Friday, March 12, 2010


One of the interesting things about observing Michael is seeing the elements surface that, together, make him a survivor. One of these elements is an extremely competitive nature. Coupled with a huge work ethic, he's able to overcome much.

Recently, his middle school competed in World's Math Day challenge, involving middle school-age students around the world. Attesting to the quality of the local middle school, Michael's school ranked 30th in the world and 7th in the U.S. All well and good. But what was totally unexpected is that Michael was in the top three of his school's 7th grade participants -- that's just amazing, considering how a year ago, he had known of addition, still barely knew subtraction, and did not know multiplication or division. But the Math Day challenge was a competition -- something about how many math problems a student can complete in as quick a time frame; the global winner was a 12-year-old from Australia who was answering two questions per second for an overall total of 43,007 correct replies.

In any competition, Michael pushes himself hard. He loathes the idea of *being behind* in, for example, academics (partly because of his past). Well, he got the right parents: we've discovered ourselves to be Type A parents who focus him to excel and don't accept excuses for not trying his best (though I also think fear is an issue as I admit to being scared that his background might overcome his potential...a story for another day). I can imagine how we might be too much for some other children but Michael seems to relish the consistency of our bottom-line orientation to get the most effective result. It's a tough balancing act when one realizes one's job as a parent is not only to cuddle (especially when he's missed so much cuddling as a child) but to prepare him for the world. And I do second-guess myself all the time as to whether we're putting too much pressure on him.

Still, we've told him that we aren't as concerned that he gets the top grade (or top whatever) so much as we wish him to always try his best. But isn't it interesting that the fact that he tries his best inevitably means he also ends up among the best? Effort as much as, if not more than, genius, as the saying goes, leads to success.

Fortunately, balance is achieved through our family dynamic that incorporates four furry creatures. Dogs, for one, are Pure Love and I can see how Michael relaxes in their company in ways he can never relax in ours. I'm grateful to the dogs -- they offset the necessary strictness of certain structures that he also needs. Here is Michael wrestling/cuddling with Achilles on the rug:

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