Paula Chin

Gratitude Attitude

Written on June 28, 2011 at 5:05 pm , by

Awhile back I was standing in line at the library when a book spine with a big smiley face cookie caught my eye (I love black and whites, hence the attraction). Turns out the book was Happy At Last: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Finding Joy, by Richard O’Connor. It’s a snappy little primer on minimizing the unnecessary misery we create for ourselves so we can maximize the upside, with a very simple formula to do that: 30 minutes each of exercise and meditation daily. Plus before going to bed, thinking of three things that made you happy that day or that you’re grateful for. O’Connor suggests doing this with your spouse–you’ll learn some amazing stuff about each other—but since I’m a single mom I started doing it with my 10 year old. And we’re learning a lot about each other. Sure, I figured she’d love going to the Apple store on a class trip (yes, she’s already a tech freak), but who knew she’d say “Snuggling together on the sofa watching the Next Food Network Star with you, mom”? It’s pure quality time, a super de-stresser, and a good preemptive move to the tween/teen sass, moodiness and madness I know I’ll soon be in for.

For kids, charity begins at school

Written on June 15, 2011 at 3:34 pm , by

 

These days, charity no longer begins at home. My daughter, who will graduate from elementary school next year, has been learning all about how to give back since her kindergarten days. It started with buying goodies at school bake sales to raise  money for the homeless. Then came donations of gently used coats for the needy in winter. These days, she’s been making bracelets to raise money, collecting donations for victims of the Japan earthquake/tsunami, even logging steps on her pedometer so Modell’s could donate to the same cause. In other words, it’s second nature to her, almost part of daily life, and I love that. Yes, I could quibble about how charities and fundraising is so in that it becomes a kind of perverse who-can-do-the-most-good competition, but I won’t. I’m just delighted that in age when parents gripe so much about the awful directions kids are heading or the lackluster education of public schools, something is right in the world. Her heart is wide open, she’s compassionate and eager to pay it forward, whether it’s giving money to a subway street musician or donating her old books and toys to neighbors or Goodwill.

Teaching my daughter a lesson

Written on June 6, 2011 at 2:17 pm , by

No, I don’t mean the  “See, what did I tell you?” or the  I’m-your-mom-so-I-know-better variety. I mean the really good kind, the invaluable life lesson that helps your kid grow…

I just got an email from my daughter’s 4th grade teacher, telling me how in recent months my girl has blossomed from a “quiet, behind the scenes” student to one who always raises her hands, is jazzed to share her thoughts and opinions, dares to be different, and is brimming with confidence. Wait, there’s more! This coming of age coincides with a big surge academically, including one of the highest scores on last weeks math test (please, let me gloat a little), mainly because she’s asking more questions, pushing herself harder when she doesn’t understand something–you get the picture.

So after passing the happy news to her dad, I sat back, reflected a moment, and gave myself a little pat on the back. At my worst I can be a tiger mom, holding her to exacting standards, scolding her for sloppy or lazy thinking, making her play that piano etude 5 times until she gets it right. And I’ve lectured her over and over on the value and rewards of hard work and not backing off—to the point of overkill, I’m sure. But now my girl is blossoming, and what a joy to behold. Sigh. Guess I may have been doing things pretty much just right. Like many moms, I was being too hard not on my daughter, but myself.

Furry, Feathered and Part of the Family…

Written on May 16, 2011 at 11:50 am , by

Just about every day, my 10-year-old daughter Nat and I and log onto the hawkcam at NYTimes.com to check on Violet and Bobby, a pair of red-tailed hawks and proud parents to a brand new hatchling in their nest overlooking Washington Square Park. Before baby emerged May 6, it was strangely soothing watching Violet sit on her eggs, so patient and Zen-like, her feathers ruffling in the spring breeze. And what drama! For a while it seemed the window of opportunity had closed and no eggs would hatch, then just one did. Now Violet has an injured leg, and avian experts had to decide whether intervention was needed (too risky, they decided, plus mom is doing okay). All of this more moving than any episode of Modern Family or Brothers & Sisters, and full of life lessons—in parenting, unconditional love, loss, and the weird stuff that ends up in urban nests—for me and my girl. Back at our place, we have two cats (Boo and Bo) and walk the neighbor’s dog just for fun; at Nat’s dad’s place in Pennsylvania, she has a black Lab (Nina), guinea pig (Peanut), Shetland pony (Meatball), and knows a neighbor’s hens by name, thanking them as she scoops up eggs to bring back to NYC. And I won’t even go into that delightful, ginormous, slobbery St. Bernard we met on the street yesterday. Ah, animals. Full-fledged or honorary, they’re definitely members of the family. As a parent, I wouldn’t have it any other way.