Raising an Advocate

I remember in my high school civics class, our teacher said that in general, children start off with their parents’ political beliefs, become more liberal in college, and then finally, when they make more money and become parents themselves, circle back to conservative.

After all, once you have more money, you are less sanguine about ways to spend that money and once you have children, you are less permissive in your attitudes about sex and drugs and rock ‘n roll – or thus the thinking goes.

It’s the political circle of life.

I don’t know if that is still the case from 22 years ago (OMG HOW HAS IT BEEN THAT LONG?), but for me, that has certainly NOT been my experience.

I find that for most people, they react to having children in one of two ways:

1) Double down and because of fear, circle the wagons and retreat more and more into conservative values – be it on money, religion, sex, drugs, etc.

They worry that the world is going to hell in handbasket and that there is a cultural war going on against “traditional” values and they do all they can to make sure laws stay as conservative as possible.

2) Realize that they want a better future for their children and out of fear (usually because their kids are or might be one of the disenfranchised or oppressed people groups), become more and more liberal and inclusive in their values – be it on money, religion, sex, drugs, etc.

They worry that their children will be oppressed if they don’t happen to fit in the “traditional” boxes and do all they can to make sure laws become as inclusive as possible.

It is no surprise, dear reader, that you will find that I am in the latter group.

As soon as I had Cookie Monster, I began my journey to become ever more inclusive of all peoples.

I want to take credit and say it’s because I’m just that progressive of a person, but truthfully, it was a gradual eye-opening, and a lot of it was born of fear for my child and future children and not so much out of the belief of equality for all.

Isn’t that the way most of us who are not affected by certain types of discrimination begin caring about people who are not like us? When we are all of a sudden, personally affected by a discriminatory law/system/situation? (This is akin to celebrities or people caring only about a disease after it affects them personally. Not a knock – because that is the human condition. Just an observation.)

The thought of my children being treated poorly, mocked, harassed, bullied, whatever because of their sexual identity, their preferences, their abilities or disabilities, their ethnicities, their anything – THAT ENRAGED ME.

This fear and rage at the possibility of my children being mistreated then turned into rage and fear for my friends and then for ALL people.

I evolved.

I admit. Right about the time I had Cookie Monster, I found out that one of my dear, dear college friends was bisexual (which wasn’t really that much of a surprise and I wasn’t really phased about it because hey, I’m progressive like that) as well as polyamorous.

And it’s not that I judged him for being polyamorous, but I judged.

I thought he was going through a mid-life crisis. Promiscuous. Behaving dangerously. Justifying non-commitment.

Which, hey. It’s his life. He should be able to live it however he wanted. I got that and knew that. But still. A hidden part of me (and to be honest, I’m sure it was obvious to him how I felt but he was too kind and merciful to point it out to me) was like, “This is weird and inappropriate and keep it to yourself already.”

And then, a high school acquaintance on Facebook began to share more and more about her life in a poly relationship. She is bisexual and has two husbands and several children and has been very open about her life in her blog (now no longer there for likely, family protection reasons).

She shared how she has been affected and treated and all her family’s suffering and pain as well as their love for each other and just like that – I cared about the poly community (her family in particular), and my mindset was changed.

All because of her bravery and willingness to be vulnerable.

I find her amazing. My heart aches for her. She and her family are so deserving of love and acceptance and the chance to be left alone and just be without commentary. They deserve affirmation of their love and the beautiful family they have created.

And truthfully, I know I was swayed because of their “monogamy” and family values oriented lifestyle.

But you know what?

Even if she was a promiscuous person and her family was “broken,” they deserve to live and love as they choose (or not choose, as this is the case).

And thus, through relationships with people, through reading anti-racism blogs – through reading LOTS of blogs actually – I found myself caring more and more about all types of people. (Even farmers through another friend of mine – which is weird because I never knew about the issues farmers and agricultural people encountered until I read her posts on Facebook and on her blog.)

Look at me blathering all over the place today.

I’m not sure I have a main point or lots of tiny points all pointing toward a bigger point in their pointiness, but this is just to say that all this liberalness, all this gradual awakening and anti-racism and inclusive parenting – that is a direct result out of fear.

I fear giving my children a world wherein who they are, at their very core, is not accepted and not allowed to thrive and live and be.

I fear that to this day, even though I would love my child and accept them if they happen to be LGBTQ, I secretly hope they aren’t because life will be SO HARD for them if they are and I worry that my mother, who is super conservative, may reject them or try to “convert” them to “straightness” and then I will have to cut off my mother, too.

I don’t want to live in a world where I have these fears. I don’t want to be a person who has these fears.

And I certainly do not want these things for my children.

I want my children to be be shameless – in the sense that they are nothing to be ashamed of – regardless of who they are.

And thus, I have become ever more and more liberal. More radical. More everything.

I am grateful for friends who are further along the advocacy road so I can model myself after them and join my voice with theirs.

I am grateful for these same friends (Hi, Mamademics!) creating curriculum celebrating black history as well as creating Raising an Advocate series for me to join and Facebook Stalk and over-post in. (Can you tell that I lifted the name of this post from her series? It’s because she is awesome and her series is awesome and I REALLY WANT YOU ALL TO JOIN.)

I am grateful that I am homeschooling and can thus apply these things that I am learning so that my children can be brainwashed into advocates themselves. (I bought the first twelve months of Black History is American History and am looking forward to teaching it to my kids.)

Won’t you join me in this journey of self-discovery and dismantling what we have accepted for so long (and often, obliviously)?

Let’s create the world in which ALL our children are loved and accepted no matter who they are.

Brainwashing My Kids

“Papa, you look like a girl,” laughed Cookie Monster.

“Why?” replied Hapa Papa. “Is it because I have Sasquatch in an Ergo*?”

“Yeah!”

I had to interject. “Remember, Cookie Monster, there are no boy clothes or girl clothes. Just clothes. Just like there are no boy things or girl things. Just things.”

“Oh, yeah!”

“Do you know what the only difference between girls and boys is?” I continue.

“What?”

“A boy has a penis and a girl has a vagina.” I pause, because technically, that is not always true. “Actually, sometimes, girls are born without penises but their brains feel like they are boys, so they don’t have penises but are still boys.”

“Some boys are born with penises but they are actually girls so they also are girls,” Hapa Papa continued, surprising me.

“How does that happen?” Cookie Monster giggled.

“Some people just change the way they dress for awhile, or they take special medicines to change their bodies,” I replied.

“People just want to be happy,” continued Hapa Papa.

And then I left to go write.

As I was driving, it occurred to me that if I were to post the interaction on Facebook, folks who disagreed with me would likely accuse me of brainwashing my children.

But you know what?

All parenting is brainwashing our children. ALL OF IT.

No matter what you do as a parent, you are brainwashing your children with how you think they should view, participate, and interact with the world.

Whether it is something as mundane as how to load the dishwasher or something more “radical” (but hopefully, just as mundane in the future) as normalizing transgendered people, we brainwash our kids by imprinting our values upon them.

That’s our job as parents.

Whether or not our kids choose to continue with these beliefs in the future, that is up to them as people.

And thus, Hapa Papa and I try to normalize things that we ourselves did not grow up learning. We don’t make a big deal out of it. We just point things out consistently and gently remind our kids every time they state something that is the current norm (eg: dancing is for girls or trains are for boys).

This is how Glow Worm dresses up as Elsa or a mermaid or wears heels and sparkly shoes and necklaces. Cookie Monster went through this phase as well and grew out of it. If Glow Worm never does, that is perfectly fine, too.

Or this is why, when Cookie Monster once asked me if two men could have a baby, I said something to the effect of a baby could have two daddies, but making a baby required a sperm and an egg. (Hey, biological fact is also important.) I’m not really sure what the conversation entailed due to the vagaries of time, but that was the gist.

After all, we offer them unfettered access to YouTube which reflects mainstream views about what is supposed to interest boys or girls. I know it is impossible for us to catch and “correct” them all. And even if we did, they exist in this world and this reality and they are not stupid.

My kids are bound to absorb the unconscious messages they receive from media, family, and friends.

But hopefully, with years of repetition, my children will grow up thinking that people and families come in all shapes and sizes, abilities, colors, talents, loves, and desires. Some families have two fathers. Some have more. Some have only one mother. Some have none. Some have brothers and sisters. Some do not.

It is really that simple.

And mostly, people just want to live, love, and be without explanation and fear. That people want to just be who they are, when and where they are.

Yes, yes. Of course not every body can be who they are, when and where they are, because pedophiles and bad people.

TRANSGENDERED PEOPLE ARE NOT PEDOPHILES.

Neither are gays, lesbians, etc. etc. ad nauseam.

If I were really worried about pedophiles and bad people, I would tell them to avoid middle-aged white men who are religious leaders. (Don’t get mad at me for stating facts. Get mad at the white men doing bad things.)

At any rate, I am hopeful, in the era of 45 (I refuse to call him President because it hurts my brain and I am still unwilling to acknowledge reality), that the more of us who teach our children that all peoples are deserving of the freedom to live and love how they choose, the less likely another 45 will come into being.

Incidentally, that’s also why I wanted more kids. The super conservatives are outbreeding us liberals. (Kidding!! Kidding! I wanted lots of kids because of other reasons – but this doesn’t hurt!)

How are you brainwashing your kids?

 


*affiliate link

How Things are Different with the 4th Baby

Everyone knows that your parenting changes from the first baby to the last baby. Even if it’s not worn out as a topic on HuffPo Parents or ScaryMommy, it’s something that I’ve been thinking about more and more.

I’ve been very lucky.

Not only did I have relatively easy, healthy pregnancies for all four children, I had relatively easy, healthy babies.

I realize that not everyone has these set of conditions and so though I complain, please know that I am grateful that my life as a parent has been mostly pain-free and easy.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been hard. Because really, the hardest part of parenting isn’t so much the children (all things considered), but more of your character being refined while parenting said children.

People: my character clearly was in great need of reformation.

Therapy is helping.

It’s sad how I need to pay $150 a week to a professional just so I can force myself to pay medical bills on time or to be more aware of my body so I don’t explode at my children – but hey. We all have our issues.

The point is: therapy works. (If you’re willing to put in the work.)

Oh yes, tangent.

Look, by now you are all long-time readers. We all know I have to tangent and meander for at least a few hundred words before I ever get to the point. It’s in the contract.

Anyhow, parenting Sasquatch has been a markedly different experience than parenting Cookie Monster.

Well, of course, I have a ton more experience because I’ve done this three times prior. But surprisingly, it’s because he’s the last.

After all, I have had a lot of experience with my own babies, but only this baby is the last baby.

I have to admit, a lot of the finer details of parenting Gamera and Glow Worm as newborns have been lost to the haze of memory. And when I had more trouble than I previously had with conceiving Sasquatch, I was unprepared because I hadn’t mentally prepared myself for Glow Worm to be the last and I was afraid that he might be.

It was hard to realize that I should have been actively treasuring my moments and firsts with Glow Worm because he was possibly my last baby.

I wasn’t prepared.

But then, thankfully, I got pregnant with Sasquatch and now can be more mindful about all his firsts because he is truly my last. (Well, barring an act of God and quite frankly, immaculate conception – which is also an act of God.)

So then, here now is my list of things that are different with my fourth vs with my first three.

1) I don’t mind carrying Sasquatch everywhere and all the time.

I know he could probably do more tummy time or swing time or not sitting on a human time, but you know what?

LAST BABY.

Ima hold that baby as long as I want.

2) I have no problem handing him off to people – even if I just met them.

Well, within reason, I suppose. When I did hand him to someone I just met, they were a good friend of one of my good friends so it’s ok.

3) I know the importance of pumping milk. Because pumped milk equals freedom.

When Cookie Monster was born, I didn’t leave my house for four months. I rarely got out of pajamas. As a result, I rarely needed to pump milk (although I still did). I also didn’t really want to leave him behind.

Now? Now, the only limiting factors to me leaving Sasquatch with Hapa Papa are the availability of pumped milk and lingering guilt about leaving Hapa Papa with four small children.

Alright. Full disclosure. There is only one limiting factor. I just didn’t want to seem like an asshole.

4) I have no problem co-sleeping until Sasquatch is a tween.

With Cookie Monster, I didn’t really know any better and he wasn’t a good sleeper because I had no idea what I was doing. So he slept on me or poorly throughout the night until I sleep trained him at nine months.

Sasquatch has been co-sleeping with us since day one and really, he’s a good little sleeper and if he ever stirs at night, I just shove a boob in his mouth and he dream feeds and maybe, I change him once around 3 or 4am and then he goes right back to bed.

With Gamera and Glow Worm, they were sleeping in their cribs by two months and mostly through the night. Sasquatch has slept in his crib once. For maybe twenty minutes.

Mostly, he sleeps in my bed next to me with a boob at the ready or he is sleeping on a human. I have started to put him on the couch when he’s napping and he’s slept for hours that way just fine. But I have been too lazy to put him in his crib because WHY?

The silence would probably wake him up. He prefers to sleep deeply to the screams and rabble-rousing of his siblings.

5) If possible, I kiss him even MORE than I kissed all the other babies. Mostly because um, BABY. Also? LAST BABY.

6) I never fully realized just how much oxytocin is amazing.

Seriously, every time I nurse Sasquatch (especially at night in bed), I get a rush of butterflies and love and cozy and happy chocolate chip cookie feelings.

I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

I’m not really a tender sort of person (I know, collective gasps of disbelief). But this baby boy makes me all squishy inside.

He’s my last shot of squishy.

7) Corollary: I will probably be nursing Sasquatch until he’s ten.

I mean, Glow Worm started nursing again, so it’s not like I’m not okay with it.

8) I have ZERO desire to make new mommy friends.

In fact, I am completely relieved that one of my good friends had a baby right after I had Sasquatch. Our other kids are already good frenemies so I see no reason why our last kids can’t continue on in this grand tradition.

Truthfully, I was more open to making new friends when Glow Worm came along because I knew that he wouldn’t have any friends his age. So, I gamely had weekly Mandarin playgroups at my house and tried.

tried, people.

And I do like and enjoy these mommies, but their kids were their first and not to discount their experiences, but they were different concerns than mine and it was a little harder to relate.

I enjoy them just fine as people and hanging out with them occasionally, but I never got super close. It’s totally my own fault because they were super friendly and inviting. I just was lazy and anti-social.

(Ok, so maybe I didn’t try as hard as I thought I did.)

For Sasquatch, I really am not even going to bother. I mean, if I happen to accidentally make friends with people, I’m not going to stop it from happening. But between homeschooling the other kids and schlepping them to their classes, I don’t see a lot of time for playdates focusing on babies.

My older kids would ruin everything and likely terrify these first time mothers.

9) Instead of eagerly (and gleefully) spending gobs of money buying useless baby stuff, I am eagerly (and gleefully) getting RID of baby stuff.

Thus far, I have happily given away all of Gamera’s clothes and shoes from 6 months to 4T.

I have another person lined up for all my boy/gender neutral baby clothes as soon as Sasquatch grows out of them (he’s already in 6 month clothing).

This same person is also getting my baby swing (which I got from another friend who said I can do whatever I want with the swing as long as I don’t give it back), bouncer, and exersaucer and towels and shoes and blankets and pretty much EVERY THING I CAN FOIST UPON THIS UNSUSPECTING PERSON.

Too bad she doesn’t want my stroller. Anyone want a free stroller?

I am passing along my cloth diaper prefolds and covers to another friend because Fatty Baby here pees a ridiculous amount and I have already upped him to toddler sized prefolds because MY GOD THE PEE.

The only thing I had to buy another one of is cloth diaper covers because apparently, 7 year old cloth diaper covers lose their elasticity and are too loose and I HATE LEAKS DAMMIT so um, yeah.

Also, I have gotten rid of all baby toys like rattles, teethers, etc. because quite frankly, even Cookie Monster didn’t use them as a baby and I DON’T WANT IT IN MY HOUSE ANYMORE.

10) Beyond getting rid of massive amounts of baby things (seriously, I have zero sentimentality about it), I also travel much lighter. With Cookie Monster, I think I packed everything possible in that diaper bag and when I had Gamera, I had a huge weekender sized diaper bag that packed even MORE of everything.

When Glow Worm came along, I had jettisoned most of that stuff and just had a bare bones wet bag for diapers and clothes that I could just shove into my purse.

Same thing for Sasquatch. In fact, I’m lucky if I remember to pack wipes. I am much more whatever about things than I used to be.

In fact, for both Glow Worm and Sasquatch, I don’t even bother with a stroller. (Again – anyone want a stroller?)

I ergo these kids everywhere because it’s much easier to walk around with a baby strapped to me than to deal with taking out a stroller, shoving said baby into the stroller, and then keeping track of three other kids while both of my hands are occupied with steering said stroller.

And with Sasquatch, I didn’t even bother buying a new infant car seat. I hated detaching those suckers and carrying the 25lb seat with a 15lb baby in it is completely UNAPPEALING let alone doing so with three other children.

Plus, I was pretty sure he was going to be a fatty and outgrow the weigh limits ASAP so why bother spending the money?

11) The one thing I didn’t anticipate was how often I would split up with Hapa Papa and go out with just Sasquatch. I arrogantly told Irish Twins when she offered me a free car seat to shut her damn mouth and take that filth away from me and um, oops.

Since I was not nearly has homebound as I thought I would be, I ended up buying the cheapest highly rated car seat possible. I’m not spending $200+ on a backup car seat. $50 is just fine, thanks.

12) I no longer give two snaps about who sees my breasts when I breastfeed. I used to bring covers with Cookie Monster or nursed in other rooms in case people were uncomfortable.

Nope.

That’s one more thing for me to bring, get dirty, and possibly lose so NOPE.

You don’t want to see my breasts? DON’T LOOK.

Amazing!

I mean, I still try to wear clothing so that drapes and provides cover while baby is eating, but quite frankly, I don’t care.

By the time you have your fourth kid, so many people have seen your under bits and pieces that modesty just goes out the window.

And again. People don’t want to see boobies? Use your gorram orbital muscles and LOOK AWAY.

13) Crying doesn’t bother me. At all. Not in the slightest.

Which is useful because apparently, Sasquatch, like his siblings before him, hates the car and will likely hate the car for another 3-4 months.

14) The best part of the last baby, though, is that I already know what’s coming. I know about when they will teethe, sit up, crawl, vocalize, whatever.

So, I don’t have to worry about when things will happen and just enjoy them for what they’re worth. Every thing, both good and bad (and I guess neutral), has its season and fades away.

I am trying to be slightly more mindful of them and cherish the moments of Sasquatch being a fatty baby with a gummy smile and silly newborn sounds. (His angry nursing grumbles and panicked squeaks are hilarious.)

I’m sure there will be more things to add to this list as my last baby gets bigger and bigger. Bittersweet, but I’m glad for the beginning of the end of this season and happy to see what lies ahead.

How to Get Your Kids to Play With Their Toys

As many of you know, my house is a mecca of toys. Is it educational? Is it a logic puzzle? Does it involve building blocks or wood or MAGNETS? Is it a Lego? Or crafty? If so, I probably own it.

I’m a sucker for anything with a magnet. Or logic. Or building.

But the thing is, my children NEVER played with these toys. They were obsessively on their iPads. Otherwise, they were busy using each other as meat punching bags and smacking the crap out of each other with Minecraft foam swords and axes and plastic pointy light sabres.

So, all that money I spent on real wood blocks and Magnatiles and Magformers, etc.? All wasted.

What really upset me was that they LOVED to play with these toys at other people’s houses. Just not mine.

Jerks.

But these past few weeks, since we got back from Taiwan, things have changed. And I think I know why.

Despite this being only a few weeks implemented, I have a feeling the changes will stick. (Possibly because most of these tips are things I have read before. I never said I was re-inventing the wheel, people!)

So, without further ado: How to Get Your Kids to Play With Their Toys:

1) Get rid of your toys.

Now, unless you already were some minimalist or just amazing (and therefore, I kinda hate you but want to be you all at the same time), you probably have way more toys than you need or want and they’re just pissing you off.

Way back in the end of February, my friend, Danielle Faust at OkDani and FitNoire wrote a post about how she threw away all (or almost all) her kids’ toys.

Now, when I read her post at the time, I agreed and thought, wow! That’s amazing! But I could never do that at my house because so many of my toys have already been culled.

I was wrong. So wrong.

And four months later (what can I say? I’m slow.), I threw out a bunch of my toys. In fact, I threw away or got rid of any toy that pissed me off – no matter how educational or age-appropriate or “good” the toy was. If it made me angry or cringe, it was out.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I still have a lot of toys. I am not getting rid of expensive toys that I love. But I did get rid of 6-8 bags of toys that I HATED.

It was a joyous and beautiful day.

2) Have a place for every toy.

I know. None of this is the stuff of genius. We read about it all the time in those organizing articles.

But it’s true.

If there’s a place for the toy, and the kids know where it belongs, then they know where to put it back when they’re done with the toy. (And the answer is NOT the floor.)

It helps if the place is a clear box so they can see what toy is in which box (especially since my kids can’t read English). I also have painter’s tape on each box with Chinese/zhuyin and English on the label so the kids and Hapa Papa know what belongs in that particular container.

About two years ago, I had an organizer come in and buy appropriate shelves and storage things so that I have plenty of space, I just need to keep them OPEN.

Sometimes, the problem isn’t so much a lack of enough organizational materials as much as a lack of space. If lack of space is a problem, confer back to point 1.

The arts and crafts center. It’s not at all neat, but it will serve.

One shelf with toys. Some have been pulled out for play.

Another shelf filled with toys.

3) Take out 2-4 activities each day.

So, I have had a pretty organized home with toys and activities for months, but STILL the kids wouldn’t play with the toys. They instead would reach for their old standbys – the swords and sabers and then proceed to beat each other to a pulp.

I was annoyed. I mean, other than the toys looking so pretty in the boxes, what’s the point of having them if the kids won’t play with them?

That’s when I remembered what our home-based preschool teacher, PW would do at the start of each class time. She also has lots of fun toys in her house, but instead of having them all put away, each class period, she would take out 3-4 activities and put them on the floor for the kids to explore.

That didn’t mean she didn’t let them play other things, but it did mean she gave them direction.

Because if you think about it, having lots of choices can be overwhelming unless you are one of those people (and by those people, I mean people such as I) who always order the same things at restaurants. Otherwise, you end up paralyzed by all the choices.

Same thing with the kids and toys.

In the face of so many toys, they go to their easy standbys and don’t even consider the other toys.

So, now, either the night before or the morning, of, I take out 2-3 activities and put them on the floor. I usually take out:

a) one type of building activity (blocks, Wedge-Its, Magnatiles)

b) one type of sorting/sensory activity (a big box of rocks, fuzzy balls, plastic dinosaurs, glass beads, etc.), and

c) one type of puzzle or other game.

And then I go against every instinct and let them keep those three activities out ALL DAY.

In fact, I far prefer this to “rotating” toys. Mostly because I don’t really have to think about “storing” toys and then remembering to “rotate” them. I hate extra work and brain power I need to exert.

4) Limit screen time.

I hate this suggestion. It’s really Captain Obvious and judgmental and self-righteous.

But it’s true.

Kids really can’t play with your toys if they’re glued to a screen.

Keep in mind, I don’t care how long your kids are on the screen. I won’t judge. My kids spent the last week in Taiwan entirely on the iPad. Like, from morning til night. For a week. Blowing through $1,000USD in Airbnb rent just like that.

I don’t judge.

However, like I mentioned before. It’s difficult for kids to play with toys if there is no opportunity for them to actually play. So, limiting some of your screen time is probably necessary.

For us, my kids are limited to 2 hours of screen time where they actually choose what they can watch. Then, I will likely add Chinese science videos or TF Boys (their current obsession) on top of that because I’m a sucker and I don’t mind.

That has made a huge difference at our house.

Now, with all their newly freed up time, and seeing all the toys I have pulled out, my kids actually play with their toys. And somehow, it’s as if a mental block was pulled from their brains. As if they remembered all the other toys our home possesses.

Not only do they play with the toys I “suggest,” they also pull out their other toys. And since I usually have most drawing and art materials out on the table, the kids use those more, too.

Before, I would force the kids to clean up right away. But now, I am a little more relaxed about it. Instead, if the floor gets dangerous and too full, that’s when I make them clean up. And then I definitely make them clean up before we go upstairs for bed.

I don’t mind the extra mess as long as the toys are used and the kids are playing with each other and not a screen.

Anyhow, I realize that nothing I suggested is mind-blowing or new. But hopefully, still helpful. And not only helpful – applicable.

Let me know what you do to get your kids to play with their toys. (Or maybe you don’t have this problem at all!) See you Friday!

My Love is an Act of Will

LoveIn case you missed my performance back in May, here is a video of my reading for Listen to Your Mother SFI’ve included the transcript of my piece after. Also, please do check out the entire line up for Listen to Your Mother SF 2016. They are hilarious and moving and fantastic women with wonderful stories. You will not regret!

“Mama,” said Gamera. “I love Daddy more-er. He’s the funnest.”

Twice a day, my 4 year old daughter, will inform me without fail that she loves my husband more than she loves me.

She has her reasons.

He was her first word. He’s way more fun. He plays with her (especially that awful Cooties game that I would rather stab my eyes out than play). He takes her to McDonald’s and indoor play spaces and to the park.

He calls her “Sweetness” and “Baby Girl” and cuddles with her at night and throws her onto his shoulders and plays Tickle Monster until she collapses into giggles on our bed.

He is the funnest.

And most of all – he rarely yells at her.

For the first eighteen months of my oldest son’s life, I never yelled or raised my voice in anger. I used to be so proud of myself.

Gamera never got to meet that person. She was six months in my belly and had another three months to go. By the time she showed up, I was tired and overwhelmed and had made yelling a way of life.

It was slow at first. A slow ramping up of fury until it broke over my small children in a consistent wave of screaming and yelling.

And later, at two and a half, she would defend herself and her older brother, holding her ground. “You don’t know what you talking about it!” she would stomp, face red with scowling, arms crossed in indignation. “Mama, you’re NOT kind!”

So I totally get why she loves my husband more-er. Who wouldn’t?

Before I had children, I thought love would be effortless, flowing through me as water from snow melt.

Who would have ever predicted it would be like squeezing blood from a stone?

Who knew love could be so hard – especially when it sent the dark corners of my heart into stark relief?

Of course, I knew that love was not always easy. I had plenty of experience of that in my romantic relationships. And I knew from growing up with an abusive father that love for our children could look much different than what I wanted for my own kids.

But I had thought – I had hoped – that I would be better. I would be different. I wouldn’t let my father win.

But I was broken still and my inner beast, the echo of my father – his script, his cadence, his very words – spilled hot and rushed through my trembling lips and clenched fists.

Of course, she loves her Baba more-er.

I accept that she may never know or understand that my loving her is an act of will.

Not because she is not lovable. She is. All my children are.

But I hope and pray that they will never understand firsthand how I clawed my way up from my despair, buried under decades of lies, denial, and self-protection.

That I love her when I ensure that the cycle of abuse will end with me and not be passed onto them.

I love her when in November 2014, I decided enough was enough and asked for help.

I love her when I choose to do the hard mental and emotional work when I go see my therapist every Friday and plonk down $150.

I love her when after a year and a half of weekly counseling, I have finally turned a corner and now rarely yell.

I love her when I get enough sleep.

I love her when I pay attention to what my body is telling me – and when I listen to my body.

I love her when I drop my armor of anger and apathy and allow myself to feel and process pain, fear, and anger.

I love her when I look at the hard truths of my growing up, my coping mechanisms, and their consequences.

I love her when I choose to walk away from her instead of scream.

I love her when I humble myself to apologize and ask her for forgiveness.

I love her when I let her feel what she feels and say what she thinks – even if it’s messy and dramatic and overblown and infuriates me to no end.

I love her when I model how to pursue healing.

I love her when I tell her that even if she loves Baba more-er than me, or is angry at me, or even hates me, that I will love her. That she can never lose my love.

I love her even though she loves her Baba more-er than me.

It doesn’t matter.

Because every day, my love for her is a hard won act of will. And that is enough.

Radical Self-Care

So last week, after I cleaned my laundry room and cleared my kitchen table (I would post a pic but I fear jinxing the situation), and then doing and folding several loads of laundry, I was exhausted. I think I also cooked most of our meals. (Hapa Papa couldn’t figure out whose house he was living in but he wasn’t complaining.) By the end of last week, I was tired, cranky, and barely homeschooled Cookie Monster.

I went into my session with Dr. T feeling defeated and bleh and annoyed with myself.

want to be an excellent homeschooling parent, keep my home clean/neat, and cook good, nutritious meals for my family. But I often feel as if I can only have one, or maybe max out at two of these desires. So, because this week I cleaned and then cooked, I sucked at homeschooling. Like, totally blanked out. I’m surprised Cookie Monster learned anything at all last week. Especially after I yelled at him several times while working with him on math and piano.

I remember back in May, Dr. T asked me what would nurture me and give me life. I had no idea and as a result, got really sad, feeling as if I were no longer a person.

When I think of things that I assume should bring me life such as going on Mothers’ Night Out, hanging out with my friends, running off to the spa and getting massages or pedicures, reading, or watching TV, they are things that I enjoy, but don’t really give me life.

To me, all these activities are escapes. They are my alcohol or drug. I flee my home but come back more exhausted (usually due to staying up too late and not having the energy to take care of my kids and then feeling shitty about that). They don’t actually solve any of my problems.

Then, Dr. T told me something that in retrospect, seems so obvious. Also, suspiciously “easy.”

She told me that for me, self-care would be when I chose not to stay up late to finish a book in one sitting and instead, retired at a more reasonable hour so that I wouldn’t be tired the next morning. Self-care would be when I chose to communicate with Hapa Papa and let him have moments to rest so that I wouldn’t feel guilty about being an entitled prat. Self-care would be when I chose to go through the mail every day and pay bills immediately rather than have mail stack up for months and years at a time. Self-care would be when I chose to walk away from my kids when I feel like I’m going to explode and scream at them for whatever ridiculous reason at the time.

Self-care looked nothing like what I thought it did. And also, seemed semi-doable once I stopped freaking out about doing the self-care “right.”

After some thought, here then, are some things that I can do to make myself feel nurtured and cared for:

1) In order to not feel guilty all the time regarding feeling entitled to tons of free time and shunting the brunt of house and childcare onto Hapa Papa, I will:

– Let Hapa Papa sleep in and I will take the morning shift on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. (Currently, he lets me sleep in every morning unless he is out traveling or needs to be in the office early.)

– Check in with Hapa Papa to make sure he’s doing okay. (I know, I know. It’s weird to actually communicate – but apparently, that is what people do in marriages.)

– Thank Hapa Papa and choose to be grateful for all that he does rather than feel entitled to his kindness and easy-going attitude.

2) Eat regularly (such as breakfast).

– This includes making simple but nutritious food for my family on a more regular basis (we’re talking rice/noodles + meat + veg + fruit).

– Making and drinking more smoothies/popsicles

– Eating fruit. (I realize I buy all this fruit but I save it all for my kids. I don’t actually eat them myself.)

– Taking my vitamins/supplements consistently.

3) Sort and take care of mail daily. (Including paying bills immediately.)

4) Kitchen table daily. Otherwise, the mail and art and stuff stacks up on my kitchen table until we have a party/event at my house and then we shove all that stuff into a bag and then we shove that into the laundry room. And then, I have just piles and piles of bags full of stuff that I have to sort again a year later.

5) Tidy up play areas 15 minutes daily. Force the kids to be part of this in order to earn their screen time for the next day. The place doesn’t have to be spotless, but tidier.

6) Exercise/stretch. Since I have so many things I want to do to care for myself, I’m going to combine this with the children, too. Make them stretch and exercise with me.

7) Meditate. Also, with the children. Likely, right before bed so we can calm down a bit before the nightly ritual of them getting out of bed a million times until I scream at them to stop.

8) Go to bed before midnight. That’s really still not enough time, but I just need to consciously choose to stop choosing to watch shows when it’s 11:30pm or to stop reading even if I’m not yet done. Otherwise, the brief feeling of satisfaction is occluded by my bitchiness due to lack of sleep.

9) Fold laundry and/or do dishes ASAP(This will likely not happen – but one can dream.)

10) Walk away when mad/frustrated. This will hopefully help me not scream at my kids.

11) Write/journal.

12) Put down my phone. I need to stop using my phone so much when I have downtime and just take out a pen and paper and write. Or read. Or whatever. I have the time. I just waste it.

Even looking at this list makes me sort of tighten up inside. I feel anxious and as if I’m setting myself up to fail. However, I just have to tell my all-or-nothing personality to STFU and chill the fuck out.

So, I just have to remind myself (and perhaps you dear readers can help, too). This post is just a gentle reminder of the things I can do to cut down on my anxiety. It is not supposed to make me feel more anxious. (Ah, irony.)

I mean, this is silly and too easy, right? And I say, “easy” because if I had only been doing this already, much of my cycle of angry cleaning then exhaustion would be solved, right? This post is seriously just a Mash Note to the proverb: A stitch in time saves nine. (Incidentally, I didn’t even understand this saying until a few years ago. When I literally was stitching/patching Cookie Monster’s pants. This is probably why I have so many fails at adulting.)

So, this is just how it looks for me to self-care. What does it look like for you?

 

Parenting Myself

Sometimes, I think the lessons I teach my children are really for myself. I don’t know why I am always surprised at having to teach my children these lessons – even though I barely learned them through my own life experiences. Of course I would have to teach them to my children. How else would they learn them? I suppose I could be a dick and make them figure it out on their own – but that’s not always guaranteed. Shoot, even explicitly pointing out the obvious is not guaranteed to stick. Might as well increase my chances by being clear and direct.

Here then, are a few of the “lessons” I’ve been teaching my children (especially Cookie Monster since a lot of these lessons come up while we are homeschooling). I only wish I were half as good as following my own lessons as I am at “teaching” them.

1) By the time you’re done arguing or making excuses, you would have likely finished what you were supposed to be doing anyway. So, let’s save everyone the trouble and crazy-making and just do what you need to do already.

The other day, Cookie Monster was being a bit rebellious while homeschooling (a very rare occurrence). He kept refusing to listen and do what I asked of him. Instead of just playing a song on the piano again (10 seconds), or re-reading a sentence (2 seconds), he would argue and cry and get upset (5-10 minutes) and still be forced to play or read.

Sometimes, it wasn’t really that important and I would let it go. But other times, I would insist he do something (because practicing is important – I’ll get to this one in a second). I would remind him that the longer he took to do things and complain, the less time he would have to play Halo or watch iPad. (Hey, we’re pretty busy some days so there is limited time to rot his brain.)

Of course, that reasoning didn’t work until I told him it takes 10 seconds to play his song and then he’d be done. But instead, it’s taken him 10 minutes just because he won’t stop crying about it. He stopped in his tracks and asked me how long the song would take to play again. I repeated that it would take him less than 10 seconds and wouldn’t you know it? He played it and that was that. He could co off and do something else now.

Hopefully, that lesson sticks. (Although I doubt it. It certainly hasn’t stuck to me!)

2) It’s okay not to know how to do something. After all, if you knew how to do something already, we wouldn’t be taking a class for it!

Cookie Monster has the tendency not to try things if he doesn’t think he will be good at. It took him at least a month’s worth of private kungfu lessons before he and Gamera were willing to try the group class. Now, he loves kungfu and even got his white belt recently.

We always try to remind him that when he first started playing Halo, he couldn’t even shoot and maneuver the game at the same time. Hapa Papa had to hold and maneuver the controller while Cookie Monster hit the “shoot” buttons. Now, he’s better than Hapa Papa, knows all these neat tricks, can out shoot and react faster than Hapa Papa, talk a ton of smack, and knows everything there is to know about Halo.

3) Practicing isn’t fun but it is the only way to get better. 

I try to tell Cookie Monster and Gamera all the time that I used to be really good at piano and Chinese but because I never practiced, I forgot a lot of my Chinese and wasted a lot of my piano potential. (The perils of being a great sight reader but incredibly lazy person.)

When the kids get older, I will likely start quoting my mother who always emphasized practicing correctly because practice makes permanent. It does you no good to practice doing something incorrectly.

Side note: I’m noticing that most of these lessons for Cookie Monster come up when we are practicing piano. Who knew?

4) Use it or lose it. 

As another corollary to #3, if you don’t use something, you will forget it. That’s why we practice Chinese and piano over and over again.

I tell my kids that I used to be much better at Chinese and piano but since I didn’t use it, I forgot a lot of it. I also give examples of language all the time using either Hapa Papa or people we know. I try to hammer this lesson as much as possible (particularly in the area of losing language skills) because I want to brainwash my children early. (They need to FEAR losing Chinese, dammit!)

5) Even if you didn’t make the mess, you can still help clean up. 

After all, this is my entire life: cleaning up messes I didn’t make. Yes, I want them to not be enablers but within reason, we’re a family unit (and in life, they will be in multiple team situations) and they will not always be left to their own responsibilities. Sometimes, you have to clean up shit that ain’t yours.

6) You don’t have to like it but you still have to do it.

Again, I’m just preparing my kids for real life. I mean, this is pretty much my entire life. (This sounds unnecessarily bleak, but you know it’s true. I can’t imagine liking doing laundry or cleaning the house. But I do like the results. Clean clothes and a clean house are good things!)

It’s a hard lesson (and seems unfair) but hey, that’s being a grown up. And isn’t that who I’m ultimately raising? Future grown ups?

7) Read the instructions. Follow them. 

I cannot tell you how many times I have told Cookie Monster to stop and listen to me read the instructions first before he starts working on a page. I don’t know if it’s just because he can’t read yet or because he is almost six but it drives me insane. 

There’s something to be said for trying something your own way, but it works better after you’ve mastered some basics first. Plus, life is full of tests where you fail because he answered the wrong question or didn’t read the instructions right. No need to fail due to carelessness. 

8) Slow down. 

This goes hand in hand with #7. Often, Cookie Monster gets stuff he knows incorrect because he went too fast and either wasn’t reading carefully or completely made something up. 

I know he zooms ahead because he is impatient and smart and thinks he knows everything. And sometimes he is right. But more often than not, he is wrong. 

Usually, I give him a not so gentle reminder (because I am fully exasperated by this time), and when he finally does slow down, he fares much better. 

Honestly, I thought I had a few more than eight but I’m okay with it. I’m sure I’ll remember more right after this post hits all my friends. But then again, even if I only remember these eight lessons (and only taught my children these eight), that wouldn’t be a bad thing, right? They are all worth knowing and knowing well.

What lessons are you teaching your kids that you find are timely reminders for yourself as well? Let me know in the comments.