The Husband

Oh, the husband. How we’ve grown and learned and molded each other over the last 6 years. I’m pretty sure we don’t have a typical relationship. But then again, what exactly is a typical relationship?

Anyway, I consider us unique. First of all, we are from two very different cultures. He is Korean. He was born in South Korea and moved here when he was 16 or 17 (forgive me – my brain is failing me at this time of night), but is still very much Korean at heart. I consider myself American, as I was born here in the U.S., though my mother is of European descent and my father is Chinese.

We had an arranged marriage. Oooooooh. What’s that like? Well, it actually doesn’t feel much different than a marriage that’s not arranged. We talk, we play, we fight, we love each other. We may have started out a little “unconventionally” according to our society, but we deal with the same emotions, challenges, breakthroughs, and joys as pretty much every other couple in the world. Our parents knew each other (as did we, but just barely) and we all attend the same church, so that’s where the ever mysterious adventure started.

If I could use only a handful of adjectives to describe my husband, I would say he is patient, forgiving, hard working, and kind. He works about 24 hours a day, pausing only for bathroom breaks and meals. He tries to spend as much family time as he can on weekends, which I appreciate more than I voice (sorry, babe!). He has responded with love and understanding in countless situations in which I felt all I deserved was anger and accusation. I feel like he’s exactly the type of person I need. I can say with certainty that in my 20 years of life, I had never before met any man (or any person for that matter) like him. Since then, he has helped me realize a lot of things about who I really am and who I really want to be. I can’t speak for him, but I’m pretty sure I’ve taught him a thing or two too 😉

The number one thing for which I’m thankful to him is our children. Rambunctious, bright 3 year old and cheerful, curious 1 year old. He’s the kind of guy that you can just tell was meant to be a father. It becomes him. It looks good (dare I say amazing?) on him. It brings out all the awesome qualities (okay, most. No one’s perfect.) I always hoped he’d possess. Now, if only we could once in a while slow everything down for 2 seconds to whisper sweet nothings to each other without little squirts pulling at our legs and tossing fresh laundry around the apartment… Guess you can’t have everything 😉

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Silver Lining

If you didn’t read my last post, T had some drama at daycare involving scratching another child. I felt all kinds of guilty and vowed to get on this whole discipline thing.

T’s teacher, the daycare director, and myself had a little meeting on Monday about how we can help T to learn the valuable lesson of using his hands for helping, not hurting. They were completely understanding and didn’t express any judgment or blame toward me or my son. We had a productive meeting and agreed on a prize system in which for every day T plays gently and properly, he gets a sticker on a chart from his teacher. He then shows me the sticker and gets to pick a prize from our special box. This has been working really well for us so far!

I came to the realization that this all may have happened for a reason. Perhaps I needed a wake up call. Since T turned 3, I had been slowly reading up on discipline and trying different strategies, but it was rather passive and only when I could “find the time” (Is that a popular excuse or what?). I’ll be honest – T has been rough with his sister from the time she started moving around.  I pretty much told myself to give him time to grow out of it and only dealt with it in a concrete way when she actually got hurt. I figured his sister could toughen up in the process (Overly sensitive kids – and adults – have their own set of problems). I finally realized that what I was really doing was avoiding and delaying this very important responsibility called disciplining! This is my first time doing this, so I’m allowed a little forgiveness, right?

I talked to several friends over the past few days and all were very helpful (What would we do without friends?). One friend who happens to have dealt with similar circumstances with her own son helped me to voice what I have been feeling about my 3 year old all along. Being physical is part of his personality and there is nothing wrong with that. We should never make our sons feel that there is something wrong with who they innately are. What we do have to do is teach them how to use their physicality in ways that will not hurt others. We have to teach them proper ways to deal with emotions and how to find positive outlets for all the energy they have.

I’ll end with a little moment I jotted down a few weeks ago and never ended up using in a post. It’s about T and I figure it’s a sweet enough moment to document:

Yesterday, I got mad at my 3 year old as we were winding down in his room, playing for a little while before I had to get my 1 year old down. I raised my voice at him, “I’m so angry at you because you ___________!” I’m not trying to hide what it was actually about. I honestly just don’t remember. (This was yesterday! Seriously, mama, where’s your brain at?) The point is, after I loudly expressed my exasperation, as if he didn’t even understand what he had done wrong, he gave me an innocent, blank stare. His first instinct in trying to restore my happiness and win back my love was to simply give me a hug. He then looked around for a moment and came back asking, “Do you want a sticker?”, holding out his prized Avengers collection. The moment he put his little arms around me, my heart stopped. My mind went blank. My anger melted away. I could literally feel it disappear.

Children will get on our nerves. They will make mistakes. They will test us, confuse us, aggravate us, and sometimes even scare us. But overall, they are innocent little beings looking for love.

My boy is just a boy! A growing, learning, figuring himself out, making mistakes boy with a heart of gold.

Am I Raising a Delinquent?

It’s been a stressful week. Aside from the usual whirlwind of day to day expectations and obligations I’ve grown relatively used to, a particular incident this past week has turned me into an emotional mess. It’s uncomfortable for me to talk about because it triggers a lot of shame and guilt and “What am I doing wrong?” in me. But I don’t want this blog to be like Facebook – displaying only the “highlights reels” of people’s lives. I want it to be realistic and include both happy, funny realities as well as difficult, disappointing realities. I think the world could benefit from a little more honesty and vulnerability. So, with that, I explain the situation:

My 3 year old son scratched his friend’s face at daycare. Hard enough for it to bleed. The teachers assured everyone involved (we met up altogether after school that day) that it wasn’t malicious and that T is simply a boy who is growing up and still learning how to control his physical body. They say it was totally out of the blue; that the boys had been playing together just fine and it was very sudden. For the record, I do not consider this to excuse the behavior in any way.

Needless to say, the boy’s mother was shocked, upset, and a little bit scared (Rightly so. T has shown that he can be unpredictable. Who’s to say he won’t do it again?). The mother and I text messaged briefly over the next couple of days. I feel like I’ve said all I can say (Mostly lots of I’m Sorrys and I’ll Keep Reminding/Training Hims) and that there’s not much I can do to make it better. She needs time and space and she mostly just wants to focus on her son and whatever emotional and physical healing he needs to do. I’m fairly certain this is the case because it reminds me of the incident when my son burned his hand at a campsite while in the care of another. I kind of just wanted to block this woman (or maybe almost everyone) out for a while and focus on my son. The burn incident, of course, involved a much more severe wound, but I drew some comparisons nonetheless.

The night after it all happened, I cried myself to sleep (Ok, I’m being dramatic. I cried for about a minute and then I remembered I didn’t want puffy eyes in the morning). I couldn’t help the flood of doubt and questions overwhelming me. Will he grow up to be a delinquent? A violent criminal? A menace to society? (I have often joked with myself that we should have named him Dennis…) I wanted to call my mom. I wanted to hear her calm, reassuring voice and feel her simple, unconditional love through the phone. I wanted the person who believed in me most to sweep in and save the day. To remind me that I wasn’t a failure, that I was doing the best I know how, and that everything was going to be all right.

The word Discipline makes me nervous. It sends an uneasy shiver up my spine. I have read some things, watched some things, heard some things, and I still don’t know exactly which direction I want to go in with our family. I worry about figuring out the “right” kind of discipline (nothing that will send my children into therapy later in life). I am a big believer in the power of positive reinforcement, so that’s been a constant from the start. For really out of hand behavior, I’ve done Time Outs and I’ve yelled and occasionally hit (I have since decided that in most cases, this will actually do more harm than good, so I have promised myself to find alternative methods).

I think the most important thing for me to do now is to create a well thought out, specific plan and know it by heart, so that in the heat of the moment, I have no doubt as to which actions call for which consequences, and, therefore, I will feel calmer and more in control. From there, I just have to be really, really consistent. Children thrive on consistency. I’ll have to explain my plan to my husband, too. Even though he doesn’t spend that many hours with the kids during the week, the time that he does spend with them and the way that he responds to their behaviors will make a difference. Of course, the “plan” will no doubt need to be tweaked here and there, every now and again, depending on the response (perhaps I should say “path” like I did with my Birth Path at the suggestion of my midwife? You know, for wiggle room).

I am going to figure this out. Everything is going to be ok. Will keep you posted.

Am I Doing Enough?

[Down to the wire again! Ack! In my defense, we don’t have a PC in our apartment (and I am NOT typing on a tablet), so in order to blog, I have to run next door to my in laws’ apartment, which is not that easy while I’m juggling two toddlers who need to be periodically fed, changed, and entertained!]

I came upon this realization one night before going to sleep. (It wasn’t last night, since last night, I had an excruciating headache. Normally, I welcome any good ideas and I want my creative juices to flow, but last night, I just wanted them to STOP. And then maybe my head could stop throbbing and I could get some decent sleep) I often have small inspirations for writing just as I put my head down on the pillow at night (newbie blogger/writer tip: Keep a notepad or your phone by your bed!) So, here goes that one idea I had.

A big characteristic of mine is self reflection. I am constantly thinking about who I am and looking at what I have or haven’t accomplished. A question nearly always on my mind is: Am I doing enough? It’s like an itch that never goes away. This tendency became twofold once I entered Parenthood. Between the diapers that need to be changed, the dinners that need to be cooked, and the floors that need to be swept, mopped, and then swept again, I am constantly in a state of What should I be doing?. I find myself wondering if what I’m doing is the “right” thing to do at the moment I’m doing it, or if there is something more important I should be doing instead. I wonder if somehow, somewhere, someway (I didn’t think that was a word, but I am not getting a red squiggly line, so I’m going to leave it), my time would be better spent.

I would assume there are others out there like me, whether they’re parents or not. (Does this perhaps fit into one of those Personality Types? I’ve never much looked into those.)

In order to give myself some sense of accomplishing something and doing something valuable with my time (my life), I make little goals (when I do make goals, which is usually at the beginning of the year at a church event or at the suggestion/inspiration of friends).

I learned something very valuable about goal making when I worked at New York Life. Only make goals that include specific actions that YOU are 100% in control of. I think we’ve all heard that it’s more effective to make specific, measurable, achievable goals (e.g. Work out every weekday at 6 pm at the gym across the street from work) instead of broad, ambiguous goals (e.g. Get in shape this year). But what I want to add to that, if you haven’t heard it already, is that your goals should be things that are completely in your hands. A goal such as “Have a good relationship with my husband” is not only too vague, but is also something that is only 50% in your control. The other 50% is in your husband’s control. Similarly, a goal like “Get my husband to stop smoking” wouldn’t make any sense because he has to be the one to make the decision to stop buying the cigarettes and putting them to his mouth (unless you’re prepared to follow him around every day and swat them all away). An effective alternative to “Have a good relationship with my husband” would be “Make dinner for my husband every day” or “Take 5 minutes every day to ask how my husband is feeling, how his day is going, and if there’s anything I can do to help him”. These are specific, action oriented, goals which you can certainly measure at the end of the day. Did you, or didn’t you?

Ideally, creating goals we ourselves are in control of relieves us of the stress of racking our brains and kicking ourselves wondering why ANOTHER PERSON (or force of nature) is not doing what we want them to do.

This year, at the nudging of a certain Facebook group I’m a part of, I’ve made four New Year’s Resolutions. You may laugh when you hear them because they are amusingly simple, but in my current state of being (i.e. Momhood), I honestly don’t see myself getting anywhere at all unless I cut things down to tiny, baby, bite sized pieces. So, here goes:

Resolution #1: Follow 20 minute Youtube Post Partum (hey, it’s only been 15 months!) Yoga video every Tuesday while 1 year old is napping

Resolution #2: Enforce meal time prayers with kiddos

Resolution #3: Enforce daily morning service with kiddos (pray and read 5 minutes of Bible stories)

Resolution #4: Continue blog posts through the rest of the year – once a week either Thursday or Friday.

And there you have it! Super simple. Super achievable. I’m feeling pretty good so far 🙂