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Parenting and Children Development

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Parenting and Children Development


Phoenix is an interesting character in Ruth Ozeki's fiction All Over Creation. Being the oldest son of the heroine, Phoenix has a very rebellious character and shows great disrespect to his mother, Yumi. Meanwhile, despite how Phoenix dislikes his mom, he almost followed the exact path his mother took: he was about to run away from home at the age of fourteen, which was the exact age when Yumi decided to leave home for twenty-five years. Phoenix, however, at last chose a different path from his mother's by staying with her. Why did Phoenix choose to run away at the first place? What did he stay at last? How do the social environment, Yumi and the Resistance of the Seeds, affected Phoenix on his two choices? These are the questions this essay tries to answer.

First of all, how does the social environment shape Phoenix on his character and decisions? For a fourteen-year-old, the social environment he would be exposed to the most is his family, school, and friends. The social influence of the family part is especially important to the child; in Phoenix’s case, it is even more so. Yumi has failed the role as a mother, according to other characters in the book (Ozeki, 390&409), and even more so in the eyes of the readers. To start with, Yumi did not provide a stable home for her children: She moved from California to Oregon to Texas to Hawaii before Phoenix was five, and she changed her partner at least three times in Phoenix’s short fourteen years of life. Secondly, Yumi takes little responsibility for her children. For one, she frequently lets her friend Cass take care of her baby Poo so that she could have time to meet her lover Elliot (Ozeki, 235). When Phoenix was bullied in school for being an Asian, Yumi did not take any action to protect her children, all she said was “In Hawaii it makes big difference, we differentiate between ethnocultural styles of breaking noses” (Ozeki, 127) before she turned away to worry about her jobs. When Phoenix was pointed by a gun in school, Yumi had already lost her son’s trust for being preoccupied with her lover Elliot. Last but not least, Yumi does not know how to take care of people. When the Seeds were gone and Lloyd became Yumi’s responsibility to take care of, she did not even care to differentiate what a patient can and cannot eat. She made Lloyd salty fried egg despite her children reminding her that Lloyd was not supposed to take high cholesterol high sodium fried food. Let alone the fact that the food was terribly cooked. She was impatient with her father, reluctant to even help him walk to the rest room (Ozeki, 250&251). It is not hard to imagine her being impatient with her children when they need help as well. In fact, her impatient and irresponsible behaviors have not only disappointed her children (Ozeki, 232), but have also planted a lack of sense of safety in her children, especially the oldest one, Phoenix. When Phoenix encountered a trouble, the first thing he thought of is not telling the grown-ups, but to deal with it himself. He tried to carry a knife for this reason and tried to keep an eye on his sister to protect her. He never told Yumi a word about the bully he encountered in school because he knew she was not going to do anything helpful. It is hard to blame Phoenix for his disrespect towards his mother.

It would not be as harsh for Phoenix had he not moved to Idaho. Despite her mother’s failure in providing him the sense of safety, the social environment in school also gave lots of pressure on him. In Idaho, where the majority of the residents are white, Phoenix felt extremely exotic by being a three-fourth Asian. The kids in his school must have felt the same way, for they started bullying him for being Asian and for his strange name less than a week after the semester started. Surrounded by aggressive schoolmates in school but cannot find any comfort in home, Phoenix felt anxious and the need to protect himself. Here, luckily, he met the Seeds of Resistance, who showed up from nowhere, dressed like hippies, but solved all the issues that Yumi was unable to solve.

The Seeds was the opposite of Yumi in many ways. Yumi was too impatient to spent time playing games with her children, but Lilith was patient enough; Yumi was unable to give much attention to Phoenix because she thought she was busy, but Frankie would be the big brother of Phoenix; Yumi was incapable of taking care of her father, Y was professional enough to take over the job; Yumi was a terrible cook, but Charmey was not; Yumi refused new information and concepts, but Geek himself was the representative of new concepts. Most importantly, the Seeds showed Phoenix what it looks[1]  like to be responsible. Seeds soon became Phoenix’s role model; Phoenix was even proud of being in jail for that was what the seeds had been through (Ozeki, 265). The Seeds was the only place where Phoenix could truly find comfort in. Thinking that Yumi herself had run off when she was fourteen, it makes total sense for Phoenix to want to go with the Seeds when they leave as well.

Unlike Yumi, however, Phoenix did not leave Yumi behind. He stayed. Part the reason why he stayed was that, unlike Yumi, Phoenix was in touch with a good role model Frankie, who told Phoenix to talk with Yumi before he leave. However, the decisive factor was Yumi’s parenting style. Yumi, as a parent, took care of her kids in a very different approach from her father Lloyd. Lloyd’s parenting was like planting potatoes in Idaho - the goal is to produce the standardized product. He wanted Yumi to be a stereotypical good girl who can take over the farm when he died. Lloyd did not like variety much; he could not bare to see Yumi dressing differently from his expectation. Yumi, however, took care of her children like Hawaii’s nature nurtures its plants. The nature never intentionally tailor its plants; it lets the plants grow the way they want. Yumi did not govern[2]  over her children often - partly because she did not have the time - but it gives her children the liberty to grow freely. She allowed Phoenix to talk back to her and allowed Ocean to ask lots of questions. With her, even though Phoenix did not feel much safety, but he was free. Because of so, unlike Yumi who became dubious for her father’s love (Ozeki, 367), Phoenix was certain of it. He stayed, for he did not want to hurt his loved ones.

To conclude , it is obvious that Yumi and her parenting style had a great impact on Phoenix’s development. However, Yumi’s parenting style was definitely not the most successful one. Given the huge impact of parent’s parenting style on children’s development, what then, is the best parenting style? This is a question yet to be examine.