a happy life. With my twin sons who are now 27, I used to think that I have done a pretty good job raising them.
Before high school, they both excelled academically, they were the top 2 U.S. regional table-tennis players and they won various awards for their dedicated community services. They just did whatever I asked them to and everything seemed to turn out fine. Both of them were later accepted by one of the top American high schools, Phillips Academy at Andover.
However, after they got into the boarding school, they had a very hard time adjusting to the competitive environment at the school. Without me being around, they could hardly manage their time and too shy to reach out for help when there was a problem. Grades started to drop and so was their self-esteem. They no longer see themselves as the top students that everyone looks up to. Few years passed by, they survived Andover and went onto different universities.
However, they still didn’t have much direction of their own. The older twin changed his major twice before he realized that he has a strong interest in medicine. At that time, he was so unsure whether he was even qualified enough to apply for medical school. After two years of research work and earning a Master degree from Georgetown University, he finally got accepted into medical school. The younger twin also struggled quite a bit during his undergraduate years. Fortunately, his hard work and perseverance during his 2 years of working as a research assistant after his undergraduate study had earned him acceptance into the biomedical Ph.D. program at UCLA.
When I looked back, I think I could have done a better job if I did not provide too many supervisions during their childhood and let them handle more of their own matters. If I did let go early on, I think the boys would be a lot more prepared and capable of facing challenges and not losing much of their self-esteem during their high school and undergraduate years.
My daughter and the twins are eight years apart. She has a completely different set of personality, very independent, an absolute risk taker, very articulate and last but not least, never listens. I used to think raising a girl would be fun-filled, exciting and passionate fueled. It turned out to be almost the complete opposite! While mother wants to protect the daughter from making mistakes, the daughter would see that as either criticisms or disapprovals. Although there were a lot of frustrations, blaming, yelling, crying and disappointments, there were still moments of love and great bonding.
By coincidence, my daughter started ice skating when she was 6 and this beautiful sport became her dream and passion. Because of my work, my daughter and I moved to Hong Kong when she was 11. There she got a chance to join the Hong Kong Figure Skating Team and to compete internationally. However training in Hong Kong was far from ideal, so my daughter tried again and again to persuade us to let her go back to the U.S. to be home schooled and trained professionally. For me, home schooling was never something that I will consider for my children. The thought of not physically going to school every day made me afraid that she would put her education at risk. However, part of me thought how often can someone follow their dream and do something that they are really passionate about when they are young. Besides, I learned from the experience with my sons that I have to let children make their own decision and be responsible for it. For three years, she trained with many renowned coaches in California and we traveled to 14 countries for competitions. Not only that my daughter got a taste of being an elite international athlete, she also got to witness many international events that other people could only watch on TV which undoubtedly made her appreciate and embrace different cultures. At the same time, she did great with her online school and graduated with President’s Education Award. Last year she earned admissions to a number of universities and she made her decision to go to UCLA. My daughter is now majoring in International Development Studies and hoping to pursue International Law in graduate school.
In conclusion, my 27 years of parenting experience has taught me that every child is unique and no one should follow other’s path. It is parents’ love, patience and support that really nurtures the children and brings the best out of them. I hope by sharing my story with young parents could lessen their anxiety of parenting and help them understand that everything will eventually work out. Parents must learn to enjoy the time with their children which will fly by quickly before you know it.
If you have any questions for me, feel free to post in the comments section below.