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my youngest

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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Contract

February 22, 2010

in no manual for parenting

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 need to say THAT ’cause it is not nice to brag on the Internet…)

I brought this up because I wonder whether the following would have happened if my husband were home right now.

Mr. Monk just wrote something on a piece of paper that he did not want me to see. Upon completion though, he came to me with the paper and demanded,

“Mom. Sign THIS!”

“What is it?”

“Just sign it!” He covered up the words while pushing a pen towards me. Yet another lawyer in the making. I’m going to be well taken care of in my old age…

So… what do you think? Should I sign it or not?

Sign here, please

p.s. I did “consult” with my husband regarding the proper response to this. Here’s the IM between us:

me: Hey dude
your son is making me sign a contract
which says,
get this
wair [sic] for it!
“You will never remarry somebody else other than dad”

Him: wow
cool

me: WHAT?!
WTthebeep?

Him: what if i die?

me: He’s insisting that I sign it.

Him: hehe

me: ugh
ARGH
you guys
ganging up on me

Him: do it or crush his dreams and hopes
haha

me: Thanks
I don’t have enough guilt already
You rock man.
Bye

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Makeup

February 21, 2010

in no manual for parenting

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 on my blog, perhaps I have been putting my best face forward when I am spouting parental wisdoms: For the hours I am composing my posts, I am wise and patient; The rest of the time, I feel my way around in the dark, making horrible mistakes.

Such is the peril (merit) of knowing someone online: s/he is made up of the words they (choose to) publish.

I do struggle with how much I need to compromise on a daily basis because my kids are school-aged and they deal with realities in the school hallways, in the classrooms, on the playground. They are their own people and I no longer live their lives for them.  I feel that it is unfair, selfish even on my part, to allow (encourage?) my children to become social pariahs because of my own philosophical convictions. Because I have a point to make.

I am torn every day between wanting to challenge what pass as gender “norms” and needing to protect them. As some of us have learned the hard way, some mishaps stay with you for the rest of your school career, if not your life.

“Make sure you do not have BO. You don’t want to go down the history as ‘THAT kid with BO’. Once a rumor starts with you having BO, it does not matter whether you have BO, or whether it was just once after the gym class, because you know, you are going to be, yup, you guessed it, ‘THAT kid with BO’!” I warned my oldest, despite much eye-rolling on his part.

2.

The morning after I published the post, feeling pleased with myself. Smug even, I’ll admit.

Fuck you, world! I had declared.

Mom. 1. World. 0.

At breakfast my oldest was leafing through Mr. Monk’s notebook.

“Don’t touch my diary!” Mr. Monk reached over to secure it. (Before you are impressed that he keeps a diary, well, so far, he has only filled out ONE page. And that was a long time ago…)

“But I want to see it!” His brother grabbed a hold of it.

“NO! It’s mine! Don’t look at it!”

“Why can’t I look at it? You are saying I can’t look at it only because I want to look at it now. If I say I don’t want to look at it, you are not going to care!” My oldest, the future lawyer. I believe we have established that before.

“Just don’t touch it. It’s my diary!”

After a few more minutes of heated exchanges, I had chosen to stay out of these occurrences that happen all the friggin’ time throughout the day, my oldest delivered the throwaway punch:

“Fine! Anyway, diaries are for girls!!”

My eyes widened. I could see the steam coming out of my nostrils the mad bull into which those words had transformed me.

“What did you just say?” Disbelief. The first time I heard something like this in my household. An utterance that dared to arbitrarily dictate what a boy is not supposed to do from the mouth of my own child directed at his own brother. Ironic, isn’t it?

“Diaries are for GIRLS! He’s like a girl! Only girls keep a diary!” Words tumbled out with the intention to hurt.

By now no longer a mad bull, I was Fury Herself. “Please shut your mouth right now!” I did not mince words. Did I ever mention that I have a fiery temper?

I went on to drop my oldest off at his band practice (Our lives are full of ironies…)

“Why did you say ‘Diaries are for girls’ to your brother?”

“Because it is true. THEY ARE! And that was 10 minutes ago! Why are you still talking about it?!”

“BECAUSE I don’t want my children to grow up believing in gender stereotypes!” I know I sound ridiculous. But I do talk to my oldest in such a fashion.

“How can that be a stereotype if it is true?!”

“Why is it true? Why do you think it is true? Who gave you the right to say what is for a girl and what is for a boy? Who gave you the right to be spouting such nonsense in my house? How would you like it if someone makes fun of you because of your long hair? That you look like a girl?” I am not proud of myself but I do get carried away when debating against my oldest. Because he’s always so sure of himself, so quick to argue, I often forget that he’s only 11 3/4.

“I DON’T LOOK LIKE A GIRL!”

“How did you feel when some girls laughed at your because you are in gymnastics?”

Pause. True to his heritage as a “Last Word-er” though, he soon retorted, “It’s different!”

“Why is it different? No. I want to know why you think it is different.”

“Just because!” He’s crying now. “Fine! Diaries are for boys too, ok? And what does it matter? He‘s going to be made fun of anyway because he speaks with a British accent!”

Mom. 0. World. 1.

On some days, I just want to surrender, and curl up inside a cozy black cave. Wake me up when they turn 25 please.

3.

After watching me going through my nightly ritual of makeup removal, Mr. Monk asked, “Why do women wear makeup?”

“Because we want to look pretty.”

“So why can’t boys wear makeup?”

I couldn’t think of any legitimate reason other than, “Well, they just don’t.”

Mr. Monk walked away with my powder brush, unsatisfied with my copped-out answer.

Later my husband came in the bedroom, I repeated the question for his benefit, “Yeah… WHY can’t boys wear makeup?”

“Because their fathers will kill them. That’s why.” He summed it up succinctly.

At this moment, Mr. Monk came back to the room and asked his father, “Why can’t I wear makeup?”

“Because I will kill you. Ask Grandpa what he would do if I wore make up. He would kill me too.”

“But Michael Jackson does!” Mr. Monk protested; I looked away, trying hard not to laugh out loud.

My husband retorted, in a tone that signaled end of discussion, “Michael Jackson is dead!”

Thank goodness for dads. That’s what came to my mind as I sneaked away from this land mine of a conversation.

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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

Random pictures I took with my phone because I could

February 1, 2010 a picture is worth a thousand words

Tweet This post should be filed under “Random pictures I took with my phone because I could” and “I am swamped at work but I need to feed my Tamagotchi aka blog so I am taking the easy, FINE, lazy!, way out” and “I am taking 6:30 am flight out, again, which sucks ass, and […]

34 comments

We are all in this

January 18, 2010 this i believe

Tweet Mr. Monk, my 7-year-going-on-50-old child, asked me last Friday at dinner, “Mom, is it true that you would not be here if Martin Luther King did not give THAT speech?” I was caught by surprise, I’ll be completely honest. Although I understand the impact Dr. King’s speech has had on the American history, culture […]

25 comments

Christmas Day Rambling

December 25, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet The presents were all opened, displayed, oooo-ahhhed, ridiculed, and appreciated. The floors have been cleaned up, except the piles of new possessions pushed against the wall around the corners of the small family room in my in-law’s house to make room for foot traffic. And for Zhu Zhu pets, which my husband discovered online […]

9 comments

Christmas Eve Shuffle

December 24, 2009 a picture is worth a thousand words

Tweet Every year we come back to my husband’s childhood home for Christmas. We are fortunate, I guess, in that we never have to worry/argue/agonize about splitting time between two sets of grandparents since mine are 7,500 miles away. It has become a holiday ritual: Santa goes to grandpa and grandma’s house. This year I […]

14 comments

I think my kids are scarred by this Christmas song…

December 17, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus* Yeah. You know the lyrics. And seriously? This song is wrong on so many different levels… The innocent explanation of course is that DADDY is dressed up as Santa Claus. So mommy is actually kissing daddy, only that the poor kid has no idea and is probably going […]

26 comments

Happy Birthday, G.K.!

November 25, 2009 no manual for parenting

Tweet Every Thanksgiving since 2002, I know what to be thankful for… I had deep vein thrombosis when I was five months pregnant with my youngest. I limped for two weeks without realizing that, Hey, it is more than a muscle strain since it is not getting any better after so many days. Oh, and […]

13 comments