Shopping alone when you are five

The world must be so exciting for her. I try to imagine how she experiences the shops, the distance to the riverside park or the large playground, the roads full of traffic, the market. Buying a snack in the corner store is something trivial for us, a relatively meaningless act we won’t remember. It’s no achievement, it doesn’t exhilarate our spirits. It is a dull and mundane task that would instill a sense of awkwardness just because I am writing about it.

But when Miru goes shopping, she is all excitement. It is one of my tricks to make her understand the usefulness of elementary math: she must count her coins. I follow her on the street because I want to know if she observes the safety rules: look left, look right, stick up your arm as you cross the street. She does this flawlessly and it looks most adorable. I see her enter the corner store and come out, five minutes later, with a plastic bag. Much as I prefer she buys broccoli, this little step towards independence is most endearing.

I don’t want to speed her up to get her out of the house earlier, Eighteen years of a daughter like we have is a blessing. It is the other way around: by encouraging independence at this tender age will enable her to rely on her parents without embarrassment, says my intuition.

Most of the time it is chocolate biscuits or “pepero”, biscuit sticks dipped in chocolate. Yesterday she bought princess lipstick candy. Shopping alone when you are five is exciting, memorable and gives you a real sense of achievement. It makes me wonder what the equivalent would be for adults.

She just offered me one of her treasured cookies so I am going to wrap this up. Being a parent is a tough job.

Shopping alone when you are five was originally published on Meandering home

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The be-who-thy-be new age bullshit

I watched a well-intended speech today for fifteen year old level A students. The gist was that life happens according to your own internal clock, not according to the timetable imposed on us by society. It’s okay not to be married at 30 or graduating after 25 or getting your first job at 27. Did you know that JK Rowling first got published at the ripe old age of 32 and that Morgan Freeman got his big break at 52? Applause. Just be who you are, follow your dreams and eventually you will succeed.

That is the message. Eventually. No pressure, believe me more than you can believe yourself: you too will eventually make it big. Your story will be a success story. It has to be that way because if you believe hard enough, the universe will conspire to make it happen.

It is precisely this message that puts more pressure on people. Concrete goals such as graduating college at 22 or having 2 kids by age 33 are replaced by you-know-best-yourself goals. This absence of a yardstick to measure your own achievements against can backfire terribly. Insecure people will get more insecure and now they don’t have a way to prove themselves wrong. In the decadent be-who-thy-be philosophy, they cannot be wrong.

Guidance is replaced by slogans that smack of wisdom and the tragedy is that they are irrefutable from the perspective of the be-who-we-tell-you-to-be. The 15 year olds can not be expected to be critical, but from the educators who purvey this type of happy-go-lucky doublespeak peptalk we can demand that they study Kafka and Orwell and make their Good News less intimidating.

We want to educate critical minds not neurotic narcissists. Young people should not be seduced to manufacture only their unique success story in the face of a society that won’t reward them, I think. But do I have a solution? No. The best advice I can offer is to skip this soft of commencement talks whenever possible.

The be-who-thy-be new age bullshit was originally published on Meandering home

What is context?

I asked Miru what 배 ‘bae’ and 눈 ‘nun’ means. She says ‘pear’ and ‘snow’. But in Korean, bae also means boat and nun also means eye. I tell her that it depends on the context. Context is the concept I want to explain to her today.
“Papa what is that, context?”
-“Context is a story. It is the story you are in.”
“What story?”
-“For example, I say it is a cold day and there is a lot of nun.”
“That is a short story.”
-“A context-story can be short. What does nun mean here?”
“Snow!”
-“And when I say grandfather is looking for his glasses because his nun is not so good any more?”
“Eye!”
-“Exactly. So you know what context is.”

Why am I sharing this? I believe there are some very useful concepts that are generally not taught to children. I already explained her what an oxymoron is. Next up will be paradox, irony, justice, equality, compatibility, intentionality, relativism. Any suggestions?

What is context? was originally published on Meandering home