From the category archives:

no manual for parenting

I have learned in my parenting career that the fewer letters there are in a word, the more the potential of it being an extremely difficult concept to explain to your child. Some small words are deceptively simple. Small words with big, heavy baggages.

Mr. Monk used the word “gay” in the bad way the other day.

As soon as he said it, he knew he did something wrong. The air froze. The earth stood still. His brother sucked in his breath and for once, was speechless.

“It’s ok. Mommy’s not mad.” I reached for his hand and walked him upstairs to his room where I could talk to him quietly, without my 12-year-old chiming in whenever I took a breath as if he couldn’t wait to start parenting himself.

“I am sorry. I know I am not supposed to use this word, unless of course I am using it the right way.”

“What is the right way of using the word?”

“Being happy?”

I had to make a split decision at that moment to decide whether I should seize the opportunity to educate him or to prolong this “shielding”. I remembered this excerpt from NurtureShock:

How to raise racist kids?

Step One: Don’t talk about race. Don’t point out skin color. Be “color blind.”

Step Two: Actually, that’s it. There is no Step Two.

Congratulations! Your children are well on their way to believing that <insert your ethnicity here> is better than everybody else.

I decided to talk about what it means to be gay, to not make a big deal out of it, in the most basic manner, especially since we do see a lot of gay characters now on TV and in the movies, for which I am pleased.

We also just finished watching Modern Family in which a gay couple was portrayed just like any other suburban couple in a sitcom.

“You know there are people who are gay right?”

He nodded.

“Do you know what it means that they are gay?

“That they are happy?” Then he chuckled in a way that said he didn’t believe his answer and he was proud at his own wittiness.

“It means that… some people when they grow up, they realize that, well, … Ok.  Instead for a man to have a girlfriend, he has a boyfriend.”

“Oh.”

“And there are women who instead of having boyfriends, you know, they are in love with their girlfriends.”

At this moment as I write, I realized that I didn’t use husbands and wives. Please allow me to explain my oversight as that because I was discusssing the matter of heart and love with him at that moment, I unconsciously used the term boyfriends and girlfriends because that’s what people get when they are in love. Boyfriends and girlfriends.

I crouched down and held onto his shoulders so I could look him in the eyes.

“Did you know that I have friends who are gay?”

He looked surprised.

“I have a friend, a boy, you know, a male friend, he is gay so he has a boyfriend.” I continued. “I also have a very good girlfriend and she and her girlfriend have been together for longer than 10 years!”

“Wow.” At this his eyes widened.

“Yup. I met saw them not too long ago. They look very happy together. Actually I think they get along much better than mommy and daddy. They don’t seem to fight a lot.”

A smile.

“It must be because they are girls!” A lightbulb lit up over his head.

Then he added, quieter now, while looking down at his own feet, “Or, because they don’t have kids?”

Oy, gevalt!

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I don’t know where my oldest gets his athletic prowess. I guess we lucked out.

He started gymnastics at our park district when he was three years old because I did not like the idea of sitting in the sun, the rain, or the cold for ball games. When he was seven, he was asked to join the newly-formed Boys Team  and he started his “career” in competitive gymnastics. It did sound impressive when I told people that he went to the State Championship. I am not one of those pushy and hyper-critical parents. I am amazed by the gymnastic moves my oldest can do, with ease, and most of the time, with grace. But I will be completely honest: there will be no Olympic medals in the future. He is good, could definitely do better, but not that good.

We attend his meets and hold our breath and watch, ready to comfort him or to cheer him on. It is getting harder and harder to sit in the audience since every event now involves the risk of him falling off or falling down. I don’t think I will be able to watch without having a heart attack as they start doing more and more dangerous “tricks”.

How do parents of Olympic athletes quiet their hearts when it is happening? What happens if something wrong happens to your child’s routine? How do you stop the ache in your heart, fortify it, and find the right words to comfort your heart-broken child? I used to wonder about that.

As my oldest reached the higher level in gymnastics, the routines became harder. Because he grew in height without packing on the pounds, his muscle strength (or lack of) does not allow him to perform as well as before. This became very obvious when he attended his first competition this past season.  Less then half way into his floor event, he fell, sat heavily on his bottom, not once, but twice. I could hear the gasps from the audience even in the noisy gymnasium. I will be brutally honest with you: it was painful to watch. I wanted to turn my head and close my eyes. NOT because I was embarrassed, please believe me when I say this, but because the urge to go to him right away and hug him was so strong that I physically felt ill. I had to sit on my hands to prevent them from flying to my mouth or chest and bite my lips so I didn’t break down and cry.

But he got up and finished his routine. He was not frazzled. Much to my surprise, when he exited the floor, he was neither in tears nor pouting; he walked back to where his team was sitting and fist-bumped his coaches.

THAT was one of the proudest moments I have had as a parent.

He has learned to fail. Or rather, he has learned the ability to not get bogged down by an accident or a mistake and forge ahead. He has learned the ability to remain calm and focus on what is ahead. An ability that I am sorely lacking.

Several days later when I was sure it was safe to touch upon the subject, I asked him with a frankness bordering on admiration,

“What was going through your mind when you fell and sat on the floor? How were you able to get up and continue with the routine? How did you find the strength to be so brave?” I was truly amazed by this young person’s (“My own son!”) will power to remain poised under such duress.

“Well, it’s nothing really. The coach has always told us to NOT think about what has happened and just focus on what’s next in the routine. We just need to focus and finish the routine. I don’t notice the audience when I am doing the routines. I just focus.”

Focus. Grace under fire. I believe these are the things that make athletes such special people. Any athletes, no matter the rankings or the scores. They don’t become broken-hearted by a single setback. They just do it again, and again, and again.

At his second meet when my son once again did not place and I once again agonized over what the right things to say to console and encourage him, he bounded to the bench where I was sitting in just one stride, plopped down, and before I could say, “I am sorry honey…”, declared with a smile, “I have achieved my three goals today.”

“I was telling everybody this. I have three goals for this meet and I reached all three of them:

1. I had fun
2. I did better than last time
3. I was not physically or emotionally scarred permanently.”

I laughed and slapped him on his back.

THAT was another one of the proudest moments I have had as a parent.

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If you have mastered one-hand typing.

If you have mastered doing household chores with only one hand.

If you have managed to teach yourself to use the non-dominant hand because your dominant hand is now dominated by a baby that prefers your arm more than anything else.

If you curse at the mailman for dropping the yellow pages ’cause the sound of it wakes the sleeping baby who you have managed to coax into a nap after hours of walking up and down the hallway.

If you have figured out which part of the floor outside of the baby’s room squeaks and so you try to remember in your sleep-deprived state to not step on that part while you stealthily back away after putting the baby down in the crib.

If the quality of your day is dictated by the quality of naptime.

If you have ever felt the rage towards your husband or your older children for sneezing at the wrong moment right when the baby fell asleep.

If you remember the good old days when the above rang true.

.

I thought you’d get a chuckle out of this comic. In between tears maybe. But chuckles most definitely.

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You may not believe it, but this too shall pass...

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A glimpse of the future…

March 11, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet This one will be short. It just happened, and I want to make sure that I capture this moment… I worked from home today as I have been able to do when my co-worker travels since there would be nobody else in the office but me. As I was lamenting internally how much my […]

31 comments

Twelveteen Going on Thirty

March 10, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet The best description of what it is like to be a parent is a comment left by suesue on Merrilymarylee’s Weblog: Having a child was deciding to have your heart walking around outside your body forever . My oldest turned 12 this week. 12. That is a full Zodiac Cycle. I am sure it […]

32 comments

What I learned from the Olympics*… *Not what you think

February 27, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet We have been watching the Winter Olympics. I didn’t plan to. But what’s not to love really? Finally something on prime time that does not involve dead bodies, sexual predators, or its own mythologies. Naturally I gravitated towards Ice Dancing and Figure Skating. (No, I don’t really want to engage in a debate about […]

16 comments

Do you know what you are reading to your children?

February 26, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet Do you really know? I mean, really really? Do you know what you are reading them and how they are hearing what you are reading them?… I was browsing through the Costco “magazine” (what sadly passes as reading material for me nowadays) in bed when my oldest came to snuggle with sit by me. […]

48 comments

Contract

February 22, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet My husband is out of town again. Well, since he travels 50% of the time, as dictated by his contract, there is always 50-50 chance he is on the road. He’s sort of like George Cloony in Up in the Air, but without the dashing good looks. (Oh, I love you honey. I just […]

25 comments

Makeup

February 21, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet 1. Reading the comments people left for my last post, praising me for recognizing and questioning the rigid gender rules, in addition to feeling thankful, I am actually embarrassed. Feeling a bit like a fraud. A hypocrite. In an ironic way, although I set out to remain anonymous so I can speak my mind […]

19 comments

Raising Boys

February 18, 2010 no manual for parenting

Tweet As much as I lament the lack of girl presence in my household, I know I am blessed to have my boys. They tug at my heart even though they bruise my sides sometimes when they roughhouse; They have no control over and are unaware of their own growing limbs.  They are protective of […]

62 comments