Better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away

When I got home from work today, I found one of the front tires of my van was making a noise like air was leaking from it. I could hear “Hiss” loud and clear. A few minutes later when I checked back, the tire was flat.

I felt helpless. My husband was not home. I don’t know how to change tires.

I called a Chinese friend who lives in the neighborhood. I know Tom is a handyman. He does a lot of maintenance work for his own cars. I just wanted to see if Tom could change the spare tire for me so I can drive to Sam’s Club tomorrow morning to get the tire fixed.

Tom came over late in the evening. He removed the flat tire and found a piece of metal stuck in it. He said he would fix the tire instead of just changing the spare tire for me.

He went home and brought all kinds of tools with him, including a work light with stand to brighten the garage, an air compressor, and others.

After Tom finished fixing the leak, he spinkled some water on the surface to check the result. He found another leak. The same metal piece caused two leaks. So he had to fix the second leak. It took him more than an hour from beginning to the end. He even checked and pumped air for the other three ties for me and also my kids’ bike tires. 

I was so grateful for Tom’s help. He saved me money, time and trouble. I don’t need to go to a repair shop any more. 

In response to my appreciation, Tom said humbly using an often quoted Chinese proverb : “Close neighbors are more important than distant relatives.” 

That’s so true. The same thing is also said in the Bible: “Better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.” 

I am just thankful for having a few great neighbors.

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Mixed feelings about the Tiger Mother book

I finally read the controversial book “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” by Amy Chua.

Actually my daughter was very interested in reading the book after she heard about it. I borrowed the book for her to read during the coming spring break.

Last Friday when I got the book, my son was sick and laying on the couch doing nothing. So I just read the book to him and my daughter. It was nice we could read the book together.

Since my kids became independent readers in their first grade or so, I don’t usually read to them except Bible stories sometimes at bed time. But I was eager to read this book to them, for a very selfish reason.

My kids think of me as a strict mother. Comparing to many American mothers, I probably am strict. But comparing to Amy Chua, well, there is no comparison. I hope they would change their mind about me being strict to them after reading the book.   

The book is definitely very interesting. It’s an easy read with 4-6 page long chapters. We finished it in three days. When I wanted to take a break, my son kept saying: “Please continue.”

The book is a memoir and not a parenting advice book. It’s about Chua’s parenting journey and her transformation. Many people have formed their opinions and made harsh comments based on the Wall Street Journal excerpt titled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior“ (1/8/11), without having read the whole book.

I have mixed feelings about the book or Chua’s parenting.

Coming from China myself, I have a little better understanding of where Chua’s parenting style comes from. Things that Chinese parents do out of love for their kids might be viewed and interpreted as mental and emotional abuse by Western parents.  

So I didn’t react as shocked as most readers do. However, I still find her too harsh with her kids, such as forcing them practicing piano or violin for hours day after day without break, even during vacations. Several times my daughter commented while I was reading: “That’s so mean.”

I found her being judgemental and narrow focused. She aimed for academic success and musical achievement for her kids. I think that shouldn’t be the whole purpose of life. How could her kids live a balanced life of mind, body and spirit? Aiming for greatness should be an important aspect of parenting.

Like her own daughters said in the book, I felt Chua liked to show off, which is a turn off for me.

Chua probably exaggrated a little bit in her writing to have the dramatic effect.

On the other hand, I admired Chua’s hard work, persistence, dedication and commitment to her kids. She gave herself sacrificially. I can’t imagine driving two hours one way every week for a music lesson. It made me feel kind of inadequate that I am not doing much and doing enough for my kids.

I also give her credit for being honest. I am sure she knew something she did and said would cause controversy and negative reactions, but she shared anyway.

Amy Chua herself is a high achiever with tremendous talents and energy. Her expectation for her kids is beyond normal standards, and her means to achieve the result are also beyond normal understanding.  

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