Do They Serve Juice & Cookies at the Afterparty?

Today marks the first election that I went to the polls to vote.  To say it was anti-climactic would be somewhat of an understatement.

I approached the youth center early this morning to see a line snaking out of the building and around the basketball court.  Perhaps not an ideal situation for 30-degree weather, but I was pumped–civic duty, hell yeah!–and ready to get this election started.  A little–okay, lot–of cold wasn’t going to deter me.  I started bouncing around on my feet a little, praying for our country and the outcome of today’s election, and pondering what it would feel like to vote.  I was convinced that somehow voting at the polls would prove to be a mystical event that would invariably produce a change me.  I was ready.

And for about 25 minutes I was the paragon of patriot pride.

Then the cold started actually feeling like cold and my little happy dance started to look like an incompetent rendition of Gangnam Style.

An hour into my wait, I finally reached the door of the building.  Finally!  This is it!, I remember thinking.  Except when I stepped into the hallway, the line had curved and snaked down the hallway and back around and down the hallway again and around the corner into The Room, and I came to the realization that this is where I’m going to die.

An hour and fifteen minutes in, I finally prove I am myself and get an oversized secret clipboard with a paper inside the size of legal paper.  Mystery!  Intrigue!  I step in line and wait for one of those magical tissue paper curtains to open and reveal glorious electoral wonder.  So I stand there and do my excited foot bounce and hand clap thing, and when one opens I…stand there.

Stock-till.  Rooted.  The lady behind me politely points to the open poll, and I stifle the urge to hush her and tell her to revel in the magnificence.  And I would have, too, but for the fact that her cell phone chose that inopportune moment to cut off my dramatic monologue.  Whatever, fine.

I walk forward, pull back the curtain, and I wrinkle my nose in confusion.  Where’s the voter machine I always hear so much about?  Why’s there a marker/crayon hybrid on the toy shelf in front of me?  Then it clicks.  They expect me to vote on my oversized paper of mystery.

My first time in a poll is a throwback to kindergarten.

Buzz kill.

To really drill that point home, I got the customary “I Voted!” sticker afterwards.  Part of me wanted to turn my nose up at that, but my subconscious really actually took to the whole kindergarten thing, so I got inordinately excited.  I took that little sticker with pride.

When I walked out, I wasn’t feeling particularly changed.  Actually, I was feeling like someone used all the water in the Keurig.  I saw a little girl was twirling around in circles yelling about how much she loves ‘Merica!, and that really touched something in me.  Here was a small child, unable to vote, but who was loudly, proudly, and rightly casting her vote not for a candidate for our country.  In that moment, it hit me that she was on to something.  I went over to her and asked her if she’d like a sticker.  She lit up and enthusiastically nodded, so I handed over my sticker.  She rewarded me with a 1000-watt smile and a solemn proclamation to wear it all day.





W&Q 12

I’m always late, so the fact that this is being posted late probably should come as no surprise to you.  I’ll let John Clellon Holmes speak for me: “It needs work, it needs help, but I have made more than just a valiant failure.”  Take anything I write, and this is true.  Especially here.  I had ideas for this poem, but due to lack of time, energy, and not feeling particularly well, this is the best I can come up with without taking another week.  Without further ado–

Word: Friction
Question: Who invited you?

Another good one out the door,
Name and face already lost
To join the denizens who came before
And soon another will take his place,
A John or Zach or Bram perhaps
His innocence soon to be laid to waste
For sweet-souled boys queue up in line
And as soon as all is well and good
And I am happy and you are mine
Doubt will shake, friction will crease
I’ll say it’s you, but know it’s me
I’ve always been good at catch and release

Word & Question 12

I think?  Anyway, I’ll be hosting it this month.  I know several of my readers do not participate in it, not being the poetically-inclined types–or, perhaps, not the poetically-writing-inclined types.  However, it is my first time hosting Word and Question.  Do consider joining us.  You don’t have to like poetry!  You just have to like me!  Well, like me enough to be willing to give it a shot.  It’d make me veeeeeeeery happy.

Head on over here to read more about it and how it works. Enbrethiliel, the mind behind this wonderful creation, has a nice writeup explaining Word & Question for everyone.

Basically, you send me a random word and a random question [that are appropriate; I’ll trash anything inappropriate and substitute them for something ridiculous and make sure you get them] by 6 May. I will then jumble them all up and give you a word and a question to write a poem around. I’m notorious for being late, though, so I’ll probably accept prompts through about 8pm on the 7th (that’s Saturday).

Anyway, join in! It’s fun, and nobody will write anything mean about your poem. We’ll only write nice things. If someone writes something mean, I’ll write a poem making fun of them. See? I’m offering to defend your honor. You’ve nothing to lose. Join! We love new players. And you’d make me happy.

Please send all prompts to my email address–this domain name at gmail dot com.
*Also, if you just feel like emailing me, that’s acceptable, too. I like emails, though I sometimes usually take awhile to respond. Emails also make me happy, though. If you won’t participate in Word & Question, correspondence is an acceptable substitution.

Word & Question 11

Late, per usual. I had an immense amount of difficulty with this one. I’m still not happy with it, but I’m going to go ahead and post it as is. I’ll be posting after this about W&Q 12 since I’ll be hosting it for the month of May.


The words transport me to a lumpy gray couch–
Hands clasped under Navajo weave
Staring at a fire on a 13″ screen, space heater not far between–
You could never start a fire, but my heart’s engulfed in flames

As we sat sipping cocoa, I asked you for a poem–
Not a sonnet, but not Silverstein, please–
And so you obliged with a limerick comprised
Of language I dare not repeat
You could never make cocoa without any lumps,
But my thirst is always quelled

I still feel the heat from the lick of those flames
And their warmth effervescing inside
–But, no, that’s just the rays of the sun–
And so here I stand and here it remains,
The all and the everything that knocks and strains
Culled from nothing but ink on a page

Word: thirst
Question: When will you come to visit me?

Head over to Dauvit’s page to read the other poems.

Hark, the Harold Angel Sings

I’ve received several not so subtle reminders that it’s been awhile since I last blogged. I’ve been busy, and my schedule hasn’t left a lot of time for blogging—I’m a very important person, you know—and I haven’t really had all that much to say. While I have been busy, not a lot’s been going on. Well, okay, I got a new job. Er, well, a temp-to-hire job. I guess that’s sort of big. I keep telling myself it doesn’t count until I am hired permanently. I like it, though. I like the people I work with. Other than that, I’ve been reading a lot and trying to write when I can. Mostly I read, though. Really, that’s all that’s been going on.

Oh, and this. I guess this is important:

World, meet Master Harry. Officially, he’s Harold Jack. So far, I’ve taken to calling him Master Harry, though. He’s rolling over already, and I think he’s pretty adorable as far as nephews go. He’s a month old today. That makes the rolling over bit seem a little less impressive, but he rolled over last week when he was only three weeks old, so that’s still pretty impressive. It’s just not, you know, Superbaby impressive, more Batbaby impressive. I was going to wait until his first birthday to introduce him, when I could show you a picture of him walking and really impress you with his size and abilities for a newborn, but I was worried I might slip up before then (though I believe I’d have to blog in order to do that, so I actually probably would’ve been okay). He was born on 14 March at 3:08 am, and he was 9 lb., 22 in. My sister birthed a turkey.

He has elf ears, too. I have 2 elves now. Alice Elf and Harold Jack. I’m pretty stoked about that. I think this gives me an in with Santa come Christmas. IPAD, ELVES, IPAD.

Alice adores him. She refers to him as her baby, and when I Skype with my sister and she’s asked where her baby is, she’ll tap him on the foot. She likes to hug and cuddle him, but she has brute-like Herculean strength, so her hugs run more along the lines of strangulation. My sister watches her closely, though, so we’re all fairly confident Master Harry will make it to his first birthday. If Alice is feeling generous, she might let others give him a hug on his birthday, too:

Just realized this coincides with Alice Thursday. To celebrate this post—the fact that I’m posting, mind you, not Master Harry’s birth, because his birth was more likely than me posting before Easter—and the babies contained within, I will give you more pictures of babies. And if a picture is worth a thousand words, then I’m pretty sure these get me off the hook and are good for at least 3 or 4 posts. Right?

And the best picture of them all–Alice meeting her brother after he’s born:

Also, double elf ears.

My Book Will Be My +1 (Provided the Mail Wasn’t Mis-delivered)

I am a nerd. I’m also somewhat of a geek. I guess the fact that my mind has a very clear division of those two terms probably only adds to either claim. In any case, this is nothing new to anyone who knows me well. My family constantly calls attention to my nerdiness which strikes me as being right about on par with me pointing at my sister’s stomach and saying, “You’re pregnant.”

It’s standard protocol for me to bring a book and a notebook with me nearly everywhere I go. I do this even when I’m with people. I once recall my sister-in-law pointing this out and asking me if I thought they were boring company. This was one of those instances where telling the reasoning for your actions can only make you look worse than better, by worse I mean nerdier than nerdy. So, instead of explaining that there might be a few 5-minute chunks of time where I could get some reading or writing in, I sheepishly smiled and said, “I always bring one. Always be prepared—never know when I might need it.” I figured that explanation was at least vague enough to imply that the book and notebooks were useful tools. Need to write down directions or a phone number? No problem! Lindsay’s at the ready! Need a particularly good quote for a philosophical question? Lindsay’s got you covered! (Though, if we’re taking my current reading material, I’m not sure how a David Sedaris quote would fair, but I can only imagine that it would be a thing of wonder.) I had a MacGyver complex in my head with the vague insinuation of my statement, but I’m pretty sure my sister-in-law still interpreted it as “Nerd.”

Whenever I go home and stay with my brother and my sister-in-law, I always manage to horrify my sister-in-law with my cluelessness. It’s a gift, really. We’ll be sitting on the couch talking with the television on in the background, and she’ll mention a show or a well-known celebrity and I will always inevitably ask, “What’s that?” or “Who?” I think my not knowing what Modern Family is and who Justin Bieber is (I further hurt my case by mispronouncing Bieber, a sure sign that I had no idea what was going on) are the two examples that stunned her the most. Oh, there was that time when I asked who the Kardashians are that floored her, too. She no longer assumes I’ve ever seen or heard of anything. Over Christmas, she turned Ellen on and said, “Let me guess—“ I cut her off and said, “Oh! Ellen! I know her.” Just as pleasant surprise registered on my sister-in-law’s face, I followed it up with, “I’ve never seen the show, though.” That seemed to fix matters for her which is good, because I was momentarily concerned that I had someone unalterably thrown a wrench in her mental schema of me. That would’ve just blown her mind and I like her too much to deal with the guilt of having been responsible for her having to deal with new information that simply isn’t compatible.

When the Academy Awards were on, I was completely unaware until I started seeing people live Tweeting and Facebooking them. Something seemed amiss, so I Googled it and realized that, yes, the Academy Awards are on and, yes, I had no idea. I then posted on Facebook and Twitter something along the lines of “I just realized that the Academy Awards are on tonight, and only because everyone’s talking about it online. I really do live under a rock. A very large, sun-blocking rock that keeps me pop culturally retarded.” Because I’m nothing if not self-aware. My brother had texted me to tell me that he was last in the game of predicting the awards so far, and I told him that I hadn’t even known they were on that night. At about the same time, my sister responded to my declaration on Twitter: “We know. Your skin is the give away ;)” Moments later, my brother texted back with “nerd”—nothing more, nothing less, just “nerd.” To which I said, “ADORABLE nerd, you mean.” I didn’t get a response to that one, but I like to think that’s because he didn’t feel the need to respond to a well-known fact. You know, I’d think my family would just be grateful that I know what the Academy Awards are and don’t confuse them with the Oscars. I’m just sad I missed seeing which musical artists won.

I’m still trying to figure out what all the hubbub concerning Charlie Sheen is about. I’ve been told a couple different things, and I’m still not sure which is true, if any of them. Everyone’s just writing that he’s crazy, and that’s hardly new information, so it doesn’t exactly shed light upon why he’s getting so much attention now.

My father never ceases to take advantage of an opportunity to point out how much “hipper” he is than me. He has a more active social life than I do, he’s up on pop culture, listens to modern music more than I do, can throw around names like Bieber and Taio Cruz with ease, and boasts that he’s watched Grey’s Anatomy and I haven’t. I never cease to take advantage of one of these opportunities to point out that at least I know how to use a computer.

I was talking on the phone with my dad today, and we were talking about finances and me finally taking over my own phone bill sometime in the not too distant future. I told him that I would be fine with that provided that I got to keep my number, because it’s a fun number with a lot of 7’s. He said that it could probably be worked out. Then he paused and said that I should probably go with the $99 a month deal where I’d get everything. “Why would I do that? All I use my phone for is a clock, alarm, and to call and text. I don’t even have internet on this phone.” Again, he paused. “Well, you’d be able to get GPS and [this] and [that] and [more things that I wasn’t quite listening to because, honestly, it’s still weird to me that I can TEXT people].” “Uh huh… you want me to get a smart phone.” “Well, why not?” “Well, WHY?” “Well excuse me for trying to help you be a little hipper!”

Baby Blues

More evidence for this post: My sister was bugging me via Twitter to post, telling me that it’s been too long. So, I gave in. See? Things haven’t changed at all!

I always seem to end up in the company of eldest children. This seems to have put in place at my birth, because I grew up in a family of eldest children. Both of my parents are eldest children—my father, the oldest of 4, and my mother, the oldest of 3. Even my siblings are eldest children, though I suppose technically my sister is by 6 minutes. The facts being what they are, no one in my family can relate to being the youngest.

I know, I know. Being the oldest stinks. You had all the attention and then had to share it. You were the guinea pig for fascist parents who then, seemingly overnight, turned into pushovers when your younger sibling reached that same age or stage. One man’s unfair is another man’s reparations. (Except you actually wound up with the monetary reparations. You know, when you got more financial aid for college because we existed. Hi, Ben and Sarah!)

Prior to a few years ago, I was familiar with maybe a handful of Disney movies, and that’s including the ones that came out during my lifetime. Being the youngest, I got about as much say as the remote did in what was watched. My siblings were over that stage by the time I was old enough to enjoy it, and neither of my parents were particularly eager to watch mindless, unassertive princesses live happily ever after again. So, instead of growing up watching Snow White get her prince and Bambi’s mom getting shot, I grew up watching Keanu Reeves prevent a bus from blowing up and Tim Curry ruin my life because Stephen King was given a contract instead of a straitjacket.

While frequently putting me in an awkward position in conversations, this never proved to be detrimental in any tangible way until senior year of high school. We were given an assignment that required us to identify allusions to various fairy tales in a story. I had to confess to my teacher that I wasn’t familiar with many of them. She didn’t believe me at first, but once she realized that I was telling the truth, she told me to work with a friend. As it turned out, working with a friend ended up translating into “copy your friend’s answers” because other than references to The Little Mermaid I was pretty much up the creek without a paddle. When resentful indignation hit, I went to my father and informed him that I had to cheat on an assignment because I wasn’t exposed to enough fairy tales as a child. (Okay, so my teacher knew about it, so it was authorized cheating, but throwing an accusation like that at your father lacks a certain pizzazz when you tell him that your teacher okayed it.) Rather than getting the compunctious apology I had imagined, my father responded with, “Yeah, well, I wish I had. Maybe you’d do more work around the house and give me less lip.” At a loss for words, but always ready with a response anyway, I unthinkingly blurted, “Yeah, maybe I would!”

Being the youngest, your greatest blessing and your greatest curse is your cuteness. I don’t know if this is true for age gaps smaller than my siblings’ and mine, but I found that cuteness worked. You see, I had the pout and the hug at the ready, and I fully utilized both to get my way. When I was young, I didn’t grasp the possibilities, usually focusing on getting extra cookies or extra strawberries or staying up for an extra half hour. When I was older, I wasn’t cute. Unfortunately for me, my siblings recognized this early on, and they figured out how to use it to their benefit. I became their secret weapon, and looking back, I’m simultaneously appalled and impressed at how effectively they manipulated me. Whenever they wanted something, they sent in the cute one. My parents knew what they were doing, but so cute was I that it was impossible to refuse. Don’t get me wrong, my siblings always rewarded me for my efforts, but back then all the reward I needed was a hug and a kiss, and I was happy as a clam—a happy chump of a clam.

My siblings weren’t the only ones who manipulated me. My parents did, too. You see, my sister, she’s not a morning person. Actually, she’s just not a waking person. Now, you’re usually fine if you talk to her after about 10, but when she was a teenager, you couldn’t talk to her prior to 3 pm without getting your head ripped off. Whenever we had a function to go to as a family, I somehow always got bamboozled by my parents into volunteering to go into the bear’s cave and wake her up. “Rah Rah,” I’d say while gently rubbing her arm, “Time to wake up!” I’d give her a hug and a kiss while I continued to try to rub her arm to wake her up. Geeeentle, geeeeentle, sweet as pie. Then her eyes would open into a glare and the inevitable “GO AWAY” would be barked out. I was either stock-piled on stubbornness or back-ordered on intelligence as a kid, because not only did I keep at it, usually resulting in a kick to the spleen, but I consistently wound up agreeing to be the family sacrifice when it came time to wake up my sister. You’d think she’d have been more grateful that I didn’t choose to wake her up by urinating on her.

One theme that consistently appears throughout nearly every story of my childhood is, “Girl can be talked into anything.” I can’t begin to count the number of times I was talked into something by my siblings that I would have never done if they hadn’t made it sound like an appealing proposition. Prank the other sibling, sure to result in a pummeling? Okay! Hop into a sleeping bag so one of them can see if they can carry me all the way up the stairs without dropping me? Sure! Putting on ridiculous clothes and posing like an idiot? Perfect! Hop into the dryer and let them shut me in? Sounds like a spinning good time. I’d like to think that those years are behind me, but then my sister had a baby, and in a moment of introspection, whereupon I recalled the many instances of singing and dancing like an idiot and imitating animals and otherwise acting like a drunken fool, I realized that not much has changed. Just the who. Life really has come full cycle. Here’s hoping they at least cleaned out the lint trap.

7 Quick Takes: I’m Always a Day Late and a Dollar Short

1. Last Monday I started a job. It’s a temp-to-hire job. I’ve only been there 2 weeks, but I’m enjoying it so far. The company makes protective head equipment for military and law enforcement, primarily helmets and accessories for helmet gear. We also sell to individuals and companies, both domestically and internationally. I appreciate what they do, and I’m learning a lot, especially just how innovative a lot of their products are. It’s very interesting.

I do admin work for the company, but come Tuesday I’ll be doing that and web orders. The woman who’s in charge of web orders is going on vacation until the end of the month, so I’ve been training with her so I can take over her responsibilities while she’s gone. I like learning, so I’m glad for the opportunity, though I’m somewhat concerned that I’ll mess up even though I took down notes and wrote an in-depth 4-page tutorial. Oh well, what’s a couple hundred thousand dollars between strangers? Surely that’s at least tax deductible.

2. I’m still making my way through Possession. I love the book, but I’m reading slowly to savor it and give it the attention it deserves. Well, I always read slowly, but I’m reading slower than usual, which is to say I might finish this book in another couple of months. Maybe.

3. I’m also reading When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I’m finding this to be much funnier than Me Talk Pretty One Day. Reading Sedaris reminds me all too much of my own family, and he has the ability to make me laugh hysterically at inopportune times and places. As it turns out, fellow commuters do not appreciate my laughter on the subway at 8 in the morning when they’re only half-awake. Similarly, the mother who told her cautious child that the “turnstile” gates at the subways are like Platform 9 ¾–you just go toward them and they open!—did not appreciate my ill-timed laughter when her child took her at her word and ran into the gates too quickly and slammed into them face first before they opened. While the situation would have both concerned and amused me, I had been reading my book rather than watching the scene. It seemed pointless to try to explain that to her, though.

4. I rarely wear glasses, preferring to wear contacts instead. When I do wear glasses, I feel like I’m drunk. I don’t have the same visual acuity that I do with contacts, being that the lenses are off my eye and I have to physically turn my head to see to the side. It’s dizzying. Beyond that, though, these particular glasses are defective and slide off my face if I so much as look down or quickly turn my head. I can get them tightened, but they’ll loosen within 5 minutes of wear. I’m on my last pair of contacts, but things have worked out that I’m actually entirely out of contact lenses for my right eye, so I’m currently wearing two contact lens prescriptions for my left eye. This is also sort of dizzying, though not as much as wearing glasses. I need to find an optometrist so I can get a new prescription and order new contacts. On the bright side, at least I don’t drive.

5. Lent is coming up this Wednesday. You probably already know this. I’m still trying to figure out what my Lenten resolutions will be. The one I’m leaning towards at present—not buying food out—while good in that I usually end up having to do so for at least one meal a week and so would tempt me on a regular basis, also proves problematic in that I usually have to at least once a week. Being in a city doesn’t help, especially when nearly every social outing usually involves eating out. Plus, there’s the grocery store issue—I don’t have a car, and my roommates are now on a polar opposite work schedule from me, working 4 to midnight. So, should I run out of food before we can go to the grocery store at a convenient time for us all, I would have to either go without or I’d have to go out on my own, which would involve a lot of time and effort, as I’d be severely limited in how much I could get since I’d be walking. This would result in more trips and more time that I don’t exactly have in excess already. Also, a lot of planning. It would be a perfect Lenten resolution, though. So, I’m torn. I don’t really know what to do. Thoughts, opinions? I will be going to Bible Study on Monday evenings, though. What are you going to be doing for Lent? Have any ideas for me?

6. Other than helping out with RCIA, I haven’t really done any regular volunteering since high school. I really enjoyed it, though most likely for selfish reasons, and I realized how much I miss it. I’m more or less finally at a point in my life where I have some sort of consistency (well, I will should I officially be hired in 10 or so weeks) and volunteering would actually be feasible. I know I don’t have a lot of free time, so I don’t know how smart of an idea it is, but I’m considering volunteering at the Home for Little Wanderers. I’d like to be a mentor. It would require 2-4 hours a week with a mentee (in “at-risk circumstances”) for a year or longer. You have to go to an orientation meeting (the next one is 29 March), fill out an application and references, and have an interview. I know it’s a lot of effort, but it’s a cause that’s very close to my heart.

7. Speaking of Bible study, each week it starts off with everyone introducing themselves and answering a question. We were asked what we would choose to do if we were 10 again for a full day, neither retaining the experiences or knowledge we’ve gained since then, and being allowed to do anything at all (within reason, of course). I said that I’d like a large white room, furniture completely removed, and 10 paint cans so I could go at it. I suppose I’d like rollers and paintbrushes, but I think that pouring paint and using my hands would be even more fun. What about you? What would you choose?

As always, more quick takes can be found over at Conversion Diary.

Word & Question 8

I would like to apologize for being so very late with this.  It came to me in bits and pieces, and it simply wasn’t ready for public consumption until today.  This is obviously for the month of January.  Until yesterday, I had been working a temp job that, combined with getting ready and commuting, took up over 12 hours of my day, 5 days a week.  It was taxing trying to manage that and the other obligations in my life, so I have had very little free time since the beginning of December, to the point that I haven’t even had a chance to look at my feed reader (read: your blog posts) in seemingly forever.  I just opened it and nearly had a heart attack.  It will be tackled later.  Anyway, head over here to read the other submissions which are in all likelihood much better and timely than my own. (Feel free to chastise my tardiness in the comments.) My own is currently untitled.  I also apologize for whatever format this decides to take; it does have a very specific visual orientation the way I composed it and shows up on a Word document, but for some reason has lost its form here.  I have tried to correct it to the extent that I can, but it would appear that WordPress isn’t having it.  This is quite frustrating since the form is integral to the poem.  I’ll keep trying, but if you’re curious, email me and I’ll send you the Word document so you may see how it is supposed to look.

Word: Leaving
Question: Where can compassion be found?

Raindrops fall on punished pave
The push of wind hardens again,
Leaving a shield of ice in
Its wake, cracking and holding
Under the weight and growing,
Growing evermore while tears just
Burning through freezing
‘Til hope is                      drowned

In             wait
Umbrella     in     hand

Tears slide down where yours would be
To waiting ice—a glaze, a sea
Prayers sent out on sails of leaves
Bereft of roots beneath the freeze
And ‘til my heart runs black and blue
I wait in the shadows
Breathing for two

Redefining Success

I recently read an interesting article posted on The Wall Street Journal online. The article is written by a Chinese mother, and it is largely a no-holds-barred excerpt from a book recently published confronting the differences between “Chinese” and “western” parenting styles—mothering, specifically—and why Chinese parenting is superior and effectively produces more successful children.

Before I get into my points, I want to point out that the article is written by Amy Chua, an author and Yale law school professor. Clearly, Ms Chua obviously knows a little something about success. I am an unemployed 24-year-old with a masters degree. I also should point out that I am not a parent, and therefore it is quite easy for me to comment on parenting without having had the experience of doing so. I don’t need to highlight the differential there. That being said, that’s not going to stop me from commenting on this.

I am an overachiever, a perfectionist if you will. The first time I got a B+ in an AP class in high school, I tore up my report card and seethed for an entire weekend. (It was in Western European History. It’s not like Europe is important historically at all.) (I more than made up for that the next semester and then again on the AP test. Take that, western Europe!) I’ll spare you the particulars, but it was bad, so bad that my father had to get me in a moving vehicle which he was operating and which I could not escape before he could even talk to me about it, and I acted like a raving lunatic, not so calmly telling him that I should be grounded and publicly shamed, perhaps even stoned. A’s were a fact of life for me, not just because of my mental aptitude but because I am was a little psychotic neurotic puritanically disciplined and I worked obsessively.

So I understand where Ms Chua is coming from. I often wish I had been forced to take piano lessons, read more of the great books, memorize poems and Bible passages, and otherwise had a far more rigorous and traditionally old-fashioned educational upbringing than I did. I also understand that if I did, the combination of that with my personality would have been disastrous. I did enough damage by myself without adding a strict parent to the mix. It’s taken me a number of years to really calm that side of my personality, to reflect on my successes rather than my shortcomings and to give myself a break.

It’s because the wisdom I’ve gained over the past few years that I find myself questioning and disagreeing with Ms Chua. She has valid points, and I do believe that she is genuine in her belief that such a parenting style is better for children in the long run, but I do not agree with her methods. I do not agree that calling your child garbage can ever do anything other than harm your child. It may motivate a child to succeed in order to prove you wrong, but I can personally attest to the fact that it also plants a seed of doubt, of self-deprecation. Success loses personal meaning when it comes at the cost of a perceived loss of self-worth. If anything, I find that it makes you more likely to contribute your successes to external factors such as luck or a teacher’s good opinion or a good memory rather than any sort of inherent intelligence or effort. Then again, I’m also willing to concede that this is perhaps an entirely western mindset and not one that eastern children are susceptible to.

Still. Ms Chua’s parenting style is alluring. After all, look at the picture of her and her daughters. They are lovely young women, donning the obedient and brilliant daughter look so well. They look like the sort of children that every parent would love to have so that they could brag about them to other adults, making themselves look good. If that is their home, it is a lovely one. The entire picture boasts a successful, well-behaved, well-off family. It’s all very picturesque.

But is that what we should be focusing on? Certainly, discipline is important, and it’s something which is severely lacking in today’s youth in comparison to fifty years ago. Hard work, too, is important. Intelligence and success are things to commend, yes. However, what about kindness? Generosity? Manners? Graciousness? Love? Is success only measured in performance and achievements? In teaching our children to topple others in their efforts to be the best, what are we really teaching them? It becomes more than just a comparative evaluation of performance of abilities; by stressing performance and success as “what matters,” it becomes a comparative evaluation of human beings, in subliminally affirming that human beings are not equal. Admittedly, that is a strong assertion, but I don’t think it far off the mark. In such an environment, you end up kicking others down in order to pull yourself up instead of lending a hand to pull them up to your level. I can’t see how such a mindset is advantageous to a society, on a human level or even a progressive one—it’s animalistic, and beyond that, it’s stunting; I can’t think of any advances or discoveries that have been done without the help of some form of collaboration.

I was never the sort of student who could simply be happy with an A. If I got a 96 and someone two rows over got a 98, it somehow made my A seem like less of an A in my mind, a mediocre A. And, I’m embarrassed to admit, more than once I would smugly pat myself on the back when I had the highest score or when I outperformed someone else. There’s a certain pleasure and rush that comes from being on top. It makes you think that you’re better. You’re not. I’d have to remind myself of this and mentally scold myself. I know it’s only human to think that way, but it’s not a healthy way to think. It’s not a charitable way to think. It’s also completely untrue.

For my part, I agree with many of Ms Chua’s points. You’re going to have to be tough with your children and force them to do things they don’t want to. They’re going to get angry, they’re going to hate you at times, but they’re also too young to know what’s best for them. As a parent, that’s up to you to decide—brushing your teeth, eating your vegetables, not watching television, not using the computer, going to church, doing your homework, studying until you know the material by heart, revising a paper over and over until it’s good, not staying up late, not eating ice cream for breakfast, not dating until you’re 16, practicing piano several hours a week, whatever—but it’s also up to you to help form them as humans, not just prepare them for the future.

Intelligence is good. Success is good. Wealth is good. But it’s not everything. We’re not just preparing children for the future; we’re creating our future. The best tended flower will not survive long if the soil is bad.