Saturday, February 10, 2018

Meet Momo & her Mommy!!

Zozo and Momo
Hard to forget 2-year-old Momo's first day visiting our Master Tree lead class. She quickly let go of her mother's hand and giggled her way right into the middle of the of our kids and their play time with blocks. 'Who are you?', I remember asking. 'I'm Momo!' 

Though Momo's quick initial adjustment to pre-school isn't unique, it is largely uncommon, especially here in China where there is so much coddling and protectionism by well-intended grandparents. There seems to be a debt that the elderly generation at large is attempting to make up for which dates back to their time as parents back when long work days impeded a healthier bond and balance of time as a family. Momo's family is lucky in this way for their current family arrangement has allowed Momo, up unto this point, to grow up under her mother's immediate care. But as the Chinese philosophy of the Yin Yang suggests, in all whiteness there is a speck of black. Quickly it became clear to that the one to suffer most through this transitional period into kindergarten would not be Momo but instead her Mommy: Tracy!! 

Momo, her Auntie and Mom: Tracy
Upon completing our 3-month lead class, right before running off to the hills for Spring Festival we had a chance to sit down for some tea with Tracy and asked her to reflect back on the changes she went through, as a Mom, during her daughter's first months staying away most of the day from home, 

"The greatest difficult I have had to overcome, of course, has been learning to be apart from Momo! While Momo is learning, so am I. While she cries in school, I cry in my heart! 2-year-old Momo, who's always been there for me...was all alone in a strange environment. I was so worried those first days." 

Tracy has been quite gracious all along in recognizing the ongoing support she has received upon joining the MT family, 

"...separation is one of life's first lessons! Each day, I whispered soft prayers hoping for her to adapt quickly. This process was difficult for both of us. I needed to fully trust MT. Seriously, if it wasn't for MT, and Carl and Glow's both firm anwarm guidance, I certainly would not have allowed her to start kindergarten at such a young age."

Undoubtedly, Tracy's apprehension's about Momo being ready for kindergarten heightened as Momo underwent a relapse of sorts upon catching on to the fact that kindergarten equating an entire day without her mom. What 2-year-old gets excited about being away from mom?

After the relapse, "It took a lot of effort to get Momo to learn to be independent--to accept MT subconsciously. Glow taught me how to guide Momo and enlightened me to the wonders of a well-timed 'time out'".

About 4 weeks into the program we had a major breakthrough upon Tracy adhering to our advice to allow Momo to participate in our Yule Sleepover activity. Time and time again we have seen how moments like these are of an incredible bonding quality. Tricky no doubt for the kids but always far more so for the parents! But the results are always so evident. The next day for pick up there is a shared joy of, parents and kids, seeing each other again. Then in the weeks to come, parents and the school staff begin to see how much the children have changed as they take on a brand new manifestation of independence. After all, sleeping away from those you have slept with for every single night since being born is no small thing!

Year book signing.  
Step by step we continued working closely with Momo, Tracy and their family; making sure that this important adjustment was accompanied by ample tender loving care, creativity and counsel. 

Great job Momo!! But an even greater high-five to you Tracy! Thanks for your trust in Master Tree Kindergarten!

"You only lose what you hold onto."~Buddha 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

From Yule to Imbolc: 6 weeks of story and song

As mentioned in our last blog, we kicked off this year with the firm resolve to carry on planting "a handful of seeds in the hearts and minds of the children we are blessed to play with for this leg of their journey."  What we weren't exactly sure of was who would these kids be? This was a riddle baited like a worm on a hook that we long since sunk are starving jaws into waiting to be reeled in.
The southeastern coastline of the People's Republic of China, where the water borders between China's South and East Sea blend in a safe-harbored ebb and flow protected by typhoon inflicted Taiwan is speckled by an infinity of quaint god fearing fishing villages. For more than a year, our family was courted by several of these offshoots from the major city of Shishi in the Fujian Province. In the fall of 2016, enamored by the local masonry of the simple yet enviable rock-solid homes carved out from the countless quarries the southern chip of Asia has sat upon for millennia, my wife and I swore to the endless gods, of each of the untold temples we passed on our nubile walks of dreams and longing, that one day our kids would ride their bikes down these narrow streets making friends with kids oh-so-fortunate to grow up where houses have doors meant only for keeping out an unwelcome cold front.   

This past Yuletide, the fishing village of Wài gāocūn (外高村) finally pulled us into her boat--a strange catch indeed. For we, though being the fish audaciously proclaimed our captors to be our prize catch and have been feasting on their rich flesh of mostly untainted rural culture ever since. Ecstatic, after having lived 3 years in metropolitan China where, just like in the west: fires and anything natural is done away with, we set out to haul in a Yule Log and kicked off our return to the home-we-never-knew to the tune of some good ole folk songs and story. Our djembe's, snug between our thighs, rang out like the hearts of a pack of wolves coming to a rest after a good hunt. Our ukes, nestled close to our chests chugged away to the same wild beat as our boisterous multi-lingual wassailing rang out with a strange glee only those who have long awaited a big dream to come true would know. Oh, and that riddle I mentioned, well she began to reveal herself as the neighborhood squirmish kids wriggled in and gathered around the fire.

And they have been coming back ever since! As I step out on my porch for a sun salutation I am met by curious eyes that burst into laughter and seek cover in the alleys they reappear from, in larger numbers, upon our return from a day of work in the city. They are thieves that steal our children for adventure and mischief. But they have also, oh so quickly, stolen our hearts. And so, every Sunday as the sun sets in the west where we bit into the hook, we do our best to pay back our debt to their beauty and their fishing ancestors and deities who reeled us into this quaint little village that has a strange sense of home. 

This last Sunday, we celebrated Imbolc together. This raucous stirring crew was in charge of gathering the wood and digging out the fire pit. As we prepared the space I realized they are shapeshifters. Once worms that lured us half a world a way to live in one of their neighboring stone homes, they were now ants content toiling in what for them is just another form of play. The oldest was assigned the lucky task of lighting the dry pine needles that quickly set the bonfire ablaze. To our surprise, many of the songs were not so new and foreign anymore. Though our jumping through the fire was clearly a first for all but our two boys. Fear sized up to risk and courage and fell short as they went around again and again for another leap. Tired we settled down for the telling of the story of Brighid. But you'll have to stumble down our alleyways around sunset on a Sunday if you want to hear the wisdom we found in the tale spun that night. And if you do, you better not pack lightly, cause you'll probably just want to stay and plant your fair share of seeds into the hearts and minds of these fishing village worms.

The Hawk trilled softly. 
“The Song is a gift to be given freely. 
But know this: once you know this Song and have sung it, 
you must be prepared to teach—
for once you make its words, its rhythm your own, 
it is not something you will be able to hide away from the world. 
The brightness of this Song will radiate from you, 
and many will seek you for inspiration and guidance. 
Do you still wish to learn?”