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i love my kids but i hate parenting

I’ve read the Millennials are the color-blind generation, and it’s always bothered me a bit. To be honest, I was hoping that I not be the person to break the bad news to my kids why this optimism is misplaced.

Millennials, as a whole, feel that colorblindness is something to strive toward, yet they believe in “celebrating diversity” within their “post-racial” generation. According to research compiled by MTV for a public affairs campaign to address bias, entitled “Look Different,” millennials believe they are more tolerant and diverse, profess a deeper commitment to equality and fairness, and are less afflicted with “different treatment” than previous generations. Latinpost.com

There really is no point to this post – like most of my posts here. Yet another LOL-oh-so-hilarious irony that’s so sharp it cuts. Let me rewind a bit.

Scene: Dinner table

Cast: My family of four. Me. Husband. The two boys.

The subject of homecoming dance came up, well, because we have a 16-year-old. My 11 year old on a lark asked, “Hey, dad, who did you go to homecoming with?”

I laughed. “He went with Auntie Phuong.”

“It’s not Auntie Mai Phuong that we see every Christmas. It’s Auntie Phuong whom you probably don’t remember.” Husb added.

My 11 year old who would have chosen the faction of Candor if we lived in the Divergent universe blurted out with a “gotcha” smirk, “So, you have a thing for Asian women.”

The air froze around me. Or was it instead getting hot? Everything around me simply paused. The voices were coming from far away. I was pulled away from the set but also immediately thrown back down to earth violently.

I sucked in my upper lip and my nostrils might have flared. With my eyes shut tight, I took a deep breath.

I think I am going to lose my shit. 

“So…” I decided that I could not let this slide. Isn’t it part of our job as liberal, feminist, culturally and politically conscientious moms to take full advantage of teaching moments such as this?

“So. You’re suggesting that Dad went out with me not because of anything special about me as a person, but because I am Asian first and foremost?”

I think I am losing this. Look at those blank stares. They, both of them, don’t get it.

16-year-old being the diplomat that he is [Thank you Model UN!] stepped in, trying to broker a peace treaty, “Mom. I think you’re overreacting.”

I was ashamed. What kind of sane mother ruins a great family dinner by reacting so vehemently to her child’s innocent remarks? I stepped away from the table with resignation.

“Liberal, feminist, culturally and politically conscientious mom lost her shit when child spouted an honest, possibly innocent, observation that unfortunately harkened back to unequal racial dynamics and power relations”

The easier route would have been to let it go. But we never take the easier route, do we? So I marched the three steps back to the table, going in for the second round.

“No. I am not overreacting. That’s what we’re told every time we call out racist statements or behaviors. Oh you’re overreacting. It’s just a joke. Don’t take it too seriously. You should learn to take a joke. No. Not any more.”

Again, bless his heart, my 16 year old came to his brother’s defense, “That’s not a racist thing to say. It’s just an attribute. It’s no different than saying someone has a preference…”

I stopped dead right there.

I don’t think I am cut out for this. Fuck all these theories, post-colonial, performative, race and ethnicity, feminist, blah blah blah, they are useless when it comes to parenting. Useless when it comes to parenting this generation of kids. 

This generation of suburban kids who were brought up to be “color blind” by TV programs, YouTube videos, and Tumblr memes and GIFs are ignorantly and blissfully blind to racism. They simply do not believe in racism. And by not believing in racism, they believe that racism does not exist.

It’s like reverse Tinker Bell.

“We don’t believe!” Kids to racism.

Racism, “I am getting weak. I am dying.”

Poof. Racism gone. Dead.

[Scene. Lights up. Back to reality]

They think that people like me who cannot let “race” go are the problem. “Why does everything have to be about race?”

Believe me. I wish I were oblivious too, kids.

 

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About a year ago, my son grew to my height, and he has not shown any sign of slowing down ever since. He’s about half a foot taller than I am now, taller than his father even. It is a very complicated feeling whenever I am startled by having to strain my neck in order to see his face. It also makes it very difficult to hold his gaze and reprimand him when he sort of hovers above my head.

Up until now, I still see him as my baby. Well, secretly anyway. On paper I am all, “You are a teenager now. You have your freedom and independence. You need to learn to take care of yourself.” Honestly though? My heart does a toe touch jump when he lets us tuck him in at night as he lies in the bed that’s barely longer than he is now. He has to sleep diagonally.

They didn’t warn you that this day is coming. Probably because, well, one is supposed to have known better. Babies grow. Everybody gets older every day. Why are parents caught by surprise at all when their children all of a sudden stop being children?

Still, I marveled, “Nobody told me to be prepared for this! I am not ready yet!” when my 14-year-old announced from the bathroom as he brushed his teeth, “Mom! I need to start shaving! Kids at school have been making fun of my mustache.” I ran upstairs and we both stared at the shadow just above his lips in the mirror. Him of pride perhaps? I of shock. Did it sprout overnight? How come I did not notice it until this moment? I was at a loss. “Dad’s coming home tomorrow. He could teach you how.”

Lately he’s been full of surprises. Only that he did not recognize these to be significant watershed moments in his life. One never does, I guess, and leaves the commemoration and the commiseration over them to one’s parents.

“Hey mom, you need to sign me up for driving lessons. Ktahnksbye.”

“I am going to the [school dance] with [girl’s name unintelligible],” he announced casually and went back to reading his Mad magazine, leaving me breathless.

I am at a disadvantage as I did not grow up in this country. Many of these rites of passage taken for granted are completely foreign to me. My knowledge is to the extent of John Hughes movies that I’ve seen. (That, and Porky’s which was, coincidentally, the very first American movie I’ve ever seen on a VHS tape at a friend’s house when the parents were away…) I knew to remind him to find out the color of the dress the girl will be wearing. But that’s about it.

“Geez. You really need to help me out here. I’ve never been to a dance in my life!” I started to panic.

I did not know any men (or boys for that matter) until I was in college.

I did not learn how  to drive until I was over 25.

I have never shaved in my life.

I have never brought up a teenager before.

I have never had to watch somebody grow up so fast. Too fast.

I have never known this subtle, almost imperceptible yet keen once noticed, restlessness inside my gut of pride and fear and joy and sorrow.

 

Nobody ever told me.

No. They don’t.

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Warning: this post is probably just going to be me rambling on due to severe lack of sleep, even according to my standard… 

These past two weeks have been the annual performance period at my company, the time when we have to write our own self ASSessments and to provide peer feedbacks for colleagues who have requested feedbacks from you. Last year I received 12 requests and I did not turn anybody down. I still shudder when I think of the day 12 months ago when i seriously considered jumping out the window to avoid the tasks at hand. I absolutely hate doing this because I find it extremely difficult to “brag about myself”. Sorry for pulling the “Chinese” card, but it’s true: We were brought up to never toot your own horn for when you do that, that’s a sure proof that there is no substance inside. If you are great, people will notice on their own.

Now, how’s that working for you so far?

In the end, I did survive the annual performance review again. And at Midnight on Saturday, September 29, I have been up since  7 am on Thursday with a 3-hour sleep between 4 am to 7 am Friday morning. AND, I did not have any caffeine all day Friday. I figured I have been running on pure adrenaline since I opened my eyes at 7 am. When I marveled at this fact, my teenage boy said, “How are you not dead?”

Mind you, when we had that exchange, I was vacuuming the house after I did the dishes and cleaned up the kitchen.

Sometimes, you just have to stop for a moment and wonder at yourself.

Wow. I am really awesome. I kick ass. I rock.

It’s ok. Nobody else is going to do it for you. And many of these incredible feats you have pulled off with great aplomb are not appropriate answers for questions such as “What’s your claim to fame?” “What is your proudest accomplishment?”

I once cleaned up my son’s explosive diaper inside the airplane lavatory and he slept through the whole thing. And I did not cry.

I once caught the projectile vomit coming out of my son’s mouth just in time and managed to keep most of the vomit inside my blouse so the carpet was saved. And I did not cry.

When I was pregnant, I had a horrible case of morning sickness. I was in a play then. So during intermission I would rush to the backstage to throw up and get back onto the stage. And I did not throw up on stage.

For the first three months of my son’s life, he basically lived on me, like a kangaroo baby. I managed to do everything with one hand, including making pancakes from scratch. And I did not become homicidal.

I once flew with my two children by myself. When I went through the airport, I had the baby in my hip carrier, a roller board in my hand, my 5 year old’s hand in my other hand, while carrying a stroller on my shoulder and a diaper bag on my other shoulder. AND the baby slept through the security check and the boarding.

 

Although I’d like to see those people who ask those stupid questions try taking on any of the above.

I know you all have done something amazing like these, and I would like to ask that you go into the bathroom right now, look in the mirror, and give yourself a self-assessment of

 

 

Booyah!

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Some of the Best Decisions I’ve Made

December 19, 2011 random

1. Buying a duvet cover in DEEP RED rather than white like those nice glistening duvet covers in hotels Around 1 am today, as I was wrapping up my work and was looking forward to hitting my head against that pillow, I heard my 9-year-old boy make a familiar sound. A sound from the past. […]

26 comments

Raised by My Child

September 2, 2011 no manual for parenting

  “All children alarm their parents, if only because you are forever expecting to encounter yourself.”   — Gore Vidal   This is going to make me sound like an awful mother, ok, more than usual. I know many of you who are kind enough to read my blog on a regular basis adore my precocious youngest child. […]

46 comments

My Chinese babysitter is going to FIRE me soon

January 20, 2011 no manual for parenting

I sometimes feel very sorry for my children: because how I am caught between two worlds, they too are caught between two worlds. Many of you have commented on my responses to the Tiger Mom Controversy with great insight, grace and kindness. One comment that made me pause and reflect upon the factual state of […]

17 comments

The Need for Convenient Justification

January 19, 2011 no manual for parenting

This is a different reaction from my reading of the controversy surrounding Amy Chua’s WSJ article, “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior?” Yesterday, I said, Bring it on! The can of worms has been opened! Today, I will continue to clear this raging case of “Oh oh oh I have something to say Pick Me Pick Me” […]

26 comments

Reality bites. No. Reality kicked my ass.

October 19, 2010 no manual for parenting

There is no other way around it: I am a hypocrite. Isn’t it an ironic coincidence that after my holier-than-thou tirade against bullying and my immagonnakickyourpunkass battle cry, my 12-year-old son told me tonight that he has been called all sorts of names at school? Names such as gay, nerd, retard. Hurled at him, in […]

50 comments