I tend to treat my private lessons with my Japanese teacher like therapy sessions. I’ll tell her about how one of my students is abusing me. I’ll show her the bite marks and the bruises and share horror stories involving chalk dust thrown in my eyes and markers hurled at my head.
And then I’ll tell her about the mothers and my how my hatred for them borders on an irrational, unhealthy obsession.
You see, these mother’s and I are at war.It’s total full blown psychological warfare. For their part, they loudly chat through my lessons to the point where I can’t hear myself speak, or they laugh when their little darlings kick me in the shins. Or they’ll stare at me with unnerving intensity, like I’m their childhood Barbie come to life, as I warble out the Old McDonald Song, pig snorts and all. I’ll in turn curse them out in my head and complain about them to anyone who will listen and bitch about them in this blog.
These mind games are exhausting though and it’s a losing battle.Yesterday I found myself wishing I could call a truce. I wish I had a magical remote control where I could just press a button and have everything I said be instantaneously dubbed in Japanese.Because if only we spoke the same language, I would sit them all down on the floor and over tea, have a group therapy session. A little heart-to-heart. And this is what I would tell them:
“I respect your desire to raise your children as if they are feral dogs instead of human beings and I admire your remarkable ability to stay calm while your children hit and scream and break the copy machine in a fit of rage. However, your children belong in a zoo and not in a classroom and I would appreciate it if you would keep them in a cage at home from now. Domo arigato gozaimasu.”
Okay, scratch that. I’d probably say something to the effect of:
“I don’t mind that you are sitting in my lesson. Even though your child is ten years old and is perfectly capable of spending an hour out of your sight, I don’t mind. Really. But please refrain from translating everything I say into Japanese. I know that you want to show off to the other mothers that you can understand English, but well, actually you don’t. You often translate things incorrectly and it just makes my job harder. Plus your child doesn’t need a translator. He’s smart. Give him 20 seconds and he’ll figure out why I’m handing him an eraser and pantomiming erasing the board.Trust me.”
My God, how I would have loved to shout all of this at them yesterday.Magical remote control or not, it would have felt so good.
But of course, I didn’t. I smiled, I bowed. I said nothing. As soon as the class was over, I stomped off to the vending machine, grabbed a hot can of overly- sweetened crap coffee and marched up the hill to the forest behind the school. Then I yelled at and repeatedly kicked a bamboo tree until the sole of shoe ripped open.
I’m not normally an angry person.I don’t know why these mother’s continually get under my skin and I’ve tried talking to the owner of the school about it. She was sympathetic but said that she couldn’t talk to the mothers because that would be rude and wasn’t the Japanese Way. The Japanese Way is, apparently, to send a vaguely worded letter about the benefits of discipline in child-rearing.
My Japanese tutor says mothers like these are unfortunately becoming rather common place in Japan. They even have a term for it, “Monster Mothers.” Apparently, these Monster Mother’s have seen how children in the West live happy, carefree childhoods and want to create that for their own children. They know that school, the childrens’ future careers and the pressures from the strict and rigid Japanese society will eventually beat some discipline into them. So in the meantime, they let them have as much fun as possible while they still can. They have a point. I’ve noticed that Japanese children undergo a personality transformation around seven or eight years old. They go from wild and out of control hellions to sullen, soft-spoken, timid sheep. It’s sad.
But even though I can sympathize with these mothers’ situations, their behavior and the fact that I’m helpless to do anything about it makes me want to tear my hair out in frustration.
I’ve asked other ESL teachers for some words of wisdom. They all have similar complaints. But the best advice they could give me was to “not to care so much” and hit the bar a lot after work.
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