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?

 


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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!