It is 1 AM where I am and I’ve been thinking all week about Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #239 – Winding. I was just about to give up when this little cinquain popped into my head. I love playing with words and sounds and the “W” sound in winding, whining, winning and winging, made me happy. Also – all those W words have all the same letters except for one! I’m sure there’s a lesson somewhere in there about perspective and mindset (how changing one thing can change the whole meaning, etc.) but we won’t get into that today.
If you haven’t noticed from my previous posts, being a parent in the middle of a pandemic is HARD! However, there are days that feel less hard and there are also days that feel incredible.
Today was a less hard day.
As I look at my “To Do” list for this coming week (reading blog posts and responding to comments are on there!), I was reminded by my Papa, that I’m doing the best I can. My kids are doing the best they can. We all are doing the best we can with the resources and information that we have.
I am drinking hot coffee despite the 90 degree weather, the sweet creamy liquid warming my nostrils before I take a sip. I hold it for a moment, savoring it’s decadence before swallowing, while watching my children run through the sprinkler. The sunlight glistens off the water droplets hanging onto their dark hair and tan skin. These diamonds sparkle and glisten before being flung into the air echoing the sound of their laughter. I drink my coffee and commit this happy, shining moment to memory.
Growing up, my sprinkler was the fire hydrant in front of my neighbor’s house. Instead of soft, squishy grass underfoot, we had pavement that left our feet raw from scrapes on the unyielding surface. Our laughter gurgled like the fire hydrant while our screams matched the siren wail of the police – a warning that our water play time would soon come to an end. My mother would drink black coffee and watch us from the stoop, her worries emanating from the lines between her eyes, like the sun’s rays burning our already darkened skin.
On this summer day, I drink my coffee, leaning against my marble countertop while looking at my children through the panoramic kitchen window and toast myself for not having wrinkles between my eyes.
Serendipitously, this haibun also works for Jamie’s Wednesday Writing Prompt to juxtapose our life as an adult against our life as a child. I do marvel at the difference between my childhood as an immigrant to this country versus that of my children. My parents both worked, my mom during the day and dad at night. We lived in a diverse neighborhood in the city where my brothers and I would walk to school around the corner. We took public transportation and made frequent trips into “The City”. I did my share of “babysitting” my brothers and could be classified as a “latch-key kid” growing up.
Eventually, we were able to move out of Brooklyn and out to Long Island where my younger brothers were able to live the “suburban life” – taking a school bus, playing football on Friday nights, getting their driver’s license at 16. By that time, I was already in college so my experience with “suburban life” only came when I was married and about to have kids.
My kids have never had to take public transportation as their sole means of getting around. They marvel at sidewalks and when we do go on the train or bus in the “big city”, it’s a grand adventure! They have always had a back yard and have no clue what a “stoop” is. My husband (who is also an immigrant) and I have taken them back to the places where we grew up and they marvel at the “tiny houses” and wonder how we lived with only one bathroom, without a yard, and having to share bedrooms.
Race/ethnicity, social class, education, profession – these are all inter-related. My “shining moment” would not have come to fruition without the hard work and sacrifice of my parents, without the guidance of teachers, without the encouragement of friends. Yet for some, even with these current supports, the institutionalized discrimination/racism inherent in our systems in the USA keep them from reaching their shining moment, from getting their just reward for their hard work and sacrifice, and that of their ancestors.
We all deserve a shining moment in our lives. I would even venture to say, we deserve more than one. I would even be bold enough to say, that we deserve to shine as bright as we would want in every moment in our lives. Shine on, friends, shine on!
It was about my sweet child and their completeness
So I took a deep breath and researched
We went to the doctor and talked to the priest
We went to the mall, to try on clothes, at least
My love for my child would get us though
Acceptance is hard, some days I’m not there
Bittersweet thoughts in my head still flare
But my child’s on a journey, how can I not care
We can adjust to change, no need to despair
So proud of my child as we begin to prepare for
This poem was written for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #237 – Transition. It is a work of fiction – my children haven’t expressed any gender or sexual preferences so far. I hope that if they do, I would be able to live up to the open acceptance I have characterized in this poem.
I want to believe that human love is unconditional, but I know that isn’t true. Even our love for our children isn’t unconditional – we expect something back, whether it’s obedience or taking care of us in our old age. Still, I hope to show my children that love can transcend and transform any difficult situation.
With the pandemic and calls for racial justice continuing, let’s not forget that this is also Pride Month. Love is love! Intersectionality should be a part of any process seeking true justice and equity.
EDITED 6/22/20 4 PM – I forgot to link this post to Kate’s Friday Fun request for our favorite sayings (this is what happens when inspiration wakes you up at 3 AM!). I don’t actually have a favorite saying, but I do collect sayings that I resonate with me. This saying, I think, was an unconscious inspiration for the poem above:
“Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby- awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.”
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
This saying has also made a home in my mind lately. I’m not sure if it’s leasing the space or if it’s there to stay…
“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back....”
― Erica Jong
This theme of “competing demands” reflect more of my “current coronavirus conundrums”. While I might seem extroverted, on the deep inside is an introverted soul who needs alone time to recharge and refresh. I used to be able to find this alone time when my children were in school (hence the reference to “9 AM to 3 AM” in the poem) and I could wander and wonder in a pseudo-nomadic state.
I don’t think my children knew this about me. When I pick them up from school, I am refreshed and ready for our afternoon and evening interactions. On the weekends, my husband is there to cover the times I would step away to recharge.
Being with them 24/7 for the past three weeks (has it only been that long that we’ve had the shelter in place order?), they have found out my secret the hard way. Now, they know that I need an hour at least by myself in the morning. They know that they need to occupy themselves with school work or playing or even (gasp!) TV or video games for that time. They know what the consequences are when I don’t get that recharge time, and how vastly more pleasurable it is at the home when I do.
In return, I have also learned more about my children’s needs at their current ages (versus when they were babies and toddlers, how they have changed!). After lunch is when my older daughter needs her alone time. My younger son needs cuddles and snacks around 3:30 (which is when we usually get home from school). My older son needs to have outside time in the middle of the day no matter what the weather is. My younger daughter needs to do something creative every day to stay happy.
Having this time with my children when they would usually be in school has been an unexpected gift from this otherwise greedy coronavirus. I read the stories about how COVID-19 has taken lives, taken jobs, taken people’s sense of a “normal life”. I wonder how many stories there are out there about what this period of time has given to people. I wonder if people would even realize that they’ve also been given a gift.
The biggest inspiration though was my friend, Lindsay, who gave birth to a beautiful baby boy this past Wednesday. Amidst the scariness of this pandemic, miracles of life still happen! The above poem isn’t her birth story (Lindsay is a wonderful mom to a 2-year-old already) but maybe it’s yours or someone who you know.
I have to admit, with all the forced togetherness, I have forgotten at times that children will act like children and the mandate – whether from God or Gibran – is to be more like children. So yesterday, we did no school work and played outside, enjoying the sun and observing the flowers that have blissfully blossomed, unaware of the threat of illness or death.
Children are truly a gift – they know what is important in life. It’s none of the things that adults think are important and that is such a wonderful blessing.
I have had a lot of time to contemplate waiting – having kids gives me plenty of opportunity. I usually do try to be patient, to show them that they are “worth waiting for”.
But sometimes I am stressed because we are late or because I have to do something else that seems more urgent – and in those times, I am not patient. Sometimes I am even angry and spewing all sorts of non sensical threats and pronouncements.
And after I’ve calmed down (and we’ve arrived where we need to be or done what we need to get done), I usually end up apologizing and explaining why I was so upset. I also talk about what I could have done better and what they could have done better and encourage them to give me and their siblings feedback as well.
It’s an imperfect process and one that is often repeated in our house. Getting all of us out of the house and somewhere on time is feat we always acknowledge!
Still, if getting there on time didn’t really matter, I do try to wait for them – to practice their self-care skills (brushing, buttoning, tying, etc.), to finish the story they are telling me, to finish looking at the caterpillar crossing the sidewalk, to finish enjoying their childhood.
Sometimes, I cannot look at you
Because your adoring eyes
See what I cannot
I’d rather gaze upon a light
That – though bright – cannot see
The real me
That only brightens with a flick
Of my finger
And not when I enter the room
Sometimes, I cannot look at you
Because your eyes might hold anger
Or worse – disappointment, disgust
I cannot swipe left to get rid of
How that would make me feel
There is no X-out
There is only “I’m sorry”
Which doesn’t erase the memory cache
Sometimes, I cannot look at you
So I train my gaze on
What I feel I can control
This poem came to me as I glanced at my phone thinking of a poem while ignoring my kids. Yes, it happens – probably more than it should, although I am trying to be more mindful of my electronic device usage. The kids are watching!
Hello! Hello! It’s been a while…I’ve been…”cooking”…the picture above is my version of Filipino Pancit Canton. My mom gave me a recipe but, like in life, I didn’t follow her directions exactly.
I used the the noodles that were available in the (non-Asian) market by my house (since I wasn’t able to go to the Asian market – these weren’t the correct type of noodle but it tasted fine).
I used leftover char sui (or red meat) as my kids like to call it) instead of chicken, although I did end up buying a rotisserie chicken to add for lunch the next day since we ran out of char sui.
I used bok choy (instead of shredded cabbage) since a friend had given me a bunch from her CSA box that she didn’t know what to do this (I was surprised they even grew that around these parts!).
The improvised dish was a hit! Which was wonderful considering what a difficult week my kids and I have had. This weekend was the first time in the past few weeks where I felt I had enough time and enough head space to do some writing!
We stole down the stairs
Avoiding the creaky steps
Wedge heels in hand
I check my image in the mirror –
High waisted dark jeans to hold in the pouch
Three-quarter sleeves peasant blouse
Hiding all the upper jiggly parts
Hearing a honk, I exit the side door
I shouldn’t have been surprised that you jumped in the car with me
You weren’t even dressed
But you fit right in with the others
Crowding the car with talk of our escapes
And the reasons we decided to leave tonight
At the bar, even a few drinks didn’t convince you
That you should have stayed home tonight
Instead, you hugged me tighter
Constricting my heart
Keeping my thoughts on what I left behind
I looked at all the women who were alone at the bar
Talking candidly with friends
Accepting drinks from soon-to-be friends
Their jeans hung at their narrow hips
Their blouses baring the firmness of their inexperience
I look away, an awkward Cinderella who can’t wait for the clock to strike
Finally, heading home, pretending this was like old times
Despite the look of relief on all our faces
Knowing that we survived having you with us tonight
Born the minute we heard our child’s first cry…
Motherhood’s Constant Companion
Back to school season has so many meanings and emotions for mothers. So Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #202 – Mothers is so apropos! The picture I have used above was taken from Patrick’s prompt as well. I had originally thought to use a picture of mine but this photo of Patrick’s tugged at me. The innocent trust that children automatically give to their mothers (and fathers) is such a great gift but at times can also feel like a burden called guilt.
This poem was inspired by a recent MNO (Moms Night Out) – it was a spontaneous evening which was good and bad. I didn’t have time to really prepare the kids for my going out and that also meant, I didn’t have time to practice my mental gymnastics to justify leaving my kids and hubby for the night. Mom guilt is a real thing!