I Walk the Line

There is this fine line I walk as a single mother. I am always looking to balance out the time I spend making money to provide a quality of life for my children, and actually enjoying the fruits of my labor with the quality time I spend with them. I cringe when I think about how baby girl spends x amount of hours a day at daycare, and only has x amount of hours in the evening with me and the man-child. But I remember that the man-child grew up in a similar fashion and he’s making out ok. A mama’s gotta do what she’s gotta. So I have.

I spent years working and working to basically earn enough money to feel like I could breath. And I did. I did well enough that I quit my corporate job back in December. Yeah, the single mama decided to end the only stream of income. And the kicker is, I did it so that I could find work that paid considerably less. But the work would be close to home, close to the children, and doing something I was much more passionate about.

I have been living off of some savings and a lil help from my supportive family and friends for the last few months. And next week I will start work again. I will be working VERY close to home, seeing my children considerably more, and doing something I’ve wanted to do for a while. And I have learned a great lesson from all of this. I have learned what it means to live in FAITH.

I have learned that faith really is the belief of the unseen. I had to have faith in God that the Universe would provide everything that I needed and wanted. There is no room for worry. I made the difficult decision not to worry about the unknown. I didn’t worry about when my savings would run out. I didn’t worry about how I would make my car payment or mortgage the next month. I just lived (nothing had gone unpaid or delinquent). I enjoyed the extra time with my children. And things have worked out in an amazing way for me over the last few months. I have been in such a state of awe and gratitude over it all.

I am not posting this to tell all the single mamas out there to run out and quit your job. That part of the decision was something I had prayed and planned for over the last year.  This post is a reminder to myself of what it means to follow my dreams and truly believe that those dreams can be reality.

I feel so vindicated now when I tell the man-child that whatever it is he wants in life can be his. And that if he believes and works hard then the Universe will ensure that things align in his favor.  It’s a personal testimony now.  And I see the pride in his eyes when I tell him about what I did and why.  He thinks I’m a pretty awesome mama.

And I’ll soak all that up before he turns 13 and doesn’t want to give me a hug in front of his classmates.

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Wandering on a Wednesday

Wandering away from what I’m supposed to be doing today, I found these links on the path to no where in particular:

Bento Lunchbox ideas.  Won’t that be fun a few years down the road?

Why ALL Parents are Better Than You.  Uh-huh.

Knock-Off Flowers.  Yep.  This is project number 4 for this week and I just realized I did it wrong, so back to the drawing board for me (literally).

Owlet.  I really want to make the sweater, but I will settle for this.  Because it’s about time that I make something for myself.  Am I right?

Crockpot Bean and Sausage Soup which I will be making for the second time this week because it is very little prep for a great, hearty meal and because the Little Lotus Bud will eat the heck out of it.

 

I should be doing this:

10K Day.  I am sort of doing this and have 3K words but jeez, I’m tired now.

Photo Contest.  I’ve made a bit of progress on this.  I’m thinking of submitting this photo:

Blading with Daddy

Please tell me what you think of the photo submission.  I’m feeling…oh, I don’t know…shy, maybe, because it is an adult arena for photography and I am wanting to submit a photo of my baby when she was a baby.

I can’t help but wonder – Will I always second-guess myself in this way now that I am a mother?

Second-guessing:  are there areas where you do this?

 

The Bookshelf

I have read far too many parenting books (and sorry, the English major in me insisted on underlining the book titles–those aren’t hyperlinks!).

  • The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two (Revised and UpdatedEdition) by Martha Searsand William Sears
  • The No-Cry Sleep Solution by Elizabeth Pantley
  • Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth
  • The Baby Sleep Book by William Sears (do you detect a theme here?)
  • Positive Discipline: The First Three Years: From Infant to Toddler–Laying the Foundation for Raising a Capable, Confident Child (Positive Discipline Library)by Jane Nelsen, Roslyn Duffy and Cheryl Erwin
  • The No-Cry Discipline Solution: Gentle Ways to Encourage Good Behavior Without Whining, Tantrums, and Tears: Foreword by Tim Seldin (Pantley) by Elizabeth Pantley
  • Raising Boys Without Men by Peggy Drexler
  • The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp
  • The Happiest Toddler on the Block: How to Eliminate Tantrums and Raise a Patient, Respectful, and Cooperative One- to Four-Year-Old: Revised Edition by Harvey Karp
  • Real Boys : Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood by William S. Pollack
  • Playful Parenting by Lawrence Cohen
  • Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids by Lisa M. Ross and Kim John Payne

And, these don’t even begin to touch on the getting pregnant books, glbt family books or the baby yoga books or the blogs or the forums!  Let’s just say I’ve researched the notion of parenting within an inch of my own sanity…and I’m not entirely sure I would recommend that others do the same.

Because, as my son has grown, I’ve gradually begun to realize that while the books have (on occasion) been quite useful–making suggestions or affirming choices I was making or thinking about making–that ultimately the best guide to my child is my child.  There is no precise manual, no formula, no guide to how to best be a family or create a kind and generous and compassionate human being–just notions and ideas and concepts that may or may not work for my family and my son.

Ultimately the only thing that has consistently worked for me as a parent has been a strategy of being responsive to what is, who he is, who I am, who my wife is and who we are together.  And, this has changed from day to day and moment to moment.  What works for one family, or one author or one parenting construct may or may not work for us.

That said, and because I cannot help but read (it’s like using training wheels when you’re learning to ride a bike–just the notion that they’ll be there to support you can be enough, even if you don’t “need” them), the books that I consider keepers are:

Simplicity Parenting (helped us to clarify that less is indeed more and create a physical environment that works for our son); Happiest Baby on the Block (great ideas for how to help soothe a fussy newborn, the only book I would say is a MUST have); No-Cry Discipline Solution (some good ideas for coping with discipline issues and a healthy look at the role of parental anger in our responses to children’s behaviour); and Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child (Our kiddo was NOT what one would term a “good sleeper” this helped us understand the science of infant/toddler sleep).

What parenting resources do you consider “keepers”?

(Oh, and Raising Boys Without Men, good book, but really only served as an affirmation that our son will be just fine!  So, not essential but comforting nonetheless!)

What NOT to Do

When I ventured into motherhood some 11 years ago I totally freaked.  Confidence was high as I carried my man-child in the womb. But once he finally made his entrance, via my birth canal, it was totally different. He had to be cared for beyond proper nourishment. I had to think about how I would raise him and guide him.

I cried a lot. I am sure much if it was hormonal. But there was a very real fear of my capabilities as a mother. One thing I was certain of at the time is that I would raise him completely different than my mom raised (or didn’t raise) me and my siblings.

And even now I question myself:

Have I been too open with him?

Have I shielded him too much?

Have I taught him gratitude?

Am I showing him enough attention?

I prayed nightly the first 6 years that God would help me be a better parent than I thought I knew how to be. Now I thank God daily for blessing me to be the parent of two amazing children who teach me SO much about LOVE and gratitude.  I thank God for the gift of mothering because without it I would not be as courageous as I am growing to be.  And the moments I sit back and watch the man-child spoil his little sister and protect her from the imminent danger of a fall on the carpet, I know that I have either taught him or given him the space to learn to LOVE.

THAT makes me a proud mama. That is the Universe letting me know that it was a divine plan for me to birth these precious miracles.  it was a divine plan for ME to nurture them, raise them, guide them and ultimately learn from them the power and magnitude of a perfect LOVE.

And while I spent the earlier years of my son’s life focused on what NOT to do, I have now learned what I must do is continue to love them to the best of my ability. I know I can give them that.

Sipping a Glass of Wine

This is the first time I’ve tried drinking and swimming.  I am too much of a control freak to allow myself to do much of anything while drinking. And I’m not that great of a swimmer anyways.

Geez, where was I going with this metaphor?

I am mama feeperella.  I am the proud and mama of two spawn children who make my world go round.

*sips wine*

Both of my babies were born near the lake. While I was born some few decades ago near farms, and homes with huge yards that housed gardens and animals.  It was much warmer there, in Arkansas.  It’s a wonder that I remember so much of my 5 years of life there.  But I remember the sun, and our strawberry patch, and the cornfield. And the gardens. Those vast gardens grew the food we ate everyday.   I wonder what my children will remember about where they grew up?

Perhaps my children will remember our gardens. Maybe they will remember our bike rides through downtown Minneapolis.  We cross so many bridges over the Mississippi River.  I wonder will they remember that the river connects their origins to my origins. I wonder if they will remember countless walks around Lake Calhoun in the summer time.  Perhaps they will remember the moments of laughter as I listen to baby girl scream “NO!” while brother tries to explain that he’s only trying to help her put her coat on. I want them to remember all of these things as well as I remember life near the farms.

*sips wine*

I try to bring some of that country life into my city home near the lake.  When we bike by the Mississippi next time I will tell them stories of my childhood.  We’ll talk about how the river connects my origins to their origins.

My Double-sided Mirror and The Fine Art of Mimickry

There’s been a definite shift in the house this last week. Nothing seismic, but a noticeable ripple. While I’ve been paddling away fairly nicely through mama-hood, with no major capsizes or man-overboard type emergencies, suddenly I feel like I’ve hit the Mekong delta with no experience as to which direction I should go in. (OK, so a little lie there: I have actually been down the Mekong delta, but it was crossing the border from Cambodia into Vietnam in a speedboat in 2002. But that’s a whole other story!)

My daughter has just hit 17mos. She has all her teeth except her eye-teeth, hair down to her shoulders (and maybe a little bit past), size 6 toddler shoes, a strong little body which delivers an amazingly firm hug, a vocabulary expanding by the day …. and a newly exerted willful mind of her own.

My previously pliable baby girl now wants to do things her way, or she’ll get mad, whine and maybe (just maybe) she’ll scream a bit, or a lot, in Walgreens. OH. Not to mention writhing out my grasp to run in the opposite direction from me, or where we’re heading, to grab shampoo bottles off the shelves. Yes, I guess pretty normal toddler behavior.

But, there’s something I witness in these moments of toddlerhood where it’s as if I’m looking at a little version of myself in the mirror. Again, no strange thing I suppose, but there’s no doubt where it comes from. There’s something in that determined look in her eyes, with her brow furrowed and chin jutted forward. Not to mention her growing strength of will or the dangerously adventurous spirit. And sometimes it’s simply when I catch a glimpse of that cheeky smile as she’s getting up to some sort of mischief.

Gazing at my miniature reflection makes my mind explode into all sorts of different directions. This little person is mimicking me. Is partly me. Do I like the ‘me’ she is mimicking? The part of ‘me’ that she has been embedded with? And what of those behaviors I should be addressing that I don’t want her to be mimicking? Or all the other people, children and animals she may mimic – and then, oh, I’ve gone a bit too far off piste.

Enough with the introspection already! Let’s get back to the point: How the hell are we going to parent her now? It feels like so far we’ve just being keeping her fed, safe, loved and helped her develop into a running toddler who can stick her toy teapot in the diaper pail. But now what? It appears that our parenting skills are about to take a sharp exponential learning growth curve upwards.

My ECFE moderator asked an interesting question last week: What were your parents like at parenting? And, how did you respond to them?

Now that I think about it, it’s a fairly obvious question, and one that had lingered in my mind many a time in the past. But sometimes when you’re in the thick of it, you can easily lose this train of thought.

But, interestingly, there glints the other side of my double-sided mirror.

On one side, the small version of myself, my daughter, who is staring daringly at me with my kind-of expensive sunglasses (that she’d nabbed from my handbag for the third time) upside-down on her head to see what move I’m going to make next. And on the other glistens the deep pool of where I come from: my parent’s parenting.

For some this parenting business may be a piece of cake. You may have had years of experience, or you’re simply just a natural at it or you’re sure that you want to emulate your fantastic role models verbatim. Some people are lucky that way. Me? Well, I’d like to think I’m not in the minority in feeling that I don’t know what I’m really doing a lot of the time and while there are some things I’d like to take from my parents’ parenting styles, there are others I would like to do differently. That’s called evolution after all, isn’t it?

And this is where it becomes a complicated algorithm of somehow converting the unwitting mimicry of behavior patterns learned from your parents into your own brand of parenting (via other role models, books, classes, researching dog pack mentality… whatever works for you!) while consciously understanding that in some way you are talking to ‘yourself’ and concurrently trying to set the example for what your child may mimic in the far away years to come. Sounds a bit like walking into a Hall of Mirrors and getting horribly lost, doesn’t it?

But, perhaps it could be more simply thought of as being parenting aware.

And for me, being aware really comes down to how I feel after I’ve had to implement some semi-serious parenting skills. I’ll know deep inside myself whether or not it felt right. Whether or not I was too impulsive and leaped too quickly from that deep pool of my parent’s parenting. And then maybe that I could have done it differently. The positive in this is that I can be sure there will be a next time, and many others to follow, and on all those next times I can change it up a bit, and see what the outcome is then. It’s of course a bit hit or miss I admit. But then then raising a child has been the biggest game of hit or miss I’ve every played!

So, my little mimic and I had lunch today, and she copied me eating like a lunatic. Silly faces, crazy noises etc., you know the drill – sure makes eating those noodles all the more fun! And all the while I admired her being her own person, she chose to mimic what she wanted to, and when it came to eating the potato cake she flatly refused. (Wierdo!) But, it’s these choices in mimicry that define our own unique person, which means that while I can worry about being the perfect role model for her, I realize she is even now deciding who she will become, and how.

How fabulous is that?

And while I am the palette from which she selects her colors, it is she who chooses to mix them in whatever way she likes. My amazing reward is to then stand back and watch the painting come to life.

Oh, and clean up the brushes and sticky handprints on the wall.

Land Locked

I’m just going to put this out there…

Lakes are not the same as the ocean.

Sorry mom friends, they just aren’t.  They don’t smell right, the waves don’t crash and splash with the same awe inspiring wonder and sometimes you can even see the other side of a lake.  I have never left a lake only to taste the salty residue of its water on my lips hours later nor have I gazed endlessly into tide pools at the shores of one of our midwestern beauties to marvel at small crustaceans (and I don’t mean zebra mussels) and seaweed fronds.

In some ways, lakes are all wrong to me.  Because, I was born on an island, and at heart my soul longs for the smell and the taste and the sound of the Pacific.  I miss the ocean with a part of me that just feels lost without it.

Growing up on Maui there were two real choices–all based on the location of the mountain and the ocean.  Mauka, towards the ocean and makai, towards the see.  Or, to put is a bit differently…you could go upcountry or downcountry or around the island.  So, three choices: up; down; around.

When I first moved to the mainland I would find myself hopelessly lost.  The roads kept going and going, with nothing to stop them.  The maps baffled me with the confusion of four options: north; south; east; west.  There seemed to be no center, no point of reference beyond the next building over or the street signs which buzzed past all too quickly as I searched for my destination.

Everything felt strange and nothing familiar.  The land and sky baffled rather than rooted and the air itself seemed dry and oddly devoid of scent.  No plumeria or salty humidity, no smoky cane fire or manure and branding smoke.  It took me a very long time to find any sense of center on this continental landmass–with it’s seemingly unending expanses and oh, the freedom of movement with nothing to stop one from hurtling into the next place and the next.

So, for awhile I hurtled.  Just staying in each place long enough to find my way–new anchors of lakes and rivers.  To college in one state, with a river flowing through the campus and a pond at the center; then a few years in another state where I learned to check the bacteria levels before going for a Lake Erie dip; then seminary in another, where coastal living along the Atlantic called for late summer ocean dips; and then a return to another, where we celebrated our baby shower in a friend’s lakeside home; and then another move to here–where I have found the mama lake.

Which, I am working to grow accustomed to.  Because, these are the waters in which my son will learn to swim.  These are the waters in which we will kayak and dive.  These are the waters that we will splash in and spew.  These are the waters…these are the waters.  And, they are not mine, but they will be his.

his first lake

Flight

 “When once you have tasted flight you will always walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward: for there you have been and there you will always be.”
— Henry Van Dyke

I went to an artist talk at the Mpls Photo Center a couple of weeks ago and had yet another mind-blowing experience. I’m still reeling from the experience.

The photographer was Wing Young Huie.  I have seen his work many times and in fact, I own a couple of his books. He is a local artist and he is making images of the Minnesota that I know.

I don’t know if it’s because of the huge hormonal change in my body or if it’s because I’m getting older, but I find it increasingly difficult to attend public events. I’m so glad the lights were off as I had several strong emotional reactions to his words and images.

How can I even begin to explain what I felt that night?

Some good insights. Some jarring sensations.

“People only see what they are capable of seeing,” was just one of the gems of experience that Huie shared. If my camera is how I see the world around me, then what do my photos say about my sight?

I bought my first SLR camera in Chicago, then promptly hopped on a plane to return to school in the Himalaya Mountains. The year was 1987 and I shot my first roll of film in those foothills, amongst the rhododendron trees and free-ranging monkeys of the region. When I look through my camera I am always looking at the land around me, trying to capture that moment of my existence.

This has been what is most important to me. Perhaps that is my way to finding a space for me to dwell.

I studied race, class, ethnicity, and gender theory for many years while finishing my doctorate. I spent more than a decade exploring language that would appropriately illustrate my experience as a South Asian American woman living in Minnesota. I left the University with the suspicion that I had been looking in the wrong place and did in fact have the insight that it might exist in the language of photography. Confirming my suspicions, Huie summed it all up with one sentence. I will restate it here in my own words:

I feel like I have been photoshopped into the landscape of Minnesota.

The Lotus Bud at Silverwood Park

Although I live, breathe, survive the cold, warmth, and nicety of Minnesota, I will perpetually be perceived as someone that has been placed in the picture – a prop, perhaps. As someone who is not part of the natural landscape, an outsider and an other.

Truth be told – I have come to terms with that. I believe having a child has changed my perspective, certainly my reality, and my interaction with the region where my child was born. She belongs here.

When I look upon her face, I see parts of myself with Minneapolis as the backdrop. She brought me to the inside. And when I went in, I found I was there all along

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Thoughts for  a quiet moment:
What truths have you learned about yourself since having a child?
If you are not a parent, what was a catalyst for self-awareness in your life?

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Links for today’s inspiration:
Wing Young Huie
(K)now
The University Avenue Project
Mpls Photo Center