Serenity in Taxes…Hmmm

Who doesn’t need a little love in their life during tax season? April 15th seems to sneak up fast every year but we all know the cold truth; we always know exactly when it will strike. Suddenly paperwork takes over everything else, invading family time and quiet team. It may be the only time we resent making money as we may face an unpleasant surprise of a new tax bracket.

So rather than focus on drudgery, take a breather from the paperwork. Remember that whatever the outcome, dollars do not control our destiny even though it certainly feels like it in the moment. Remember to be grateful for what you have.
Carve out a moment to embrace love around you. Hug your little one, be it a baby or a puppy. Lean over and give your spouse a smooch in the middle of your tax fight (am I the only one??). Walk away from the paperwork or blaring screen, step outside, and breathe in some fresh air. It is good for the soul. Phone a friend. Reconnect with what really makes the world go round. Money helps but it ain’t what controls the world. (Hint: Look up!)

I actually prepare my own taxes and I always cry out in prayer even with an advanced degree in tax. Minutiae is not my friend. So in the midst of it all, I make time to step back and remember what brings joy and fulfillment. It ain’t Uncle Sam for me!

Grab a cup of tea, glass of water, or ice cold lemonade. Kick up your feet for just a moment and give a mental thank you to all the good in your life. Leave the tedious taxes behind for a moment and remember all you have to be grateful for, including everything that makes your taxes more complicated: family, a job that brings you purpose, and a house that brings your comfort. If these don’t apply, appreciate the supposedly “EZ” return, enjoy what you have, and live with expectancy of the dreams in sight. Wishing you all a little serenity this tax season. See you after the 15th when I have time to write a decent post again.

Parenting Dilemma: Jam Packed Action or More Family Time

The alarm clock rattles his nine-year-old body. He rubs his eyes and peers out at the clock. A blurry 6:30 a.m. stares back at him. He falls back under the covers in a sleepy stupor. Suddenly he hears his true wake up call, his mom shouting that breakfast is ready. Hurry up!

He shuffles downstairs. His eyes struggle to greet the day. He shovels down rice and sausage and chugs his milk. The daily routine winds into motion and he gets dressed into his uniform. It is time to trek to school.

Eight hours later, the school bell rings, but the day is far from done. He heads off to after-school tutoring, hungry and tired. Two hours of multiplication, Japanese characters, and English grammar
drills ensues. When it is all over, it is time for swim practice for another two hours.

Finally, it is 8:00 p.m. and time to head home. There is a homemade meal and thirty minutes to talk with his family. Then, he heads off to do homework and more drills for his extracurricular tutoring. He crashes around 11:00 p.m. to rest for another marathon day.

This is a snapshot day of many Japanese children who aim for good test scores and top universities. I even left out music lessons, weekends packed with tournaments and other sports, and various school events. The result is academic rigor, athletic advancement, and about one to two hours a day of family time.

American children often leave out the agter school academic programming, but the trend is to get kids as busy as possible. Sports, music, drama, clubs, fundraisers, youth groups, volunteer projects, and anything else to pad a resume and keep kids busy while parents work outside the home. There are definite benefits in academic achievement. There are also inherent consequences of less time with the family and less energy for the limited time together.

My children are young enough to advert this busy whirl of school and extracurriculars, but I contemplate what the future brings. What is best for my children? To fill their days with studies and practice to excel in academia, sports, and music? To ensure there is ample family time to bond with each other and teach them our personal values and customs? To rely on others to teach them in a standardized system or to make time for quality teaching by their family members? Is it possible to strike a balance and protect family time without compromising their overall achievement? For the U.S. to remain strong and competitive, should we imitate the rigorous schedule and study pattern of Japan? Or should we focus on fostering individuality and creativity, two traits that formed our nation into its present state? How about a fusion of the two approaches to optimize the benefits of each?

From my limited perspective, there is value in both approaches. I am currently developing a fusion-style parenting with my kids. For example, I already use flash cards and workbooks with my three-year-old to learn spelling and basic addition (more Japanese style).  I also have scheduled free play time throughout the day where they can do whatever they want.(American style). I personally hold family time as a top priority. I fear having to navigate the pressures when my children are older to fill the schedules so that family time is virtually squeezed out.  What do you think? What experiences have you had as a child or a parent that shaped your view on this dilemma? Do children thrive best through formal development in organized groups or through personal interaction with their parents and extended family?