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Entries in asian parenting (12)


Halloween. Meh. I mean... YAY! :D

I think holidays bother me because they have to do with high expectations. While I strive to be hopeful in life, the darkest part of my nature tends to remind me that people who have high expectations suffer the most crushing manner of disappointment. I have to be intentional about wanting specific outcomes but also remain open to the idea that things will be alright (maybe even great!!) if they turn out differently than planned.

Holidays test me hard in that respect. 

Now that we've dispensed with my attempt at depth on much less sleep than is remotely adequate, let me tell you about the real reason Halloween sucks.

I have two children. Between school, friends and extracurriculars, we have had to put together six different costumes. Wednesday Addams, the Weird Girl from the Scream, 70s Flower Girl, Pele, Crazy Hippie, and some character from some television show I don't even know about.

I will not sit here and bitch about how this was not a thing when I was their age. But.

This was not a thing when I was their age. You dressed up and got candy. Thee were no theme parties. No, there was a theme. It was "AREN'T I CUTE, GIVE ME CANDY."

The younger one let me know last week that my Amazon cart was full of stuff he needed for his costumes.



Let's stop a second for my peeps that were born in the seventies.

Can you all even imagine going to K Mart or Pic N Save (!) with your moms and your mom tells you to watch the cart while she goes and talks to your neighbor who she sees everyday. She's gone for, like, thirty minutes because Adam Walsh hasn't been kidnapped yet, and when she comes back and you have $150 worth of accessories for your Halloween costumes (PLURAL) in the cart. At this point, she can't even find the "I Can't Beleive It's Not Butter!" anymore so she can't see the recipe on the side  and now cannot buy what she needs to make whatever cancerous treat she's going to send to school with you tomorrow. 

Then you say, "Mama, would you buy me that stuff when you get a chance?"

I don't want to divulge too much about my family secrets, but I will tell you that if I had done that our story would likely have made into the first season of Snapped.

I just told the boy that I would give him $25 and he could buy eighty two costumes for all I cared. 

The older one was chill about the ruling because she never spends money and probably because she has a small fortune that would rival a LDC in her sock drawer. The younger one was... upset... because he does things like send Andrew Jacksons to his friends so they can buy the same video games (apps?) he has on his iPad. 

I feel like in those moments when this boy is upset, I just have to remind him (and myself) that holidays aren't about having the perfect costumes (or decorations). Holidays are about that opportunity to fall deeply into creating an important shared history with our friends, family and communities.  I get why my son is upset. I do. But I have to be strong for him because shared values between children and their parents require a commitment to consistency and thoughtful intention. He'll be okay.

(Okay. I have to disclose something. I actually don't get why he's upset. Just put your grandparent money in your sock drawer, son, and you won't have these issues).



Soccer Mom Stories, Ep.1 #SoccerMomStories

A photo posted by Faiqa Khan (@nativefaiqa) on Mar 7, 2014 at 8:40pm PST

"Good game, even though you LOST.
I heard a seven (eight?) year old sneer that at another child on the fields today.
I want you to know that this is not okay. And not because some children's feelings were hurt. That happens and should happen. Resilience and all that.
The statement was not okay because the thing that prompts a child to say something like that to someone is a full blown tragedy. It means that this sneering child has become so accustomed to seeing the world as a win-lose proposition that winning a game is not enough for them. It's an escalation on their part to feel something. Our world is teaching some of our children to live in the constant state of either being evaluated or evaluating others to the extent that it has disabled them from connecting compassionately on a human level. 
My son lost a soccer game today, but that other child has lost so much more than that already. 

Parenthood: 7 Myths I've Let Go of on My Seventh Anniversary

Carriage Ride through Downtown Memphis: Happy Seventh Birthday to My PrincessYesterday was my seventh anniversary as a parent.

I was thirty when I became a mother. Thirty years old is that age where you know a lot of stuff. You're your own person. You know how the world works. You know the rules.

When I first met Tariq at nineteen, I told him I wanted to send my children to boarding school. I know. I KNOW.

My reason was that boarding school was prestigious. Also, it would make my children stronger and "networked". Shut up. I think I was coming out of of a period of time where I read a lot of early twentieth century English literature.

When I became a parent, I became the poster parent for attachment parenting, though. We co-slept, I nursed, no television before two, no stroller, baby sling only, no fast food before three, constant attention... preschool didn't start until four and that, too, because there was a new baby and I was really, really tired.

Prior to preschool, I couldn't leave my daughter with anyone besides my mother for more than a day, so, needless to say, boarding school was out.

Look, becoming a first time mother was absolutely incredible.

I was proud of myself. Within a few weeks of parenthood, I had been flexible enough to understand that there is a distinctness between the idea of how I envisioned parenthood and how I actually practiced parenthood. Some things, you have to do to know what you really think they're all about. This is absolutely applicable to someone not having children and being 36. I have no idea what that's like. I have very clear ideas of what I think that should be like. It involves Paris, Italy and Spain, waiting tables for food money but spending it on incredibly beautiful shoes instead.

Being a parent constantly pushes at my notions of the ideal parent-child relationship. I've come to realize that the most tension between children and their parents (even into adulthood) occurs as a result of someone clinging too tightly to the ideal and not making peace with the real. 

When my daughter was born, I thought it was my job to teach her about reality. The same was true for my son. I have come to realize, of course, that we teach each other. We have been placed in one another's lives for a reason and that, as it is in all things, there is a balance of what we can offer to one another. Some days, I nurture my children and teach them value of love and respect. More often than not, though, they teach me those things and so much more. Like, nothing... and I mean, nothing, gets purple permanent markers out of a cream colored sofa. 

1. When I became a mother, I thought it was my job to make sure my children were good, decent, people who were kind and compassionate. I now know that children are born kind, compassionate, good, wise and decent. They stay that way when I treat them that way. The trick is to be what you expect from others. Want nice? Be nice.

2. As a new mother, I thought that I had to do everything in my power to protect my children from any and all harm. I have learned that it is inevitable that my children will come to harm. Something bad will happen to them one day. I can be wary, I can be wise, but I cannot protect them forever. I can only remind them that they are powerful enough to survive harm and that when they feel they aren't -- I will hold them up. I will be there. I can spend my time constantly watching our backs or I can spend my time feeling the joy of being together. I can't do both.

3. I once thought that children are a reflection of their parent's behavior, values and actions. I think parents can exert great influence over their children's actions and choices to an extent. I beleive that my children's actions are a reflection of how they perceive my integrity, though. If I want them to emulate my behavior, I must make sure that my behavior is grounded in good intention, well thought out values and integrity. I also must ensure that I never expect from my children more than I expect of myself.

4. Children are the charges of their parents. I have learned that you are in charge of you. I am in charge of me. Our connection is not based on power or hierarchy, but upon mutual respect and trust. Children aren't different. In an ideal scenario, I trust that that my child will do the right thing when presented with the facts, and my child will trust that I am telling them the truth when I present them with what I believe is the truth. I may not be correct, but I am doing my best to be so. That matters more. The greatest punishment either one of us can undergo is to feel that we have lost the trust of the person we love.. even if for a moment. 

5. I used to believe that children crave discipline and consequences the way I crave a McFlurry on a 100F Memphis afternoon. Actually, children crave respect. It's not consequences that they need to thrive and grow, it's accountability. It's the knowledge that they matter, that what they do matters and when they don't do what they're supposed to do -- like any valuable member of a community -- everyone feels the consequences of that. Showing someone that what they do matters is respect. People who feel respected require little discipline from others.

6. The Chimpmunks are horrible and will completely destroy any hope that my child has good taste in music. I still think this might be true. Children will like what children like. We can fight it or we can try to see the value in what they like. Maybe if we do that, they'll make an effort to like what we like. I plan on trying to pitch Bob Dylan as an antidote to the Chipette's version of Bad Romance. Pray for me.

7. Parenthood is full of crazy opportunities to be sarcastic and funny about our kids. But I will not do this to their faces or in their hearing ranges one day longer. This is difficult. So.difficult. Because I'm horribly sarcastic. The thing is, I don't ever want my children to be someone's punchline. I don't want the responsibility of teaching them that it's okay for someone to make them a punchline. They're not punchlines to anyone's jokes. They are my most incredible treasures. Addendum: if you and me are on the phone and they can't hear us? I'm totally making fun of them.


What about you? Are there any myths you've had to let go of when it comes to children?




On Going Home. But Not Being 'At Home'

The Bloggess, or Jenny Lawson, the woman who once brushed up against me while we were getting on a bus and said, Oh, I know who you are, you're a great writer right after I stalkerishly introduced myself, happens to have a hilarious memoir called Let's Pretend This Never Happened. In it, there's a chapter about visiting her hometown after having moved to another city.

It was a well crafted chapter full of wisdom. It possessed a sad beauty and sense of longing that I found slightly boring in the most blaspehmous of ways. I guess, it's just that I couldn't relate. Having lived within the same forty five minute radius my entire life until recently, I never knew what it was like to go really away, make somewhere else your home and then come back to what used to be your home.

I'm not an idiot, I'm aware that this moving away and then coming back thing happens often. Like the way I know people wear crocs or buy tofu. You know these things happen, but unless you have to do it -- it's hard to wrap your mind around.

I Do Love Florida. But. Wait. There's More.

At this very minute, I'm at the home that used to be my home before I got married.

Surprisingly, I'm not very "at home" right now. I look around at the place I've always known and I see things I never really noticed before. Like, wow, Florida has a lot of palm trees. There's a serious love affair going on here between the citizenry and flip flops, too. Also, lizards. And palmetto bugs.

Plus, um, who do my parents think they are, having a whole life full of activities and people that have absolutely nothing to do with me or my brother?!

Florida, whether in the detailed or general sense, is kick ass. Powdery beaches. T-shirts that are considered "dressy clothes". Many of my deepest connections to the human species reside here whether through blood or love. No doubt, this state and the sandy town where I grew up is like a perfectly worn pair of jeans that have stretched in the right places but are also tight around other places which bypasses the torture of having to squeeze into Spanx that became too small for me one child ago.

Yet these jeans are sitting a little too high on my waist for me to feel completely presentable.

::Initiating dream sequence::

And what... the... are they... stone washed and tapered?

Um. Who put this braided leather belt from the Gap circa 1991in the belt loops?

Was it the same insane person that "pegged" the cuffs of these jeans, folded them over, put scrunchy socks and a pair of white keds on my feet? And then wrapped a flannel shirt around my waist? This is Florida, why do we even HAVE flannel here?!

Suddenly, these jeans don't feel so comfortable.

I feel the pressing need to get them off of me. I do need comfortable jeans, though. But these just aren't the right ones any more.

Is there another pair around here, just as comfortable... just as worn and fitted in the right places?

::End dream sequence::

Never to be Duplicated

When my parents talked about their lives in Pakistan and India when I was a small child, it was no different than fairy tales for me. The fantastical nature of these conversations was less about seemingly exotic places and more rooted in the idea that my parents were once very small just like me.

In my teenaged years, the stories became repetitive and my adolescent brain interpreted them as being rife with self righteousness. Maybe it was an attempt to transmit cultural memory on their part, but something about their stories in those years echoed Polonious' "To thine own self be true" rant to his son. Which, by the way, everyone who quotes that line should know that I'm 99% sure Shakespeare was trying to illustrate that Polonius was sort of stupid and not very wise. So. You know. Consider not quoting it any more.

Anyway, into my twenties, I heard those stories in a new way. I dissected them for clues from the past that explained who my parents were and why they did what they did now. With the wonder of my childhood and the defenses of my adolescence stripped away, I developed a compassion for my parents' carefully concealed emotional frailty, and, best of all, the humanity embedded within the tales and the people who told them. 

Now, I'm in my dear-God-seriously(?!) late 30s still listening to the stories and feeling sympathetic for people who are unable to let go of the then and embrace the now. The stories began as entertainment in my mind and then evolved into near manic efforts to remind me of "where I cam from." Thankfully, they became successful attempts at connecting with me on an emotionally mature level.

But they now seem like crutches for people who find the past far more interesting and satisfying than the moments (and people) that currently present themselves, and I'm not going to lie -- that hurts my feelings a little.

My nature is to cast the past off gently with a light kiss so it can be on its way. But here moments in the past can sing siren songs about a time of highly individualistic freedom, careless words and hours in front of the mirror perfecting various "eye make up concepts". But the songs of the past are tricks aimed at lulling the disquiet that accompanies addressing the reality around at us at this moment. The company I kept so long ago has gone on its way, the air has changed, the sky is different and... seriously, there are way more palmetto bugs.

I fully embraced and lived those moments and the idea of somehow trying to recreate those feelings or that person feels all wrong -- not in the ethical sense like ketchup on prime rib, but more so in the mayonnaise with French fries sense.

I'm learning to breathe the new air in this old place and to look up at the new sky in this hometown and quietly say, "Hi, we used to know each other really well a long time ago... what you were will always be important to me, but I'm ready for us to know each other for who we are."

It's been awkward, so that's why I've been quiet as I tend to not share thoughts until I know exactly what I'm feeling. Headed for home on Saturday. Looking forward to the resuming the 'now.'

What is it like for you when you go home? Do you just pick up where you left off or is it awkward?

photo credit: kevin dooley via photo pin cc


The Sentencing of the Rutger's Boy. In the End, Still a Cookie.

Margarine challenged my reality.On Hey! That's My Hummus! this past week, we discussed Dharun Ravi's sentencing. Ravi is the the college freshman that set up a webcam to capture his roommate's tryst with another man. A few days later, his roommate Tyler Clementi, killed himself. In the year after Clementi's untimely death, a court case surrounding Ravi's invasion of Clementi's privacy and bias intimidation has been underway. The trial concluded in March and sentencing last week was meted out to Ravi, who will be serving 30 days in jail and performing several hundred hours of community service. Interestingly, Ravi has not issued an apology. Even more interesting, he and his parents maintain that he has "no problem" with homosexuals and that he was not raised to be homophobic.

All this is fine, but I'm wondering if Ravi's parents have considered what it means exactly to raise someone who is "homophobic." Is there a standard curriculum? Specific words that need to be spoken to ensure your child has a deep distrust of anyone who operates outside of their own heternormative experience?

I think the real problem between Dharun Ravi and Tyler Clementi started way before Tyler ever entered into Dharun's life, and I think that problem is that little consideration was given in Ravi's world to the idea that while some bigotry is cultivated intentionally, most bigotry arises from omission.

Exit Stage Anywhere

I was having dinner at a relative's home when an aunty-ji's started lamenting that one of the girls in her daughter's high school graduating class was six months pregnant and how mortifying it was to watch her walk across the stage. Years ago, I would've kept my mouth shut because, you know, who cares if someone else is being judgmental. I would've ignored the statement thinking that I was, sadly, only the boss of me. Having tasted the power of motherhood and being the boss of other, albeit tiny, humans, the part of my brain in charge of self righteousness has expanded thereby affecting the other parts of my brain charged with speech. 

 "I'm sorry, Aunty-ji, but this was a problem beCAUSE…?" I pulled up the pitch of the last syllable just enough to convey the right amount of condescension but not enough to offer reasonable proof of intended condescension. Don't be jealous, this isn't a talent I developed. Rather it's a genetic gift that I inherited from my mother who I would like to formally nominate here and now as the inspiration should there ever be an "X-Men" character named "Condescendo". Anyway, back to the Aunty-ji who had a problem with the pregnant girl walking across the stage. 

The upturned note on my last syllable escaped her hearing and she responded quickly, "No, that's fine that she graduated, it's very good, but what is the reason for her walking on the stage in front of everyone like that?"

 "Like that?"

 "Yes, she doesn't need to show off like that."

 "Show off… being pregNANT?" From now on, I will use the previous notation of caps and italics to denote the use of my X-Men like mutation. I continued. "I'm sure she wasn't trying to show OFF, Auntie…maybe she just wanted to graduate? If she passed all her classes, she has the right to do that, doesn't she? Was the boy who got her pregnant walking across the stage also objectionABLE?" 

 "No, no," Aunty-ji was visibly shaken, "I just don't think people should make a big deal of it, no?" 

 She then turned pleadingly to the rest of the Aunty-jis present who, by the way, didn't thankfully include my mother. Had she been present she would have been glaring at me with incredible disdain at that moment. The glare, of course, because I had dared to use a kryptonite-like antidote to question the discriminatory and judgmental statements made by someone significantly older than me. 

That antidote? Logic. 

Excuse me, I mean, loGIC

The words formed in my mind quickly… Aunty-ji, the only one who seems to making a big deal of this is… YOU…. But I didn't say that. Because, though she was not present, I knew that my mother in addition to her Condescendo mutation also possessed the "I Will Kick Your Ass Even in Absentia" gene, which wages a power that I, despite my life being statistically fifty percent complete, have no idea how to combat.  

One of the other Auntie-ji's quickly diffused the situation, "Well, my mother was younger than that girl when she had her first baby, so it's really not that big of a deal, na?" 

That Aunty-ji, by the way, has always been damned awesome, but would definitely have killed her own daughter before she let her walk across a stage for a high school diploma six months pregnant. When I mentioned in the latest podcast to Mike that I, being intimately familiar with the Indian-American community, highly doubted that Dharun Ravi's parents had ever even discussed homosexuality with him, Mike very correctly pointed out that this was a big generalization. Sure, it was. Just because something is a generalization, though, doesn't mean it's a lie. 

Generalizations mean that things happen more often than they don't. They get bad press because there are exceptions. Still, while exceptions to the rule may exist, they are usually few. Pregnant girls walking across stages are offensive to Aunty-jis because Aunty-jis cannot fathom that a seventeen year old pregnant girls could graduate from high school, have a baby, raise the baby while in college, then marry someone who's probably not the baby's father because, let's face it, we all watch 16 and Pregnant and some of those dudes are bottom of the barrel. The presence of a pregnant teenager on a high school graduation stage forces Aunty-jis and Uncle-jis to recreate their reality. 

 Alternate Reality 

When life outside of our conception of reality confronts us, we have a choice. Challenges to what we believe, who we choose to accept and what we consider normal place a burden of proof upon some people that they find untenable. I can only make sweeping generalizations about South Asian parents because I have some. Having to prove why their reality is the only one worth considering has been a tall order for my Asian parents when both of them did with their lives exactly as their parents instructed and expected. Essentially, my grandparents having raised my parents in an essentially hetergenous culture never really experienced a reason to offer proofs for why their reality should dominate others.

Butter or Margarine? It's Still A Cookie.

This leads to me to a final and maybe controversial point: refusing to accept another's existence, or refusing to acknowledge diversity by ignoring its existence is not much different than bigotry based on superiority. It's like how my sister in law uses margarine to make chocolate chip cookies and I use butter. In then end, they might be made differently, but the end result is essentially the same. (Except that BUTTER RULES, AM I RIIIGHT?!)

Am I insisting that we should raise our sons and daughters to have children before their 18th birthday? No, I'm using this example to illustrate that the culture within a family like this affords little dialogue beyond the "our kid is a college graduated engineer-lawyer-doctor" perspective. Sorry, gay liberal arts majors, but thems the breaks. 

"So whaAAT," I hear my mother, an Aunty-ji herself, say in a tone that is horribly reminiscent of la-la-la-la-I-can't-hear-you, "So what if we do not want to talk about the gays and pregnant teens and the boy who is now a girl? Why do we need to talk of such things at all? My children are not gay and pregnant."  

Well, Mom, let's say one's children aren't gay or pregnant or history majors. There's still a distinct possibility that your children will encounter a gay or a history major or a pregnant teen or, my God, a gay, pregnant, teenaged history major!

What will they do when that happens and you have not talked to them about it? 

Will they fill in the blanks with what they've observed about how human beings as a collective treat the unknown? 

Will they tweet invitations to view a webcam so everyone can watch their roommate "make out with a dude"?

Let's Get Okay with Awkward

Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days in jail essentially for invasion of privacy, and that seems fair to me. The real problem with what happened at Rutgers, though, is something that cannot be prosecuted or hashed out in a legal system. It rests solely upon every individual's commitment to educate young children regarding the value and importance of compassionate behavior when they are confronted with the awkward, different and unknown. 

A reality that rests upon avoidance of the the awkward conversations is antithetical to evolution and growth. The sequestration of teenaged mothers off stage and gays in the closet seems harmless, but is not.  Avoidance is a silent killer, creating the greatest of dangers because intellect, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The mind will eventually be made up. I think it's best if we do our best to leave just enough space for someone to make a good decision, but that not so empty that they make the wrong one.