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This post was sponsored by Sagebooks. All opinions are mine and mine alone. 

Last week, an acquaintance of mine told me she was so amazed at how I have persevered with my kids in Chinese all these years. That she couldn’t seem to get her life together and do it for her own children. In fact, this is a topic that comes up quite regularly when people talk to me.

It’s strange.

Mostly because I often feel as if I’m a fraud.

Not because my kids aren’t fluent in Chinese and as literate as young elementary children can be with their limited comprehension. Mostly because people seem to put me on some sort of pedestal – both with the Chinese stuff and the homeschooling.

It’s especially weird to hear the term “will-power” associated with me as a description.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I have negative will-power. If anything, my entire approach to life, homeschooling, and teaching kids Chinese is embodied in these lyrics from 7 Rings by Ariana Grande.

I want it, I got it, I want it, I got it
You like my hair? Gee, thanks, just bought it
I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it

Whoever said money can’t solve your problems
Must not have had enough money to solve ’em

– lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, BMG Rights Management, Universal Music Publishing Group

Bet you never thought you’d encounter Ariana Grande lyrics in a post about Chinese, eh? Also, how lowering that my entire modus operandi can be summarized in an Ariana Grande song. Also also? I know I sound like a complete ass, but I never let that stop me from telling you how I do things.

Truthfully, it really doesn’t feel as if I exert any sort of will-power or perseverance in our Chinese journey. If I did, we would not be where we are today because I would have already given up.

Chinese is just a thing we do. A way of life (for better of for worse).

This is not to say that I’m not constantly annoyed at myself for these decisions, but more so that I see Chinese fluency and literacy as a primary arc in our lives and I arrange our lifestyle around it.

But I’ve been thinking.

Is it me dismissing all my hard work and we actually worked really hard? (My therapist says I tend to minimize the things I do because of some warped idea that if I can do something, it really can’t be that hard.) Or is it something different?

Well, I guess it can be both. (I’m also working on being less black and white with my world views. I’m not sure if it’s taking.)

Anyhow, other than hard work (because I suppose it is work to make your kids do their Chinese homework, read Chinese books, go to Chinese classes, find and keep teachers, shuttle your children, speak Chinese all the time, and in general, do as many things as possible in Chinese), what else do I do?

I’m consistent.

I make Chinese-ing a non-negotiable way of life.

And, most importantly, I know my WHY.

That’s it.

I mean, of course that’s not it, but it kinda is. Everything I do falls under the first two principles and my why keeps me going when I’m sick of doing it.

And for those who are curious, my why is because I never want my children to feel as if they don’t belong or aren’t Chinese enough because they are multi-ethnic. Yes, they would still be Chinese enough even if they aren’t fluent or literate – but that’s another post for another day.

You need to know your why.

I have written before about finding your why. Why do you want your children to learn Chinese? What is the why behind that why? And the why behind that why?

The reason I emphasize your WHY so much is because the deeper your Why goes, the more likely you will continue when teaching kids Chinese is hard or costly or time-consuming or a nuisance or seemingly insurmountable.

For example, perhaps your first response is that you want your kids to be able to communicate with your parents. Why? Why do you want them to be able to communicate with your parents in Chinese? Especially if your parents have passable English? Perhaps it just ends at that. It would be nice if your kids could speak Chinese to your parents.

But perhaps, if you dig deeper, you realize you want your children to be able to speak Chinese with your parents because you never got the chance to speak with your grandparents in a language you were both comfortable in and that you regret never being able to do so. And even though your parents can speak English, maybe Chinese is still the language of their heart and that speaking to their grandchildren in Chinese would bind them closer together than if they just spoke to each other in English.

Or, maybe you think Chinese will be an important language in the future and you want your children to learn it to increase their future job prospects. Why? Why is that important to you? Maybe it’s just that you value languages. Or maybe, you are anxious about the future and this is how you hope to provide for your children – to equip them and keep them from poverty or instability.

It’s not always a logical reason.

After all, Chinese fluency really doesn’t bulletproof your job prospects.

But it’s that emotional why that will sustain you when Chinese fluency and/or literacy seems especially far away. It’s that emotional why that will push and drive you forward to persevere.

And sometimes, you realize that your emotional why isn’t that deep and that’s okay.

That is also a good thing to know because then you can focus on the things in your life that evoke a deep emotional why in you. After all, we have limited time in life. Why exert all that effort on something you don’t really care about? Why feel guilt over something you don’t actually find important? Why feel bad about NOT finding it important?

If you’re a long time reader, you’ll note that I always end up somehow on this point.

And the reason is this: getting and keeping your child to a high level of Chinese fluency and literacy is hard. It’s really fucking hard. 

There is no shame in deciding that it’s not for you or your kids. There is no shame in being happy with a “lower” level of Chinese. There is no shame in wanting your kids to be near native fluent and literate.

Whatever you choose for you and your family – that’s perfect.