Category: Parenting

The words that gave me body dismorphia

I turned 35 this month. I’m 35, with two amazing kids, a husband that is my best friend and a career that gives me incredible satisfaction. We are all healthy and our parents and siblings are healthy.

I literally could not ask for any more in my life.

Yet a few words and a pinch from my mom and, in a flash, all of my insecurities that go as far back as high school came flooding back.

My parents joined my husband and me and my two kids for dinner last night. We had already started eating.

My mom sat down and said, “Wah, don’t you think you’ve eaten enough, look at your stomach!” Then she reached over to pinch the flab that was protruding out of my stomach.

I angrily swatted her hand away which caused her to renew her efforts and grab an even bigger chunk of my fat.

I was livid and told her as much. She laughed it off and acted as if it wasn’t a big deal. And, in an effort to not make a scene and keep the peace, I let it go and we did end up having an enjoyable dinner.

It’s my mom and these are just the many things I’ve learned to accept and endure through the years.

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Yes, I Let My Son Wear Nail Polish

A few weeks ago, Max came home from school asking me if I could paint his nails. Since he has never seen me wear nail polish, or really any makeup for that matter, I was a bit surprised.

I asked him why he would want to paint his nails and his response was that his friends A and P (both girls) painted their nails.

I told him that I would look into buying some polish for him.

He then proceeded to ask me every day after that if I had bought the nail polish yet. Since I had agreed to get him nail polish, I researched and found a non-toxic nail polish brand and showed him and Alexa the color choices. Max chose a sparkly blue and Alexa chose a bubble gum pink.

When the polish finally came, he saw both colors and excitedly asked me to paint one hand blue and one hand pink.

While I was painting his nails, he couldn’t stop telling me how excited he was to show his friends A and P that he had painted nails too. When I finished, the kid was positively beaming.

Unfortunately, this was during spring break so his polish quickly chipped off. He made me promise to repaint his nails so that when he started school, he would have freshly painted nails.

Whenever Max makes decisions that make me concerned about how he will be perceived in public (like the time he insisted on lavender purple and hot pink sneakers), I always try my best to prepare him.

I ask him, do you know that people might make fun of you? Some people might say that those are girl sneakers? Will you be upset if they say that?

He always reassures me that he’ll be okay, that he knows it’s not true, and that boys and girls can like or do the same things.

Of course I can’t help but still worry because kids can be brutal.

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My Daughter Makes Me a Better Mother

Raising Max has been relatively straightforward.

He’s always been a happy go-lucky kid. The type of baby that falls over from laughing so hard. He can maintain an unhappy mood for about the length of time it takes a goldfish to swim around its tank.

This makes my job as a parent easier.

Don’t get me wrong – he’s also exhausting in a very physically draining way. He’s a whirlwind of neverending energy. But I never feel like I’m walking on eggshells around him for fear that I’ll set him off.

It’s easy for me to parent Max in that I don’t have to mince my words when setting limits. I don’t have to watch my tone of voice or my attitude. I’m probably more careless than I should be because, even if he’s upset with me, I know that one millisecond later, he’ll be back to his regular, exuberant self.

By the time Alexa came along, I thought I had the parenting gig down.

When you have a fairly good kid, you think you’re a fairly good parent. What else do you have to go by?

But, as any parent with more than one kid knows, every subsequent kid is the polar opposite of the other. It’s just the laws of nature.

Anyway, the end result of being a good parent to Max meant that I spent the past 20 months of Alexa’s life being a not-so-great parent to her.

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Alexa: 18 Months Update

My darling daughter, you’ve grown so much since the last update I wrote for you 10 months ago.

During this time, your personality has truly blossomed and I love learning more about who you are.

Mostly, you are exceedingly sweet and gentle. You love to give me the snuggles that I craved from Max when he was your age. You will crawl into my lap and just lie there while I can stroke you.

You have the softest smile, accompanied by your tinkling, wind-chime giggle.

And nothing could have prepared me for just how girly you are turning out to be! It wasn’t until I had two children – a boy and a girl – that I understood how gender differences can be so innate.

I also can’t look at you without seeing myself – both the good and the bad.

Your dad and I are often in disbelief by how similar you are to me. Especially when he sees your attitude. We’re lucky that your dad loves seeing the baby “me!”

Anyway, you have my petite bone structure, high forehead, fine hair, and small features. Incredibly, our teeth structure is identical – two large central incisors (i.e. buck teeth) with small lateral incisors and large, needle-sharp canines.

The good is, you will always look younger than you are. You’ll hate it, at first, but come to appreciate it after college. It takes awhile for it to become a good thing.

The bad is, you have my fierce temper. On the outside, you might look sweet and innocent but you have one of those tempers where you don’t give a crap about anything when you’re mad.  This is also something that improves as you get older – if you want to have friends and to get married, that is.

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Race: Lessons from a Three-Year Old

It all started innocuously enough.

I was on my laptop while Max played nearby. We are moving soon and I was considering a position for a law firm that would be closer to home. After a quick Google search, I found the firm’s website. I clicked on the link and was immediately greeted by a row of middle-aged white male attorneys, dressed in suits, with big smiles, one of them cradling a distinction award of some kind.

Let’s just say, there was zero diversity at this firm.

I couldn’t help but mutter, “Well, that’s a lot of white men.”

Max, being three years old and inquisitive about literally every damn thing, perked up and asked, “What white men?”

Crap.

On the other hand, I realized, this was the perfect teachable moment!

I think we can all agree that we live in tumultuous times, whichever side of the political spectrum you may fall. And race can’t help but be in the forefront of my thoughts these days, with all the talks about the Muslim ban and Mexico border wall.

You see, I am Asian-American. And in America, that means I have always been a minority.

So race matters.

I sometimes forget about race, living in NYC, one of the most diverse areas of the county. There are even places where I look around and practically everyone is Asian or Asian-American. But travel outside the metropolitan area and I become far more race-conscious, by necessity.

As a minority, I have to be even more acutely aware of the importance of raising tolerant children that embrace diversity and multiculturalism.

So back to Max. I had him sit on my lap while I Googled some images for race + diversity when I came across a picture collage featuring people of all different races, genders, ages, and orientation.

The entire time, I was secretly patting myself on the back for using this as an opportunity to introduce him to the concept of race.

I pointed to the following picture:

And I asked, “Which of these people do you think looks most like you?”

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