Wednesday, May 23, 2018

The Importance of Play

Lately through a variety of channels I have had the pleasure of absorbing a lot of great information from people and events focused on the importance of play to children's development.  It is an incredibly important concept, with profound implications not only for how we educate our kids in our schools but how we invest in our public spaces (libraries, parks, streets). As someone who is very future-oriented, and who parents with that lens very much in mind, this theme resonates greatly with me, and influences what I want for our kids so that they can be healthy and productive adults.

But it's also important to give weight to the here and now.  Play is important for kids not only for how it prepares them for the future, but because it is good right now to experience joy for joy's sake.  It rubs off on us adults too; I can't tell you how soothing it is for me after a long week to experience joy vicariously through Asher's eyes as he plays.  (It helps that he is so cute and has a million dollar smile.)  I'm writing today to remind myself that while preparing for tomorrow is important, so is enjoying today. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

All the World's a Buffet

Being the baby of the family, Asher is, it is safe to say, spoiled.  We of course, for his sake, don't give him everything he asks for.  But, by and large, he lives like a king.  It's a good life.

We take him to Chinese buffet once or so a month, and there he truly is in his element.  And why not?  Everything in front of him he can get, if he wants it.  Including endless rows of dessert.  But mostly noodles and sesame chicken and orange slices.

In a sense, all the world's a buffet for Asher at this point in his life.  Obviously, it is bad to spoil a kid to the point that they become entitled and bratty and impossible.  But I recall a point by Malcolm Gladwell (I forget which of his books) in which successful kids that came from affluent families distinguished themselves by exercising a positive form of entitlement, which is that they expected to access resources and to do things, and that assurance powered them to productive lives.

It is why we should work so hard for families who lack resources and for a society that leaves no one behind, is that kids ought to be able to function this way, to expect that they can get everything they need to be happy and to thrive.  It's what we want for Asher, and when we take him to buffet we see one small manifestation of the good of that.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Lessons About the Father

Parenting is such a rich mine from which to draw insights about our relationship with God. Let me offer a recent example, and for privacy's sake I'm going to blur a few details, which aren't important anyway as they are subordinate in this story to the larger point about how God wants us to be.

I had caught one of my kids in a lie, and was gently but firmly confronting them about it. At one point they blurted out, "just punish me!" But I persisted. I explained that sometimes punishment is the way we learn our lesson, but sometimes when we are punished without thinking through just why we are being punished, we don't learn our lesson.

So we continued to talk, until we are able to break through from what bad deed had been done to what the thought process was behind why it had been done. Tears and hugs followed.  As did punishment, by the way.  But probably harder than the punishment was probing the deeper motivations for lying and the thought process that set that act into motion.

It is not lost on me that this is how we are with God all the time.  When we do something we know we're not supposed to do, most of us have enough of a conscience to realize it and feel bad.  The question is, do we want to be punished and then get on with our lives, or do we want the Great Physician to do real spiritual surgery, to diagnose and the root out that which is deep within us that is wrong that He can make right? 

O how often I cry out with the equivalent of "just punish me!" instead of subjecting myself to that kind of spiritual probing.  How little I actually want to change, to do better, to be better.  Truly how wayward are our hearts.  Yet how much and how lovingly does our Heavenly Father want otherwise.  How much He loves us, to discipline us and to instruct us. 

Friday, May 04, 2018


Over the years, we've used annual memberships to different places to great effect.  We've done Philadelphia Zoo, Please Touch Museum, Adventure Aquarium, and Franklin Institute.  Recently, we became members at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, and the past two weekends I've taken Asher there as a part of a larger downtown trip that also hits Franklin Square, Chinatown, and Reading Terminal Market. 

Read that paragraph above.  Look at all of those great Philadelphia institutions.  What a great cultural experience our kids are getting.  (And cheap eats too!)  It's good to be museuming once again.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Huang Family Newsletter, April 2018

Asher turned 3 (!!!) and the world still revolves around him.

Jada and Aaron got through their standardized tests.  Jada had fun at her middle school's annual dance.  Aaron is enjoying cooking class after school.

Amy is slogging through a very hard job while holding down the fort at home.  Lee was named to the Philadelphia Board of Education and also joined the James Brister Society at Penn.

Friday, April 27, 2018

City Kids

Amy and I both grew up in the suburbs, and many of our family members live in the suburbs, so our kids are experiencing a very different childhood than we did or than their cousins do.  It has its pros and its cons, but (ever the city booster than I am) I am trying to impress upon them the pros so they don't take them for granted.

One is mobility.  When I was Jada's age (13) was when friends really became important, and being able to socialize with my close guy friends (and to flirt with girls) was paramount.  Luckily, where I lived in the burbs, I could actually walk to some of my friends' houses, although in some cases it was quite a hike. But anything beyond that, like going to the mall or seeing a movie, involved either finding a parent to chaperone us or spending the afternoon figuring out Silicon Valley's sparse bus system. 

Contrast that to our living situation now.  Because we live in such an amenity-rich mixed-use neighborhood, rather than a set-apart single-use suburb, there is so much within close walking distance our kids can get to on their own: movies, food, parks, etc.  Then when you introduce buses, trolleys, and subways, that opens up an even bigger world that can be gotten to without the use of a car or the need of a parent.

Thirteen year old me would've killed for this kind of freedom and these kinds of options.  Let's hope our kids understand how good they have it.

Saturday, April 21, 2018


Asher, you have turned our world upside down for the past three years, and we have loved every minute.  We're taking you to buffet today to let you know that the whole world is available to you.  We have prayed every day, and will continue to do so, that God would keep you safe, and grow you into the special person He has destined you to be.  What an honor and delight that we get to watch that happen from so close.