Friday, August 30, 2013

Year 4: Week 0 - Looking Foward

Year 1 was an adventure. I had never taught at this school and it seemed like every week I was experiencing something for the first time.

Year 2 was a challenge. I knew the scope of the year, which comforted me but also made me feel stress, as I knew what was coming up next.

Year 3 was time to grow up. For the first time I taught at a school for a third year. No longer could I claim the guise of a rookie teacher. At the end of year I got confirmation that I was truly part of this school community when I was awarded tenure.

Year 4 is going to be something different all together and I’m not sure how it’s going to pan out.

I still love my school and I love my job, but my experiences with my son Ollie and my wife these past couple months have shown me that my priority, what’s most important to me in my life, is my family.

I’ve always felt that my family was central in my life but before Ollie, it was easier to spend more energy focusing on work. I still get into a great work mode, but at the back of my mind, I’m thinking about my son.

I believe that the best way to take care of another person is to take care of yourself and the best way to love someone is to love yourself. Enjoying my time at school and challenging myself to grow is not only a financial contribution to my family but it’s also a way that I can take care of my own needs socially, professionally and philosophically.

The challenges are laid out in front of me. I’m taking days off for my paternity leave this fall. I have new teachers that I’m working with along with a new principal. These professionals can help me in my job with fresh perspectives. However at the same time I need to help them get to know what I do and help guide them through the scope of the year.

Then there’s the role of co-music department chair, which I’m sharing with the previous department chair. I’m looking forward to helping serve my colleagues in this capacity but I’m also nervous about situations I’ve never dealt with and conversations I’ve yet to have.

When I think about school, I’m excited. I’m looking forward to getting to know my kids and the process of putting together great musical experiences for my students and the school community. More than that I can’t wait for the little moments that make the struggles of teaching worth it and the energy from my students that keeps me going.

Year 4 is going to be fun, confusing, challenging, exacerbating and full of moments that I'll struggle to accept and memories that I hope I will never forget.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Monday, August 26, 2013

If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time by R. Kelly

Conversation between me and Diana as we were sorting through storage boxes:

D: Do you want this cd?
K: prob not. . . Wait a sec. . . OH MY GOD! Yes!!
D: Are you sure? I mean it's not . . .
K: Give it to me NOW!.

The CD in question was “Now That’s What I Call Music 3.”

For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, the “Now That’s What I Call Music” was a series of compilation CD’s of current popular songs. If you watched MTV and VH1 regularly like I did growing up, you were used to seeing television commercials for these CDs ALL of the time.

Believe it or not the series is still going on and is up to number 43. While the television commercials don’t seem as prevalent, someone out there must still be buying these things.

After listening to this CD over the past week.,I’ve come to the some conclusions about the state of pop music as represented by this CD in 1999.

Enrique Iglesias is shockingly sensual. “Bailamos” is absolutely astounding in its level of “heat.”

I still don’t care about what Limp Bizkit will do for the “Nookie.” This song is all immature bravado and doesn’t describe any real substance.

Oh, K-Ci & Jojo, I believe that you want to hear that it’s real.

And then there’s R. Kelly – Mr. “Trapped In the Closet, went on trial for doing things that I get creeped out even thinking about thinking about, wave around arms like just weird conducting that choir in the end of the “I Believe I Can Fly” video.”

“If I Could Turn Back The Hands Of Time” was not a huge hit for R. Kelly. However this song, a beautiful mixture of “Unchained Melody” and 1970s soul is a powerful, emotional and touching ballad. R. Kelly’s schmaltz can be a bit much and it definitely feels melodramatic but this is an example of when this was done right.

The sentiment in this song of regret is instantly relatable (unlike the call for needing a city like Gotham).

Instead of projecting a “playa” image, R. Kelly portrays a man who feels at a loss, who has weakness and surprisingly vulnerability. The reflections that R. Kelly makes are simple but insightful. For example, “You had enough love for the both of us” is a powerful realization of how much his partner had to give and how little he gave. Also this describes how blind he was to the blessings in his life.

What really feels timeless about this song is that if Jimmy Ruffin sang this song in the 1960s or Adele sang it right now, it would be a hit.

R. Kelly through his career sometimes seems to have become a caricature of himself. It’s easy to forget that behind the bravado and the controversy, you have a great singer who understands his place in popular music. As “Now That’s What I Call Music 3,” takes me back to another time in my life, there’s some things that I’m glad I forgot about like “Nookie,” but others things I’m glad I rediscovered.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Parenthood: Week 13 – Nana's Story

“He told me to give him Carnation canned milk diluted half and half with water.”

My wife Diana’s Welsh Nana sometimes repeats stories. She's allowed to—she's over 80. I heard the one about the Carnation canned milk for the first time almost a decade ago, but it wasn’t until hearing it again last week that I realized why this moment had stayed with her after all of these years.

The story goes like this: My father-in-law Andy was a big, hungry baby. She tried to nurse him, but he just kept crying. So Nana went to the town doctor (this was a small enough town where there was only one doctor) and he instructed her to buy a can of Carnation milk, dilute it with water “half and half” and feed it to him. She proceeded to do this and it helped satiate his hunger. He stopped crying.

This story was the first thing she thought of when Diana told Nana she was pregnant, and Nana has told us this story almost every time we have seen her since. The first few times I heard this story, I didn’t understand why Nana seemed to get choked up every time she told it. So she gave her baby some canned milk, big deal. People do this ALL of the time now with formula.

Hearing this story again after becoming a dad, I realized that this story embodies some of the most powerful and undeniable emotions about being a parent.

The experience of being a parent is a mix of instinct, social expectations, and spirituality. These three things combine in almost every action and choice parents make and nowhere is this more present than in feeding children.  The most basic biological instinct for parents is to feed their child. When this doesn’t go as expected it touches a deep primal instinct.  Sometimes societal norms make parents feel better about their plight, but often they only make these feelings worse. 

Nana couldn’t feed her child enough food by nursing him. She couldn't fulfill the most basic and most necessary need that babies have. What was she supposed to do?  She was a mother when formula was not widely used.  There weren't entire sections in the book store about child rearing, and the vast parent support network over the Internet was non-existent.

The answer she got from her doctor was simple and logical. He didn’t make her feel guilty for not being able to supply enough milk. This doctor gave her the tools to fulfill her instincts as a mother to feed her baby.  She was not a failure because she couldn't provide enough food for her baby. She could—she was just going to do it in a different way than she expected.  This doctor helped her comfort her son and stop his crying.

For this, she has forever been grateful. Even though the doctor passed away, she continues to send Christmas cards to his wife. When we drove past the building that used to be his office last weekend, she excitedly pointed it out as it came into sight.

When I visited Nana last weekend and she told us this story, I saw her glance over to my father-in-law. For a moment I could see that she wasn’t looking at a middle-aged man, but her baby. For a split second her memory took over and she remembered that baby in her arms, hungry and crying, the doctor who showed her the way to take care of him and what it felt like to soothe this baby that now sat next to her driving through the small town she once called home.

Sometimes we get annoyed when elderly people tell the same story over and over, but there’s a reason that this happens. We don’t always catch the meaning of these stories the first time we hear them.

Next time you hear that story from an older relative for what seems like the fiftieth time, give him or her your attention.  Really listen and even though the words of the story may come out exactly as you predict, you may learn something about life that you will never forget.  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Buffy & Ollie: Weeks 11 & 12

Week 11
Week 11
Week 12
Week 12

Monday, August 19, 2013

We Can’t Stop by Miley Cyrus

We all should be proud of Miley.  

“We Can’t Stop” is not on the same level of the pop masterpiece that “Party In The U.S.A.” (which I wrote about in this earlier post). But it’s an interesting song that demonstrates the spirit and strength of a young pop star as she struggles with challenges and double standards.

Much has been written about the drug references in this song and the sexuality and drug use Miley has expressed when promoting this song. The first reference is “dancing with Molly,” which apparently alludes to the drug ecstasy (which sometimes is referred to as “Molly.”) The second references is  in the second verse, “tryina get a line in the bathroom” referring to cocaine.

Should we be annoyed/outraged that former child star that had a show on the Disney channel is not making drug references in her songs? First off her kids show was canceled almost two years ago, many of her fans from that era, have grown up. Yes, many of her fans from when she was younger are only teenagers and maybe they could do better without hearing drug references, but most will be fine.

Snoop Dogg was only one year older than Miley at the age of 21, when he broke out rapping about drugs in a far more explicit way. If you’re not a fan of Miley’s stripper reference and her sexuality, take a look at what Rihanna was doing when she was seventeen. Let’s not forget that Britney Spears was only seventeen when she asked us to “hit her one more time.”

Did generations of people who listened to these young artists sing sexually about drugs become deviants living in hedonistic sin? Look, I’m sure some people hear references in songs and get excited about them but most people make their choices regardless of what pop songs sing are about.  Music is powerful, but it's not THAT powerful.  Last time I checked, there's not legions of people running around dressed like Marilyn Manson.  

“We Can’t Stop,” like Lesley Gore’s 1963 anthem “It’s My Party,” is a declaration of independence. The fact that this song ruffled feathers and got people concerned about Miley’s influence has more to do with people’s discomfort with seeing a woman try to assert herself as a adult.

No, Miley didn’t handle the “Molly,” reference perfectly in interviews well, but most artists in the her situation handle it in a similar way with a white lie and a smile. Really, “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds,” is not about LSD? Really? Really?!?

Miley says that this song represents where she is in her life right now. Whether we like to admit it or not, many twenty year old woman are exploring alcohol, drugs, and their own sexuality. Yes, caution is important with these activities, but most people come out the other end of these times in their lives just fine.

If Rihanna performed this song would the controversy around the lyrics and the music video be as critical? What if a guy sang these lyrics? Chris Brown was singing far more explicit and concerning lyrics when he was younger than Miley.
"We Can't Stop," isn't about drugs.  The line that holds the most meaning isn't a reference but a statement of belief: "Remember only God can judge you, Forget the haters cause somebody loves you."

Chill, this is a fun song.  The way she sings "we like to party," sounds really weird and the opening "God" voice chant, is funny and like the music video is more silly than anything else.  I'm proud of Miley for getting out there and reminding all of us that sometimes we just got to get out there and try something new we we can't stop. 

Friday, August 16, 2013

Parenthood: Week 12 – Elderly Nuns & Ollie

Me: Uh . . . mom, whose baby are you holding?
My mom: [smiling] I don't know!
At almost ever major family occasion, wedding, funeral, baby shower, my mom always seems to end up with a baby in her arms.  And sometimes she doesn't she can't even identify who the baby belongs to.  She's been doing this ever since I can remember.  My mom really likes holding babies and so do I.

I still remember the first time that I held a baby.  It was jarring, a little uncomfortable but also really special at the same time, but nothing is like holding a baby.  Everyone's yearly bucket list should have "hold a baby" on it.

As much as I value the experience of holding a baby, I don't want everyone and their mom to hold Ollie.  So I’ve made a rule that unless this is a person that Ollie would choose to hug later in life, I will not let that person hold Ollie.

Today, I broke that rule.

When my wife was a kid, there were two nuns who lived in the neighborhood who babysat Diana and her two brothers. They watched Diana and her brothers grow up and formed a bond with the entire family. These nuns have continued to be a part of Diana’s family like when they said grace during our wedding.

One of the nuns met us for lunch and then we went to a nursing home to visit the other nun. Was I okay with them holding Ollie? Initially I was a little apprehensive. But I decided to make an exception.

The average age of these nuns was 90 years old. Ollie may not have a connection to them , but they have a connection to my wife and her family and that felt like enough.

Ollie has an amazing effect on people. I witnessed tears well up in family members' eyes when they first held Ollie. That made sense to me and seemed natural. But watching people like these nuns hold Ollie who aren’t as closely connected was just as amazing in a different way.

Babies do something amazing to elderly people. I don’t quite get it and I don’t know what it is. I saw so much more than that in the faces of these nuns when they held Ollie. Yes, it was because they remembered Diana as a child, but I think even if Ollie had no personal connection, there would still be a powerful effect.

As we were leaving they thanked us over and over for bringing Ollie. I’m glad we did. I get nervous that elderly people will drop Ollie or that by visiting a place like a nursing home, he will get sick, but my fears were put aside today as I watched Ollie interact with these two remarkable woman.

One day, a long time down the road when Ollie is having a George Bailey moment and he thinks that he’s not important and that he doesn’t matter, I’ll tell him the story about how he lifted the spirits of two elderly nuns and made their world a little brighter. I’ll tell him how simply his presence and his spirit at such a young age touched people and changed their lives. And I’ll tell him that that same spirit is still strong within him and he makes the world a better place by being himself.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The War Over Childbirth

Note: I wrote this post about halfway through my wife's pregnancy.  Our son Ollie is now 11 weeks old and is doing great.  I saved this post for me to reconsider after Ollie was born and I feel as strong right now about my thoughts expressed here as I did when I first wrote this post.      

There’s a war brewing.

It’s a battle backed by good intentions waged in documentaries, on the Internet, in books and in classes. It’s a war that men for the most part stay out of but are inevitably effected by whether they know it or not. It all boils down to one simply question: what is the best way to take care of your baby?

The prominent conflicts are:
  • Vaginal childbirth vs. Cesarean section 
  • Natural childbirth vs. birth with narcotics or an epidural 
I first became aware of some of these issues was when I watched The Business of Being Born.

When I watch this trailer I get angry. Here’s why.

The film makes the argument that the medical profession’s approach to childbirth is not in the best interest of the mothers and the babies. The use of drugs and the pervasiveness of Cesarean sections is a symptom of a profit driven industry. The alternative is birth centers, home births and the use of mid-wives to provide a healthier and more meaningful experience for the mother and the child.

This is the argument that this films makes, it’s fairly one-sided which is fine. As a film presenting issues that no one seems to be talking about, taking a more extreme point of view is appropriate to get the conversation started.

What makes me angry and uncomfortable is the idea that a woman who chooses not to have a home-birth, has a Caesarean section or utilizes narcotics is an inferior mother and a weaker woman. This implication is so upsetting because it implies that woman have complete control over the circumstances of the birth of their children.

There are woman who do everything right and plan to have a home-birth who end up having a Caesarian section and there are also woman who make every effort to get through birth without narcotics but just can’t take the pain. It’s not these women’s fault that they couldn’t follow through with their birth plan.

They didn’t do anything wrong.

The best advice that I’ve heard about childbirth is to learn how to control what you can control and also learn to let go of things that you can’t control. You can do your pre-natal yoga, eat a perfect diet, and do all the things that you can imagine to make your birth plan happen but at some point things may happen that you can’t control, and that’s okay.

I refuse to believe that mothers who don’t have a natural childbirth experience with their children don’t have as close bonds with their children (which is an argument that is made at the end of The Business Of Being Born). I’ve witnessed incredible bonds of love and family between parents and their adopted children and to diminish this bond because they didn’t share a natural childbirth experience is absurd and insulting.

The other thing that I have difficulty with is the argument that the medical field doesn’t have the mother’s best interest in mind. I’m sure there are morally corrupt doctors and hospitals but there are also some amazing doctors like ones who are in my family, who are 100% focused on their patients needs and their health.

I’m not trying to make an argument either way on home births, the use of narcotics, or Caesarean Sections. What I’m saying is that woman need to be thoughtful, consider the different sides of these arguments and make an educated decisions about this process. The conversation about childbirth is a great discussion that our society needs to have and I’m grateful that The Business Of Being Born got this debate going. Neither side has this thing down and they both have a lot to learn from each other.

The problem is that instead of accepting a plurality of ideas as being valid the different sides of these arguments are battling each other.  This leads people to make judgments on other people and individuals, questioning the validity of their childbirth experience because of circumstances completely outside of their control.

As a husband and my wife’s best friend, I am very worried of the childbirth process. I’m doing everything I can to prepare myself for this event, but it’s hard because I know that there is so much outside of my control. My wife jokes that I’m a boy scout because I often pack things to be prepared for a variety of situations.  However  I’ve realized that I simply can’t prepare myself for all of the things that could go wrong and all of the beautiful things that hopefully will go right as my son enters the world.

I fear that my wife’s childbirth experience will be judged by others and that Diana will have to answer for the choices she has made to others who disagree with her. On some level, it’s already happening as people are already asking her about her birth plan.

So to quell my concerns I've told her this sentiment multiple times:
I love you and I'm so proud of the mother that you have been throughout this pregnancy.  I know that I will be so incredibly proud of you whatever path we take as our child enters our world.  Nothing can change that.  Before you know it we will have a beautiful baby boy in our arms and while we don't know exactly how he will come to us, I will be proud of every step we take on that path togehter. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

I Don’t Wanna Fight by Tina Turner

What is a normal amount of fighting in a relationship? Is a screaming match healthy if it happens once a month or once a week? Is it okay if the fighting goes beyond the verbal to the physical?

People have a wide variety of what they consider a “normal” amount of fighting. These expectations are usually set up from observing their parent’s relationship. In my view physical fitting is never okay and which most people agree with but at the I also think that it’s never okay to raise your voice to someone you love. Some families and yelling isn’t necessarily out of bounds, but its’ just not something that my wife and I feel is appropriate.

I’ve been thinking a lot about conflict in relationships lately.  Tina Tuner’s reflective and powerful call for understanding, “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” has helped me put some things in perspective.

“I Don’t Wanna Fight,” was part of the soundtrack to the biopic about Turner, What’s Love Got To Do With It. This film, one of the best films about a musician, shows Turner’s rise to stardom but also the abusive relationship she endured with Ike Turner and how she broke free and reinvented herself.

There are so many remarkable things about Tina Turner and the message of “I Don’t Wanna Fight,” showcases the most amazing part of her story. Turner has every right to be better, hateful and angry not only at Ike for the troubles in her life but also God and the cosmos for putting her through what she endured. Her response instead is that “it’s time for letting go.”

When someone has wronged you, they can apologize and you can be mad at them. You can fight it out and scream at each other but after all the dust is settled, it’s your responsibility to let go of the past, the hurt emotions, the bitterness and move on with your life. If you don’t the anger will fester in your soul and continue to make you unhappy. The only person who can do anything about that is you.

Letting go is one of the hardest things to learn how to do in life, but it’s one of the most important.

Fighting and winning is overrated. When you best someone you love in a fight, you may win and that’s great but it’s at the price of someone you care about loosing. If you enjoy conflict and have a winning spirit, that’s great, go play basketball, however keep this out of your relationship. Even when you win against your partner you lose.

If fighting helps you and your partner be more open and honest with each other, great, than have it out. Here’s the thing though, for most of us, fighting an is unproductive expression of insecurities, hurt and misunderstanding. No one really wants to fight. So stop it.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Parenthood: Week 11 – Sleeping In The Nursey

"Buffy, I need you to do something for us tonight. We are going to have Ollie sleep in his own room for the first time and if you could stay in his room and keep him company it would mean a lot to me and Diana. Can you do this for us?"
Buffy looked up at me calmly as I sat on the floor asking for her help. I gently directed her into Ollie’s room and watched her curl up in the corner of the room where I had set up one of Buffy’s beds.

I left the door open to Ollie’s room so we could hear him if he woke up. This gave Buffy access to our bedroom where she usually slept as well as the guest bedroom which had a queen sized bed that Buffy had recently taken over as her own.

The next morning as I walked into the nursery, there was Buffy, awake in her bed in the corner of the room. I was surprised. Buffy had never spent a night in that room, so I expected to find her splayed out on the guest room bed or in our bedroom. Before tending to Ollie, I bent down, gave her a kiss on the forehead and said “Thank you.”

We didn’t have room for a full sized crib in our one bedroom condo. So, for the first month of Ollie’s life, he slept in a mini-crib in our bedroom. We moved when Ollie was about a month old. The new house had a bedroom for Ollie, so we ordered a full sized crib.

The crib took some time to be delivered so Ollie continued to sleep in our bedroom, with Buffy nearby and Diana and I in our queen sized bed (which I explained in this post). After the crib came, we had Ollie sleep in the crib in his room for naps but we had gotten used to Ollie sleeping in our room during the night so we continued to do this.

I was ready to have Ollie sleep in his room pretty soon after we got the crib but Diana told me that she didn’t feel like she was ready. I know this may sound silly to you. Our room is next door to Ollie’s room and Diana was going in there during the night to nurse Ollie anyways, so why not have him sleep in that room?

Just because an emotion isn’t logical, doesn’t mean that it’s not valid or important to honor. It wasn’t a big deal that Ollie slept in our room so why not give Diana the time to work through this step?

Earlier this week, Diana told me she was ready to have Ollie sleep in his room. So one night last week we got him settled in his big boy crib crib, asked Buffy to sleep in his room with him to keep him company and set-up the baby monitor by Diana’s bedstand.

Diana woke up multiple times to check the monitor, finding every single time an image of Ollie’s body lying still in his crib. It was a rough night for Diana. I slept fine. However, I was the guy who for the first two nights Ollie was home, got up almost every fifteen minutes to check to see if he was still breathing.

Like my “oh my god, is he still breathing?!?” concerns faded, Diana’s anxiety about Ollie sleeping in his room has faded as well.

For me, this was a moment when Buffy really came through. There is something comforting about sleeping in a room and feeling the presences of someone who loves you sleeping nearby. I just couldn’t have Ollie not have that his first night in his room. I wasn’t going to force Buffy to do this, but I really wanted her to. She came through and that morning seeing her in Ollie’s room made me feel so good knowing that Ollie wasn’t alone.

For Diana, this night was one of the many steps that we both have to take as parents to help Ollie grow to become his own person. Helping children develop their own independence and self-confidence is one of the most important parts of parenting.

Letting go means that while you are there for your children, it takes you a longer to get to them. Yes, it’s only a couple more feet to get to Ollie now, but those are big steps that we took this week and I am so glad our Buffy was there to help.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Buffy & Ollie: Weeks 8-10

Week 8
Week 9
Week 10
Week 10-Outtake
Week 10-Outtake
Week 10-Outtake

Monday, August 5, 2013

On Being A Sissy: Part 3 - The Sissy Minority

  • 8th grader: Mr. Tang, nice purse [laughing] 
  • Me: Yes, you pointed out this satchel, or whatever you want to call it that I’m carrying.
  • 8th grader: [laughing] you have a PURSE! 
  • Me: So you are laughing at the fact that I am carrying something that you perceive as not being masculine. Therefore you think that it’s humorous because this bag, doesn’t line up with the ideas of what you think men should carry. Am I right? 
  • 8th grader: [silence] 
  • Me: I’m all for a good ribbing, but making fun of someone because they conflict notions of the way genders should present themselves narrow our possibilities of expression and are reflections more of deeper insecurities, which are perfectly valid at your age, about your gender identity.
In my students I see Tomboys and Sissies. The girls who take on more masculine characteristics, wearing sports jerseys for example don’t seem to get any scorn but boys who are a little bit more feminine still get noticed. Most of my students don’t say anything explicit to them but you can tell they notice with the way my students look at these boys.

The creation of one’s gender identity is one of an important part of child development.  It's natural for kids to try to make clear distinctions between men and woman and form in their brain signifying characteristics. In this way, a kid really shouldn’t be punished for making a reasonable observation wondering why there is a man pushing a baby stroller.

If we break open the possibilities and the grey areas between men and woman too early, it can get really confusing for kids. At the same time we need to embrace this spectrum and help kids learn that while they may not understand why some guys seem more “girly” than other guys, it’s not a bad thing.

By the time kids hit 5th grade, I have a lot less tolerance for the kind of “sissy” comments that I hear. Kids don’t really use the term "sissy" all that much anymore, instead it’s in kid’s reactions.  When things are explicitly said which happens in the older grades very direct conversations need to be had.

I don’t hear kids making fun of other kids for being attracted to people of their own gender. The bullying that I have observed is less about sexuality but the way that kids define their masculinity. When you hear about kids being bullied often the phrases “suspected to be gay” come up because often times kids don’t even know if the kid who is bullied is actually gay or even care. They are more of target more because they don’t conform outwardly.

If we think that kids being bullied or made to feel bad about being a “sissy,” is an exclusive to children who are gay we are over-looking all the kids like myself who hold back and fear open and honest self-expression.

Not just gay kids need to hear that it gets better.

We cannot expect middle school kids to automatically accept the full spectrum of gender identity. This mixed up with sexual identity, which often doesn’t line up with gender identity in the ways that we assume is a difficult thing for adults to grapple with.  So course there’s bumps in the road for young adults in figuring these things out.

We can have these bumps and talk things out, openly and honestly. The confusion, the ambiguity of feelings, and the lack of understanding young adults feel is okay. It needs to be embraced and unpacked. What’s not okay is for these kids to express these feelings towards their peers in negative, confrontational and socially aggressive ways.

I was lucky to have parents who didn’t mind me singing Disney Princess songs but a lot of kids don’t have that support from home. Kids can get through a lot in their day if they know they are loved and supported at home, but if they don’t have that to come home to, things can get dark very quickly.

I don’t know if my son, Ollie is going to develop characteristics that some define as “sissy.” If he does, he needs to know that he is loved not despite these characteristics but because of them.  Diana and I are going to help him celebrate his interests even if the whole world thinks that it’s not what he should be into as a boy.

If Ollie is a stereotypical boy with out a hint of sissy than we have to open his eyes to different ideas of being a man, which are not as pervasive in our culture. Being a man is not about what you are into or who you love, but rather the pride you have in yourself and the respect that you treat yourself with and the people in your life.

I’m always going to be a minority. I’m Asian, I’m a music teacher, I’m in an interracial marriage, and I’d rather watch reruns on HGTV than a football game.  Not being part of the crowd has shaped who I am and helped me develop strength and conviction in my beliefs. I’m not saying that you can’t develop similar characteristics being a Caucasian businessman who watches football every Fall weekend, but for me being a minority helped me develop some of my favorite parts of myself.

In the same way that I’d would never wish to be Caucasian, I don’t really want to be any less of a sissy. I love my girly dog and my brightly colored dress shirts.  I’m going to deal with people making comments or giving me looks for the rest of my life. But that’s a small price to pay for embracing the who I am and being the man that my wife is proud to call her husband.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Parenthood: Week 10 - Embracing The Irrational

All I wanted to do was get back to Ollie. I had been in the hospital for almost thirty hours from the beginning of Ollie's labor. We decided that it would be best if i stayed overnight. Unlike, Diana I hadn't packed an overnight bag so we both agreed it would be good for me to go home, shower, grab a couple things, take a nap and return later. After thirty hours of being awake, the fresh air felt wonderful but I didn't really care. The shower was rejuvenating but I couldn't really enjoy it. As I laid down to take a nap even though I was exhausted, I couldn't sleep. All I could think about was getting back to Ollie and Diana.

It was even worse the first time Diana and I left Ollie with my mother-in-law, while Diana and I went to a wedding.

My rational mind knew in both of these cases that Ollie was fine. There's no where safer for a newborn than in a hospital and my mother-in-law raised three kids. Then there's the irrational feelings of panic and fear. We all have irrational feelings and while they sometimes get in our way, sometimes they are important.

I'm a dad. I love my son and I feel overprotective. I don't fully feel comfortable or at ease unless I'm in his presence. As much as these feelings are illogical, it's important that I have these feelings, because, well, it makes me feel like I'm a dad.

Negative self-talk doesn't help us work through these feelings. Bottling up any emotion leads to an inevitable blow up and negative physical manifestation like insomnia.  Aren't some of the most beautiful emotions in our lives irrational ones?  Like Happiness and love.  Why push down and try to diminish feelings that come from a feeling of love?

So I'm choosing to these embrace these feelings. I acknowledge that they are irrational and I'm not going to let then control my life. However I'm not going to rush through them or let other people chastise me I'm silly or that I'm being irrational.

I know I'm being silly and irrational. You know what else is kind of silly and irrational? Choosing to have a baby. The financial cost, the lack of sleep, the life style change . . . not the most rational decision.

With each new experience with Ollie I'm slowly becoming more comfortable with him exploring the world. It's taking time, but I'm getting there. This feeling of worry that comes whenever I am away from Ollie has dulled but it has never left me and I don't think it ever will. Sometimes I feel like I'm going crazy because I can't get that boy out of my mind. It's consuming and distracting, but you know what?

I kind of like it.

Let the new parents of the world be irrational. It's important that we have this time to work through our emotions. We will let you hold our babies for longer later and not run down old ladies when we hear our kids cry. . . eventually.