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When someone asks me what I want our son to be in the future, I always tell them one thing and one thing only: I want him to be happy.
I grew up with lots of pressure from my parents, which caused me to feel depressed and lack self-confidence.
I equated my value with my grades. If I didn’t get good grades, then I felt like I was nobody.
If I didn’t do well in school, I would be at the bottom rank of society doing low-paid manual work to survive.
At least, that’s what my dad used to tell me when I wasn’t performing well in my classes.
He said that from his experience. My parents only graduated high school and earned a low income.
I grew up seeing them arguing about money on a regular basis.
Money was a big stressor in our family and dictated almost every decision that my parents made.
They saw how hard it was to get ahead in life with limited schooling.
We weren’t starving, but we just didn’t have a lot. We were poor.
When I was growing up, my parents always told me that the best way to have a better life was to get a good education.
Although some of the things my parents did to encourage me were a bit extreme (i.e. screaming, not believing in me, berating, complaining), it motivated me to try my best.
My dad used to tell me that he didn’t believe that I could do something such as winning a prize in a contest. That infuriated me. I wanted to prove him wrong, and I did on some occasions.
My mom later on told me that it was his way to push me to work hard. It wasn’t a pleasant strategy, but I guess it worked.
Mr. FAF’s parents also didn’t go to college. They graduated from high school and started working afterwards. Mr. FAF’s dad started teaching him Chinese characters when he was 4. His dad would use chalk to draw Chinese characters on the door to teach him.
Mr. FAF didn’t have any fancy education toys. But he managed to learn a thing or two every day. By the time Mr. FAF started elementary school, he was far ahead of his classmates, something his parents have always been proud of.
Why a plan for our son?
Before and after we had Baby FAF, Mr. FAF and I have been sharing with each other how we were brought up, what our parents did to encourage us, and what we tactics we can adopt to raise our son.
We both agree that we will support our son no matter what he does as long as it’s not illegal and it makes him happy. That’s what we always try to tell ourselves and other people. It’s just that simple.
However, I would not be honest if I said that we had no other plans for him. As we see our son grow every day, we often talk about what we want him to learn and to become in the future. And we take small steps to make that happen.
We do have expectations for Baby FAF, and we are not afraid to admit it. We definitely don’t want those expectations to stress us and our son our out in the future. We want our plans to help guide us and our son in every step that we take.
We all know that paying off a $200,000 debt or retiring at the age of 30 might sound crazy to a lot of people. But many of us have been able to do just that.
Starting early with a detailed plan is what have gotten many of us out of debt and enabled us to retire early when almost everyone around us is still caught up in the 9-5 grind.
If we can tackle something seemingly impossible in personal finance, why can’t we apply the same logic and planning to educating our own children?
We might not pay off $200,000 in 5 years or retire at the age of 35. But if we stick to our plans, we will move ahead on the path we set out for ourselves.
Even if our son does not become the smartest or most successful person when he grows up, at least he will get somewhere if he has a good idea of what it is he wants to accomplish in his life.
We won’t impose the plans below on our son and will adjust them based on his interests and ability. But they will be a guide on how we want to raise our son now and in the future.
Sometimes I feel that parents are shamed for having hopes and dreams for our children. And I don’t necessarily agree with that. If we need to have a budget and investment plan for our money, why don’t we have plans for the most precious asset in our lives – our children?
Below are the 7 plans we have in mind for Baby FAF:
1. Start learning Math and English vocabulary at a young age
After Baby FAF came back to DC from China at the age of two, he didn’t speak any English. My in-laws spoke Chinese to him, so he was able to say a couple of Chinese word, not sentences or phrases.
Mr. FAF and I were concerned about his speech development. We knew that it would be unreasonable of us to expect him to speak English right after he came back to the US. But we were also puzzled as to why he couldn’t speak more Chinese.
We started letting Baby FAF watch ABC’s songs on YouTube at dinner (it’s a struggle to feed him without electronic devices!). I began teaching him the alphabet and numbers. Baby FAF also learned those at daycare.
After five months, at the age of two and a half, he knew every letter on the alphabet and at least two words associated with each letter (i.e. apple and ant for A). He also recognized numbers 1-20.
His pronunciation still needs work, but Mr. FAF and I are just so happy that at least our son won’t need to go see a speech therapist. I know many kids have mastered the alphabet and numbers at a young age. But this is a big accomplishment for us.
Current plan: I purchased a math set from Amazon and am teaching Baby FAF arithmetic. I don’t want to keep my hopes up, but I want Baby FAF to learn addition, number comparison, and subtraction as soon as possible.
Practice makes perfect. I don’t care how fast the progress is, but I believe that starting early is the key step in any process.
Future plan: Once Baby FAF’s math skills improve, I will let him solve math problems. My hope is that Baby FAF will develop an interest in math and later on computer science. I love my field, but I understand what privilege and benefits of a highly desired degree can give you (Mr. FAF is a prime example).
Mr. FAF is eager to teach Baby FAF advanced math and programming. If our son is not interested in this field, that’s ok too. But he at least needs to understand what it is that he doesn’t like.
I also want to teach Baby FAF the vocabulary of the SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test). It will help with both his reading and understanding of advanced material.
I don’t want to teach our children just do well on standardized tests. But the fact is that when Mr. FAF and I applied for scholarships to study in the US, we knew that our standardized scores (SAT, GRE) were one of the key factors in our applications.
It doesn’t hurt to have a good grasp of the vocabulary through reading a lot of books and/or mere rote memorization.
2. Go to Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology (TJHSST)
One of Mr. FAF’s biggest hopes is that our son will be able to pass the entrance exam to go to TJHSST, a state-chartered magnet school in Fairfax County, Virginia.
The school offers an extensive mathematics and science curriculum, including artificial intelligence, computer vision, parallel computing, organic chemistry, neurobiology, and nanobiotechnology.
Mr. FAF has a colleague who failed the entrance exam to TJHSST. But his colleague’s brother went to TJHSST and later Carnegie Mellon University for Computer Science.
Mr. FAF told me he’s a bit jealous of his college’s brother and wants our son to follow that path. He also said that with a CS degree from CMU, the door to FLAG companies (Facebook, LinkedIn-Microsoft, Amazon/Apple, and Google) will be wide open.
We don’t want to hope that Baby FAF will go to Ivy League schools because neither of us did. We don’t want to create too much pressure for ourselves and our son.
But I believe that being able to attend a good high school is a solid foundation for a good college education. This plan is closely linked to Plan 1 above: Starting math at an early age and keep improving math skills.
3. Fluent in English, Chinese Mandarin, and Vietnamese
As you might already know, Mr. FAF and I are Chinese and Vietnamese native speakers respectively. We desperately want our son to maintain his heritage and be able to speak Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese fluently.
Our main priority at the moment is to teach our son English so that he can catch up and excel in school. However, we will also speak and teach our son our native languages.
I am personally passionate about foreign languages. Having tried to learn 4 different foreign languages myself, I understand how challenging it is to master a foreign language.
If we can lessen that burden on our son and help him get used to different languages at home, we will be doing him a huge favor. He might choose not to learn Chinese and Vietnamese in the future, but we just won’t know until we see it.
4. Be social
After reading the academic plans above, you might be thinking our son will turn into an introverted nerd or geek who’s anti-social and doesn’t talk to anyone. He might, and we will try to prevent that from happening.
We will let our son join as many free extra-curricular activities as possible. In Vietnam, kids can just pick up a soccer ball and play with each other on the playground for free. In America, soccer practice might cost hundreds of dollars.
I can image Baby FAF playing soccer with other kids in our neighborhood and even with Mr. FAF in his free time. I will also explore what free activities he can join at school. Free is the key word here. If an activity is developmentally beneficial and doesn’t cost much, I will also be willing to pay for it.
5. Stay frugal
Mr. FAF and I would hate to accumulate all of our wealth and give it to our son to blow up in a short period of time. We believe in generational wealth and are happy to give our son (almost) everything we have after we pass. But we also want to make sure that our money won’t go to waste.
We want our son to be frugal and responsible with money. And there’s no better way to teach a kid about the value of frugality than setting a good example right at home ourselves. And that’s exactly what we are planning to do.
This plan won’t be too hard since Mr. FAF and I are already frugal. The challenge is for us to teach him to appreciate money while still spending sufficient time on his school work. I wouldn’t want our son to love money so much at a young age that he decides to drop out of high school to make money for a living.
6. Learn martial arts
I’m sure you’ve seen or heard about kids being bullied in school every day. We’re even more concerned about that since we’re a minority. Our son is Asian. And a lot of Asian kids get bullied at school because of their race, looks, and even their names.
America is a great country. Yet, racism still exists. In some areas, it can be really bad. We have no control over what other people think of or how they will treat our son. But we want to make sure that our son can be physically strong enough to defend himself when we’re not with him.
The mind can be strong and withstand criticisms. However, the fact is that people do get violent, especially when they want to show their power or feel threatened.
We want our son to use his brain to resolve conflict. Yet, when things get bad, he will be able to use his own physical power for self-defense. When Baby FAF is 4 or 5 years old, I want him to take martial arts lessons to build his strength, stamina, and his ability to protect himself.
7. Find the right person to build a family with
Despite all of the academic, physical, and social development that we hope our son will have, his life won’t be complete without the right partner. Of course, Baby FAF doesn’t need to get married or have a partner to be happy.
But we hope that he will be able to find the right person who loves him, takes good care of him, and stays faithful to him, and that our son will do the same for his spouse.
Picking the right lifelong partner can make or break our finances, happiness, and future. I do have certain criteria for my daughter-in-law (i.e. faithful, frugal, caring), but I won’t impose my will on Baby FAF.
Mr. FAF’s and my parents let us choose who we want to marry, so we will let Baby FAF make his decision. It would break my heart to see him have his first breakup one day. But he needs to learn about the different stages in his wife, and we will make sure to be there with him.
Related: How To Find A Frugal Husband
Despite all the seemingly elaborate plans above, we don’t know if we will be able to achieve most or even half of them. Our son will develop his own personality and preferences. We will guide him in his development, but we don’t want to impose anything on him.
If Baby FAF wants to stick with our plans, then that’s great. We will work together as a family to make sure that Baby FAF can explore his full potential and figure out what he’s passionate about and wants to do for the rest of his life.
If Baby FAF wants to veer off our plans, that’s fine too. We will adjust and adapt our hopes and dreams along the way. Life is not a linear line, and we understand that.
The plans above are not particular to our son, we will likely use them for our future daughter as well. Whatever they decide to do, we will be there to cheer them on as loving parents.