Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Monday, August 22, 2016

Parenthood: Week 166 - Dropping A Nap

There’s a feeling of bliss when your little one locks into a routine. You know when their naps are and they go to sleep and wake-up around the same time. Life is predictable, parenthood seems manageable, birds sing more in tune and Donald Trump is more entertaining than depressing.

Than things start falling apart. Usually it’s centered around one of the most dreaded phrases in early parenthood: “dropping a nap.” When parents hear this phrase they are immediately are filled with a feeling of great sadness and foreboding.

Newborns pretty much sleep most of the time and as they grow, naps become formalize (for most babies). Whatever number of naps this is, they get set into a routine. As babies get older, they drop these naps to two, one and then eventually [shudder] the naps disappear altogether.

When children drop naps, it’s not something that happens overnight. It’s a transition that can take weeks. One day the baby has three naps, the next it’s two, two again, and when you think all is settled on two, the child goes back to taking three naps.

You may think, that this lack of naps is a good thing. If you’ve ever hung out with parents of babies and toddlers, they often center their entire schedule (and existence for that matter) around a nap schedule. This severely and significantly hampers and limits, social outings. On one level, the fewer the naps, the more freedom you have as a parent, however the downsides to dropping naps is significant.

One of the most ludicrous parenting suggestions is “nap when your baby naps.” This is a great idea as long as you don’t have to worry about laundry, cooking, work, bills, errands, and um . . . adulthood. Parents have to rally through their exhaustion and get tons of stuff done during their children’s nap times to maintain life and sanity.

Each nap that is dropped means less time to take care of essential things (like going to the bathroom).  If this lined up perfectly with the children’s growing independence, which requires less of parents undivided attention, we’d be set, but it doesn’t. A baby doesn’t drop a one and half hour nap and immediately gain the ability to play independently for that period of time. In reality, you maybe get ten more minutes of independent play, which is unpredictable and erratic.

Ollie is currently in the process of dropping his daily afternoon nap.  If he doesn't take an afternoon nap, he often falls asleep at some point, like in the car, and goes to bed easier.  However if he takes an early afternoon nap he's in a much better mood in the evening, easier to manage, but goes to bed later in the night.  Combine this with end of the summer and beginning of the school year madness and it's quite a challenge to manage.

I'm eager to get back to a routine, even if it only last a couple weeks.  Maybe he'll hang onto this one nap for a little bit longer and maybe he will drop the nap completely.

I'm getting tired just thinking about that possibility.

Friday, August 19, 2016

To Be Asian-American: Being Asian On Campus-Part 1

I first noticed them in the dining hall. They were always in that back right corner at a long table, a group of Asian students eating together. Then I started to notice other groups of Asian students around campus. They always seemed to be enjoying each other’s company, often with matching t-shirts or jackets.

I was aware that Northwestern University had a significant Asian-American population. That’s one of the reasons that I chose that school. I knew this was important but I didn’t know why. When I got to campus, much like how I socialized in high school, my group of friends was more related to marching band. I got to campus, had a great band camp experience the week before school started and that was my social group (which later expanded into my fraternity).

During the first couple weeks of school, I didn’t go to the various Asian student organization meetings. I was busy with marching band practice, and I had my group of marching band friends.

One of the wonderful things about Northwestern’s marching band at that time was that it was a cross-section of the campus. The band included students of all majors and many students of color.  It was a mix of Caucasians and students of color that felt right.

As I noticed these groups of Asian students sitting together in the dining hall and moving around campus, I started feeling uncomfortable. I was invited to their meetings, and it was my choice that I didn’t go to them. However I still felt excluded and it was this feeling of not being part of this group, that chipped away at my pride in being an Asian-American.

Every time I saw a group of Asian students together, it reminded me that I was Asian. I hated this reminder. This insecurity built a superiority complex. I felt better than them because I was “integrated.” I had white friends, I didn’t need to just hang out with other Asian people.

Like I discussed in last week’s post, Caucasian students would ask me about these groups and I chafed at the question. “I’m not one of them, I don’t know.” This community of Asian students who associated with each other because of their racial identity, were people I did not want to see. I didn’t know why at the time, I just wished that they would go away.

Every time I saw a group of Asian students together, I felt anxious and tense, but it passed and I forgot about it until another encounter. And then one night in the cafeteria, I got stuck behind a group of Asian students in line. They were speaking in Mandarin, I understood most of what they were saying and I felt annoyed at their happiness and laughter. I sat with my marching band friends and instead of joining in with the regular jokes and conversations I was sullen, trying to calm myself down.

We left our table as a group and exited the cafeteria. As we were heading toward the door of the dorm, another group of Asian students were congregating at the door talking and unaware that people were trying to pass (which is a very common thing for college students to do). As my friends worked their way through the crowd, I followed and started feeling nauseous and felt the heat of rage taking over my body.

Without saying by to my friends, I rushed off to my dorm room and dove into bed, my face buried in my pillow. Laying there in the darkness, tears welled up, but refused to release. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I didn’t know what to do, but in that moment, I realized that I needed help.

I sat up, went to my desk and turned on my computer.  In the glow of the computer screen, I saw a table tent, which had greeted me when I first moved into my room.

It read: CAPS - Counseling and Psychological Service.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Monday, August 15, 2016

Parenthood: Week 165 - The Rudeness of Toddlers

“Hey man, watch this. You see that girl over there? She is almost never excited to see me. She usually gives me a skeptical ‘who are you?’ Here we go . . ANGIE [arms outstretched]!”

With a big a smile on her face, that three year-old, who has known me all her life, who doesn’t always show me that she is excited to see me, gave me a big hug and let me pick her up and spin her around. That completely melted my heart.

I know that Angie likes me. Every time I play with her, she is receptive, I’ve held her many times in her life, and she’s comfortable with me. Like many toddler she is still learning the social customs of greeting people so there have been times when I’ve enthusiastically greeted her and she’s looked at me like I’m crazy or simply walked away. Then five minutes later I’ll ask her is she wants me to read a book to her and she’ll crawl into my lap.

As toddlers get older, their emotions and feelings develop. Smiles get bigger, the laughs get louder and their anger gets more intense. Their faces, voices and bodies become more expressive and subtleties in emotions begin to emerge. In addition, toddlers develop the ability to perceive the emotions of other people, which directly affect the way that they emotionally respond to the world around them.

While all of this development is going on, we as parents continue to teach these toddlers social customs. It’s important that toddlers learn how to greet people, show gratitude and to leave a social situation appropriately.

Social customs often asks us to put aside our own emotions and feelings. For example, if you are feeling depressed and anti-social, you are still suppose to fake a smile and say “hello” when somebody greets you. Even if you don’t like somebody, it’s expected that you will say “thank you” to them when they do give you something.

Now trying to teach social customs to a child who is learning how to genuinely feel and express their own emotions is difficult. I don’t want my son to be rude but when he’s sad that we are leaving somewhere and he doesn’t want to say bye to people, I understand. He’s dealing with how it feels to not want to go and then I’m asking him be polite a say goodbye. Sometimes that’s too much to ask.

I don’t love the fact that being polite in our culture sometimes means that we mask our true emotions and feelings. It’s one of those compromises we make to be social animals, but I want to make sure that Ollie understands that this compromise should never invalidate his feelings.

When a toddler is being rude, it’s not that they are uncaring or that their parents aren’t teaching them how to be polite. Often it’s just too much for that little human being to handle at the moment. 

Embrace how genuine emotional expression is with toddlers. It doesn’t feel great to not get a polite greeting, but if they don’t feel like it, I’m okay with that. Because I know when I get a hug like Angie’s, it’s real and from the heart.

Friday, August 12, 2016

To Be Asian-American: Pride

Throughout my life, white people have asked me why members and racial groups needed to have affinity groups, celebrations and organizations. There are no Caucasian affinity groups except for the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Nazis which are universally treated with disdain in our society, so why do racial and ethnic groups get money and resources?

It’s about pride.

Pride in one’s race is a positive connection to one’s racial identity that is constructed through a feeling of belonging, and positive associations.

When people are asked to list what groups they identify with some choose gender, other choose their career and other’s strongly identify through sports or the arts (e.g. “I’m a Cub’s fan).

For most people of color, race is high up on that list. A person can choose to shed their love of the Cubs, and let that identity go, but people of color cannot let our race go. Whether we like it or not, for people of color, race is part of our identity that society does not let us forget.

Many of the reminders of racial identification are positive. When an Asian-American student asks me about my heritage, I feel a wonderful connection with the student. When I eat Chinese food with my family, I feel at home, and when my son asks me to read a book that feature Asian characters, it warms my heart. Unfortunately, many of the reminders that I’m Asian come from awkward conversations, ignorant action, and racist comments.

When you have this part of your identity, that you do not choose, that you cannot hide, taking pride in it is an act of spiritual self-preservation. When people of color do not have pride in their racial identity, it manifest in problems that affect all of society and our shared greater humanity.

A little Asian boy who is ashamed of the shape of his eyes because of jokes other students make, may develop internalized self-hatred. This could manifest into something as innocuous as spending all of his weekend playing videos games or as destructions act lashing out through violence at others.

It is a complex and difficult thing to develop pride in one’s race. While I was never ashamed of being Asian, it wasn’t until I was in college that I felt a true sense of pride (I’ll get into this more next week).

To have pride in one’s race as a person of color is to embrace the part of your identity that for so long in American history was a mark worse than a Scarlet letter. It is this history and our present racial struggles that require deliberate and thoughtful actions.

It's hard for me to fully understand the need for affinity groups to help build racial pride.  It's a very complicated issue with many different layers, so I understand my Caucasians friends and colleagues who don't get it.

So here's what I got for my white allies:  People of color meetings and racial pride activities aren't including you because we don't like you.  There are conversations that help us build pride and feel supported that cannot happen when you are in the room (this is not something we blame you for, don't feel bad).  The more we can do this, the better we can feel about our racial identity and the more open we can be to having conversations with you and building deeper and more meaningful relationships.

Be supportive of our racial pride.  This isn't a reflection of racism, this is about us learning how to love ourselves.  If none of this makes sense to you, that's okay.  I still don't understand cottage cheese.  The effort you make to understand and your trust is meaningful.

Thanks.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016