Our 7 Expectations For Our Son

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.

Me

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.

Related: 5 Lessons About Money & Relationships I Learned From Growing Up Poor

Mr. FAF

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?

Our plans

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.

Related: Our Pledge For The Million Dollar Club

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

Conclusion

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.

Related:

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Why We Sent Our Son To China

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29 thoughts on “Our 7 Expectations For Our Son”

  • Wow seems you have thought this through in depth! I suppose that’s what parents do. And regardless of who and what they become your kids will be so very lucky to have parents like you who care and invest in them.

    • Thank you! I know planning alone is not enough. Our kids might turn out totally different from what we expected. But as with anything, a bit of planning and flexibility to adjust doesn’t hurt either 😉

  • I really like number 7… since a life partner can either greatly benefit or hurt someone (depending on the situation!).

    Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology sounds like an amazing school! That seems like it would be a great opportunity for a strong high school foundation 🙂

    • It is one of the top high schools in the US. We really hope our son can make it. But it’s ok if he doesn’t. We didn’t make it to Harvard either hehe.

  • This is such an interesting perspective to me, because it’s not at all what I would do 🙂 If I had a child, I’d just want them to be happy, successful enough to FEEL successful and be able to meet their needs, and that’s about it.

    If that meant going to a regular high school because they HATED science and math, cool. If that meant being single, or not starting their own family, cool.

    Interesting that there are expectations about what should make someone else happy. Glad you guys have an open mind and definitely great to have goals – it’s just a totally different perspective than mine 🙂

    • I totally agree with you. We’d be happy if our kids are happy. But sometimes kids can get lost in what they want to do. When I was little, I was happy when I ate snacks and watched cartoons, and I didn’t like doing homework that much. As I got older what made me happy also changed.

      We won’t be able to force our kids to do anything they don’t want to do. But it’s good for them to know what goals they can consider and/or achieve 😀

  • Good luck! Every child is different. We had high expectations for our son, but I’m being more realistic now. We tried martial art, but it wasn’t a good fit for him. He was too restless and didn’t like following instructions. Maybe we’ll try again later. Soccer is a much better fit for him.
    Childhood is a lot different now than when we were kids. You really can’t pick up a ball and go play soccer with other kids in the neighborhood anymore. They are all too busy doing other stuff. Maybe it’s different where you live.

    • I think you’re right. I have never seen the kids in our community playing soccer before. Maybe I’m just daydreaming about ways to save money on kids sports hehe. Baby FAF can still play soccer with his dad for free though 😀

      I know all these expectations will go out the window one day if our son doesn’t like any of those plans. But I think these plans also motivate us to work harder at our jobs and to improve our parenting skills. I hope it will benefit him too. If not, we will have other back-up plans, I guess 😀

  • When my hubby and I were engaged, at one of the bridal showers my MOH had us each answer questions about our plans/thoughts for the future. One question was “what would you like your future child/children to become?” My answer was happy, his was to be an engineer! Many of my friends were upset by his crazy expectation, but I totally got where he was coming from. Mr. Kiwi wanted our still future kids to be creative, problem solving, independent, questioning, and have stability in their futures. Maybe their career won’t be engineering, but hopefully they’ll be able to think like one.

    • I really don’t see anything wrong with wanting out kids to pursue a certain career. I mean if we just provide them with knowledge about certain careers and encourage them to find their paths without forcing them, it can’t be that bad, right?

      I totally agree with you about all those skills that you mentioned. One thing my husband and I have realized over the past 30 years of our existence is that math skills are extremely important. It’s a life skill everyone should have/develop. It’s not about doing well on math exams. It’s about understanding and solving different problems in life, one of which is understanding the numbers in personal finance.

  • Wow, Baby FAF is going to be one well rounded kid. Our goals for our 10 and 13 year olds are a little more nebulous. Be kind, excel at something, try to do everything else pretty well.
    We are two insanely driven parents-so I figure some of it will rub off on them!

    • “Wow, Baby FAF is going to be one well rounded kid.”

      Thank you, doc! I hope he will be. But we’re also preparing ourselves if things don’t go according to plan. Mr. FAF and I LOVE planning for the future, so we’re also doing this for ourselves. Your plan sounds simple but absolutely perfect!

  • Looking at this list, he’ll probably develop one hell of a work ethic too!

    Being conversational in three languages would definitely be a great one! Vietnamese is a pretty useful business language, as quite a few Chinese I know conduct business in Vietnam for textiles and manufacturing.

    From a personal perspective I like 7 the most, finding a good life partner is a game changer. Parents can also definitely help and guide their kids in finding a partner, as well as provide perspective if they’re compatible.

    • Thank you, Will! My parents are indeed actively helping my lil sis (24 yo) find a good life partner in Vietnam hehe. 😉

  • TJ or bust! I play tennis against the number one player at TJ during my time. His name was Kim Sparrow, and he went to Harvey Mudd and is still working as an engineer.

    I thought McLean HS was good enough. Go William & Mary!

    Sam

    • OH wow I had no idea you played tennis competitively in high school. I just Googled Kim Sparrow + Harvey Mudd. I think I found the guy on LinkedIn *oops*

      Fairfax county has a great public school system, so I think our son will be fine going to any other public schools here. I think McLean HS is also good. Mr. FAF has been raving about TJ for years, so he got me kinda obsessed with it too lol. William & Marry is definitely a great college. I’d be over the moon if Baby FAF got a full ride to attend W&M!

  • As someone who grew up here (something like an American Born Chinese), it might be tough to teach your kid to speak another language fluently. I do not speak Chinese well, despite my family’s best efforts (which I regret now). Of my ABC friends, maybe 50% of them do. I think it depends on the kid’s personality – if they’re more family oriented they will, but if they’re more independent they won’t. Best of luck though!

  • this is so interesting and enlightening.

    When I read it, I thought “My God, you’re an insane Tiger Mom”…Then, I sat back and thought about it.

    I push my sons relentlessly, especially with academics. My goal would be for them to do an undergraduate in engineering and an MBA at Stanford, small demands.

    They go to school from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, with 1-1/2 to 2 hours of Mandarin as part of that.

    They do homework every night, sports and activities on the weekend.

    They’re going to be signed up for martial arts next year.

    When I get home from vacation, I told my oldest I would sign him up for code academy, or comparable, for him to learn coding for fun…

    Maybe, you’re not crazy at all, or…Maybe we are both crazy!

    Background: I’m a white male, my wife is Canadian born Chinese, and my sons don’t yet believe they’re 1/2 white.

    Good luck on Baby FAFs journey!

  • This is so detailed! I would say you shouldn’t worry too much about your son. I came to the US for Pre-K and didn’t know any english. My parents didn’t either. I turned out fine and speak english with no accent at all. It’s my Chinese that is the problem haha. I can speak conversational Chinese but reading and writing the characters is tough. Your son will pick up english at school in no time.

    Also, I wouldn’t worry about TJ there either. I had friends who went there from college and being a small fish in a big pond is worse than being a big fish in a small pond I feel. We all ended up at the same T10 colleges and then the same companies, and it felt like my high school experience was much less stressed than theirs were.

    • Yeah, don’t worry about the English! Kids develop at different paces…I have a friend who didn’t speak a single word until she was three, when she began to speak in complete sentences. Just one example of how kids will develop at their own pace!

  • I like how you have these goals for Baby FAF already especially with him speaking three languages fluently.
    We are already getting Baby with Cents to say some words in English and Chinese(Cantonese) and he has some words down in both languages. Hopefully down the line he will also understand some words in Tagalog(Filipino) as well.
    That is a great accomplishment that he knows his alphabets and numbers already and he’s only 2. Hopefully ours will know it too, he likes books and says a lot of words but doesn’t want to learn the alphabets and numbers yet. We’ll keep try until he gets it down.

  • “I don’t have expectations. Expectations in your life just lead to giant disappointments.” – Michael Landon

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