Family and Motherhood

WITH MUCH LOVE, YOUR RACIST FATHER

“Study hard, only use your credit card for emergencies, and don’t bring home a Black, Korean, & especially not a Chinese boyfriend” – Dad For the most part college is a time for self-exploration and academic experiences. But let’s be real, it’s a passing reason to be physically separated from your overbearing, but well intentioned parents. More common among 1st generation Asians, especially in my household, is intra-Asian racism. From my father’s parting remarks before I left college (stated above) to the constant reminders that “Chinese people are evil for attacking Japan” and how consuming too much kimchi will somehow “make you just as stinky and manipulative as the Koreans” became all too frequent. Aside from these debasing household events, I wasn’t exposed to many stereotype...

HOW TO BE AN AFRICAN

The last time you felt African was when he mentioned it to you. When your thick dark hair was tied with an Ankara material into a bow at the front, the same material that clung to your little feet and traced the ends of your tote bag, on the body of the bag, scribbled in slanted fonts, was ‘black is not perfect but is intricately beautiful.’ Your slender, sleek figure fit into a knee-length flared gown, with pockets at its sides that hid your long, pale hands; long, slender fingers—just like you; and naked fingernails. You walked like you’ve seen adults walk and have gotten accustomed to, long before your body turned into what it is; its curves and edges. You plastered your signature smile on your face and said, in your creamy voice “hello, good morning” to everyone on the street, the clea...

NOTES TO MY 80-YEAR-OLD SELF

Over the past few months my brother and I (and our spouses) have been dealing with the issue of getting our mother to move out of her too-big, too-costly house into an apartment in a senior village. At 86, she’s wobbly on her feet and has a tendency to repeat things, but otherwise her mind is sharp. So sharp, in fact, that things got downright nasty at times before she was able to accept our suggestions and agree to the move. That being said, and after the dust settled, it occurred to me that now would be a good time for my 57 year old self to remind my 86 year old self (if I am lucky enough to live that long) of the do’s and don’ts of dealing with adult children. First, be nice to your kids, and not just because they’ll pick your nursing home. While I can never imagine myself saying hurtf...

MY SON DOESN’T CALL ME MOM AND THAT’S OKAY

My son doesn’t call me mom anymore and I’m okay with that, although I used to not be. It all started about a year and a half ago. My husband was deployed, and we moved home for moral support. My son was two at the time and a little delayed in speech. He called me mom and his father dad, but the rest was hard to make out at times. Being in a new place, surrounded by new people, he began to pick up on more and more. One day, I was taking a bath and my son looked around the corner for me. He called out my name. I didn’t know it then, but that was the beginning of him calling me Magen, and not mom. I tried to fight it for a while, but my will power was weak. The more he called me by my name the less I had time to spend arguing with him. Soon I was no longer mom but simply Magen. People would m...

CHILDBIRTH: A CAUTIONARY TALE

Childbirth: A Cautionary Tale First of all, I do not share this to leave the impression I am particularly tough, because I am not. At least not any tougher than any other mom after she’s had her first baby. I also am not in the business of scaring new or soon to be moms, rest assured the odds of experiencing the following are extremely slim, practically nonexistent. Truthfully, I share this slightly selfishly for cathartic purposes but also to spread awareness of a debilitating condition and to let sufferers know, you are not alone. I had a dream pregnancy. If not for the big belly and the constant stranger comments about that big belly, I wouldn’t have even noticed that perfect babe cooking. And truthfully my labor was pretty easy breezy as well. I walked in half way dilated and rea...

MY SISTER’S 21ST BIRTHDAY

I am currently failing miserably as I try to wrap a pretty, pink 21 champagne glass along with a Disney soft toy of the chicken Hei Hei from the Moana movie; the last one on the shelf at the Disney store which I purchased yesterday with a heavy heart and the all too familiar swelling in my throat that I routinely suppress in the hope that I can make it through the 12th of September without cracking too early.  The root of my heartache goes back 21 years, when I had just started primary school. I was five and my middle sister was three, and both of us excitedly awaited the arrival of the baby in mummy’s tummy, who would provide the much desired third addition to our princess/Barbie/make believe games.  I’ll spare my mother the haunting memories of my youngest sister’s birt...

MOTHERHOOD AND ITS INTENSE CHALLENGES

Being a mother is a wonderful experience and the closest thing to a miracle that women get to experience. But if you are a first-time mother, there are aspects of motherhood that might scare you or at least replace some of your excitement with concern. This can be avoid if you stay informed and know what to expect from such an experience. Let’s go through some of the most common struggles that mothers go through in their first phase of motherhood. 1. Postpartum Depression and Anxiety You have spent 9 months carrying your baby inside of you and as soon as you give birth to them, you might have to face a bunch of emotional changes that will affect you to the extent of depression. However, even if many mothers face this challenge, you don’t have to be a sure victim. If you keep your mind occu...

HOW MY MOM RAISED (OR DIDN’T RAISE) ME WHILE BATTLING DEPRESSION

I realized I was just like my mom when my husband had his first panic attack. Driving through the city, he had to stop, and I couldn’t help but roll my eyes and take over, thinking about how dramatic he was being, downplaying his emotions, his terror, his sheer, brain-zapping panic.  That’s what she was, my mom. That’s what she did. Other’s emotions were too much, or not enough. Too complicated or oversimplified. She was always too busy or too overbearing, hovering or hiding.  I learned to deal with my emotions alone. I learned to walk softly, speak little and make myself small.  She wouldn’t call me for three months and then threaten to come beat down my door to “make sure I was okay” after she decided to text me during the work day, and I didn’t respond within 60 seconds. There was never...

SOMETIMES I HEAR MY MOTHER

My mom always told me I could be a writer, but she never taught me to stand up for myself.  She always told me I had to go to college, but she never explained the difference between love and sex.  I can’t count the number of times she yelled that I had no common sense, but she never asked about my homework.  She mastered the art of a guilt trip, but could never quite figure out how to ask me how my day was.  Sometimes when I sing out loud, her voice comes out. It’s one of the few things from my past that comforts me. To young ears she sang like an angel. I loved hearing her sing.  Now sometimes when I sing out loud, I hear her voice, like picking up scraps of my past, picking through the detritus left on the ground, piece by piece, and choosing which parts to shovel into the trash. I want ...

PREGNANT, BUT NOT INCAPABLE

Struggling with body image issues is common. Bullying, body-shaming and “fitspiration” have changed the game for women everywhere. It’s not enough to be skinny, you have to be strong, you have to prove you work for it and you have to document it. Pregnancy is no exception. I have heard so many stories from women I work with, who got pregnant and just gave in and enjoyed eating extra calories, indulging in cravings constantly and sending their significant others out for pickles and ice cream at 10 p.m. I’ve also seen so many women on social media who stay super fit throughout their entire pregnancy, wearing tiny shorts and sports bras, with bodies worth envy 30 weeks in.   I found out I was pregnant during the CrossFit Open – a five-week period in late winter when CrossFitters from all over...

LULLABY FOR MOM

When did you first feel like a grown-up? When you graduated college? When you got married? Bought a house? Had a baby? Not me. Adulthood sucker-punched me at age 53, when I had to make decisions about my elderly mom. Mom was a formidable woman. She came from a poor Cuban family of 11 children, the middle child in a family where the four girls were significantly less important than the seven boys. It’s sobering to be faced with the raw realization that you are a witness to your parent’s entire life. No, you weren’t there for all of it, but you heard the stories about her youth, how she was teased by her siblings, how she had to walk for miles to get to school in shoes resoled with cardboard, the heartbreaks that defined her. You begin to uncover the mystery that is the most influential pers...

YOU ARE

After you took your life, Mom gave me your goldfish bowl. You filled it with shells and stones and one silver medallion, and everything in the tank was balanced just so. A large moon snail shell sat by the front, bottom left, upon two flat stones. These assorted tide-swept artifacts were once scattered across your table. I could imagine you working with thoughtful intention while Fela Kuti’s singing sailed through your stereo speakers. I carried the bowl gingerly back to my house and placed it on the kitchen table. Soon I knew how to carefully touch one of the shells with just my fingertip, without disturbing the arrangement. And I would think, “We’re close to each other again.” So much beauty in one bowl. Concentric ridges in the clam shells resembled whipped cream spread on a tiny pie. G...

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