Friday, April 8, 2011

The straw

I am sitting in the observation area for parents at the swimming pool. The Moose is sitting at the side of the pool. He's upset about the change in his swimming class day from Monday to Friday- same pool, same group of teachers, but new kids. One too many new things in a week: one day he was in America, the next Japan; one day on vacation, the next in shogakko elementary school. Admittedly, he has handled the transition to school this week with grace so I should not be surprised his stress pops up the last day of the week in the new swimming class. Sitting here watching him is painful. He is my zen master reminding me that we live life too fast- hurry, hurry, and what? We all need to slow down- just because we can do it fast and crazy, doesn't mean we should. I want him to try, but I cannot make him. My husband advises me to let this one pass in a week of so many new hurdles.

Beginnings come upon us not so much as new things but as our awareness of our need to participate in them. To begin means we must make an effort. To make an effort we must put forth ourselves. It is scary at times to put forth ourselves and not know what will come of it, but it is necessary. I love that first shaky step into the unknown- the amount of courage I have to summon to do it, but I understand hesitation too. Inside we have to have something to draw from. When you are young, these resources are not as developed; sometimes even when we are older.

At the classroom meeting yesterday, the sensei said many parents worry about relations between the student and the teacher. The teacher said in a rough translation, "It is more important that the children have fun and learn to help each other. If they don't understand something, they should first ask their classmates." Thinking on my life in Japan and all the help it takes to live it, I know what the sensei means. By opening myself up to this experience of living in Japan and sending my children to Japanese schools, I had to ask for help. Amazingly, friends appear especially in my greatest moments of need. I am blessed, but it broke me open; it was no easy task to ask for help. Sometimes we give and sometimes we receive. I am glad the lesson at school is help each other first and then seek authority as in the teacher later. In the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactor disaster, and then the voluntary departures of military families, many people are frustrated by vague answers and open ended plans. Inner resources must provide our calm in the face of the unknown. The earth changes, plates moves, and disruption is. Handling that is no easy task. Handholding by the authorities is not realistic. We turn to each other: friends, neighbors, and family, to get us through, and we dip inward. This is as natural as what the first grade teacher seeks to instill in his pupils. It is a relevant lesson- start with your friends and have fun.

The school meeting of new first grade parents included a list of the tallest buildings in Kamakura as well as how many people they can hold. I was impressed by these details. The point is to go up fast since this is a beach town. There were lots of other details, but clearly emergency planning feels relevant to everyone here. Parents were instructed not to call during disasters as the staff needs to focus on the safety of the children, and no one flinched. Parents just need to come.

The Moose did get around to swimming in his new class; it took twenty minutes. I chose to emphasize what he did do. At home I made some pizza, and he asked me to, "play Ravi Shankar so the ninjas can meditate." He lined up his Lego ninjas in sitting position behind their Sensei. He sat facing them while the chant played. Later, when we ate pizza- the Munsters had lemon soda; I had a gin & tonic.

1 comment :

  1. When all else fails, G&Ts do calm the savage soul. :) This essay is an interesting insight into Japanese society. I am glad your kids are getting this experience--what a great school! In my experience teaching, though, the Japanese children I encountered were overly dependent on the teacher to do everything for them. Like in the US, I heard horror stories from my Japanese public school teacher friends who are expected to be both teacher and parent but no longer garner the respect they did many years ago. I had MANY discipline problems with the kids I taught...not a lot of motivation to learn and to think independently. Lots of attitude when asked to produce. And boy, do they not like or respond to being "corrected".


All comments are moderated & word verification is on to check for humans: