Tale of two



What is it with the library?
It seems like every time I go there, I leave with a blog post. I suppose I should be grateful one institution offers so much for so little in return.

On my latest visit I walked away with two books for me, four for my girl, and a life lesson tucked in my pocket. When I arrived home, I fished it out, turned it over in my mind and decided to save it for further examination. 

So, here’s how it happened: I was hoping to find a room full of children to occupy Girl from the East so I could do some research. Instead, I found one woman and one child in a children’s department roaring with silence. 

First thought: Oh, look at the cute little blond girl with the Asian woman. She must be the nanny. 

Second thought: Shame. Shame. Bad. Bad. As a Caucasian mother of an Asian child, where do I get off jumping to conclusions?  I hate it when strangers give us the once-over and draw conclusions about our family dynamic. Why judge at all? Yet, there it was, a judgment. Plain as the nosy nose on my face.

Third Thought: Truth is, I live in an area where it is fairly common to find nannies and au pairs taking their charges to the library for story time. Many a time I’ve started talking to who I thought was the mother only to have her  wave off my questions explaining: “I’m the nanny.” Sometimes that means: No further questions.

Fourth thought (after I learned they were in fact mother and daughter): We are the exact opposite, yet we are exactly the same.  Although I didn’t ask, I’ll bet she gets a fair share of nosy questions and double-takes about her family dynamic.

Then I stopped thinking and started talking.

“Is your  daughter from China?” the woman asked from across the room.

“Yes,” I said.

“I am from China,” she said, pulling up a chair.

This opened the gates to a flood of questions and answers: What province in China? What city? How long have you been in America? Does your daughter speak Chinese? What is your name in Chinese? What did you do for Chinese New Year?

Before long, we were engaged in stories of China, raising multi-cultural children, the best Chinese markets in the neighborhood, and other moms-of-preschoolers related stuff.

At one point, our girls mistook the library for a playground and began running and shrieking between the stacks. The librarian on duty quickly stepped in. I’m sure she had an awkward moment when she attempted to match girl to mother. At first she directed my Girl from the East to the Chinese mother and the blond girl to me, then quickly switched the girls again.

There was a time when that move would have bothered me deeply. But today I just shared a good laugh with this wonderful woman from Beijing.

Then the two of us mothers gathered our things,  slipped into our jackets, and headed our separate ways. She, a dark- haired woman with almond eyes and a blond-haired child, and I, an American woman with a Chinese daughter.

Two books who cannot be judged by our covers.

Anger management – with sprinkles

by youknowlinzo

by youknowlinzo

Right now I’m counting the days until Girl from the West turns 18. I’m encouraging her to apply to colleges on the West coast.
I feel terrible inside for thinking these things, for what is happening to our relationship.
We had a row this past weekend. I suppose we both were to blame. But I am the adult. I should have prevented it from getting to that point.
It may have come down to something as simple as biting my tongue.
“We used to be so close,” Girl from the West said to me through a waterfall of tears. She’s perched on her desk chair, her long wavy hair shielding her face as she picks at a hangnail.

I’m sitting on the rug in her bedroom, my stomach in knots, attempting to reconcile the situation. There is no easy fix. We’ve moved away from the ice-cream-with-sprinkles-fixes-everything territory.

“Right now I need to be your mother, not your friend,” I tell her, working to keep my voice even and calm. “It’s my job to question what you are doing and to be concerned about your behavior. I do this out of love.”
While this sounds nice, what really happened was I launched into her about a number of things. It’s not so important what those things were. It’s more about how I decided to express myself about them.

“Mom, you are so immature!” she barked at me just minutes earlier. “You should hear the way you talk.” She then unleashed a fierce attack, ticking off incidents in the recent past of my brusque behavior behind the wheel, in line at the store, etc.
If I’m honest with myself, she’s right. I lose it a lot.  I acted like Joan Crawford waving the wire hanger at her cringing child.
Let’s face it, there have been a number of high-stress things going on in the MomZombie household. While I’ve discovered some new ways of healing and dealing with all of it, I’m a newbie and have lapses.

I’m trying to to be mindful of my acts: I am angry. But how am I using my anger? Apparently like a weapon rather than as a way to deconstruct my thinking and reactions to outside forces.

The least I could do for Girl from the West is to apologize and admit my behavior was less-than-stellar. I should know that action, not anger, is the way to reach through all the teen angst.

I wanted things to be different; I didn’t want to end up where my mother and I landed in the ’80s, with me running out the door in tears, my angry mother waving the latest contraband she found during one of her regular sweeps of my bedroom while I was in school.
If my mother had had her way, I’d have spent my teen years locked in my room reading scripture and knitting. If I’d had my way, I would have been an emancipated minor, like two of my good friends were in high school.

Obviously looking back on that, it was tragic. Teen girls living alone in apartments, away from a family unit. Some of us — I know I did — thought it was the most awesomest ever. But what did we know? How could we know?
My mother and I had such a volatile relationship. We fought brutally. We had no common ground. How could I possibly forge a strong bond with my daughter when I had this model?
It wasn’t until years after I left home and had my own child that we could begin to form anything that resembled a relationship. We are still working on it.

I’m still working on it.