Let’s go out and play

Girl from the East has a new best friend and it’s a boy.

They secretly became best friends in preschool, unbeknownst to all the parents involved.

The first blush of spring delivered news that Girl and Boy were now best friends. I remember my surprise because I’d never seen the two of them so much as look at each other at school. I considered it a passing fancy.

A week later, Boy’s mother called and said Boy just had to have a play date with Girl. So, we scheduled one. All went well. Many more followed. Sometimes we had to peel them apart when the play date was over. We declared their friendship “adorable” and “sweet.” At preschool graduation, we figured the friendship would be forgotten; Boy and Girl were going to different elementary schools in the fall.

The phone calls started mid-September. First, from the mom saying that Boy, who was sad, had written notes and colored pictures for Girl during summer break. Then, the dad, when I bumped into him at the grocery store, told me that Boy was begging to have a play date with Girl because he was worried that he’d never see her again.

Yesterday was the second big play date of the school year for these two.

I took Boy and Girl to a nearby nature preserve tucked along a small river twisting through a neighborhood. Indian summer spread its buttery glow over the forest, scattering orange and red confetti to the wind, stirring the hunt-and-gather instinct. Red squirrels with nut-stuffed cheeks scampered over the leaf and stick carpet and clambered up tall oaks, barking at us as we passed underneath.  Ducks paddled along the lazy river’s edge, following us with hope of a food reward. Boy and Girl, oblivious, ran races along the dirt trails, stuffed their backpacks with leaves, slid through muddy patches, threw acorns in the river, teased the ducks, found a grassy hill and rolled down like logs, then discovered a playground and played hide-and-seek until the sun cast long shadows across the lot.

I snapped a lot of pictures. I smiled a lot.  I thought about why these atypical pairings grab our attention. When Girl has one of her gal pals over, I think nothing of the hugging and hand holding and proclamations of never-ending devotion. When this happens with a boy, I add a heavy dose of my own romanticism and idealism to it.

Here’s the thing: Boy-girl play dates are so much easier to referee, at least for this mother of two daughters. They just — play. There’s no squabbling over who gets to wear the sparkly princess tiara during dress up or who gets the Malibu Barbie when they’re playing doll house.

This little slice of sweetness between Boy and Girl is different for me and it’s been a joy to watch. It’s a reminder that there are moments of pure bliss in life, when your legs will take you anywhere, when your eyes are open to everything, when wonder and adventure await around every bend in the path.

Go outside and play with your best friend.

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Frustration

frustration

image by runningkate

I’ve lost things lately:

  • my favorite plastic sports bottle, a souvenir of my snow camping experience
  • my sterling silver hoop earrings
  • my mind

Also, I’ve lacked focus:

  • Literally. I need bifocals. I’m pretending I don’t. The faking it isn’t working anymore and it’s making me look feeble. I hope that explains all the typos in my comments around the blogosphere. I hope that explains all the pasta on the tablecloth at lunch the other day.
  • I’m job hunting outside my field of work. Where to direct the confused self when the forest trails are marked either Overqualified or Underqualified? Some days I’m resigned to signing on with Merry Maids or dressing in red and khaki and enlisting in the Target army. Other days I feel a strong desire to go to grad school and follow dreams. Some days I just shop for a roomy refrigerator box to call home.

Job hunting sucks. I’ve had it too easy all my life. I’ve almost always slipped seamlessly from one position to the next. Even during the rare times when I had a gap in my work history, I filled it with temp work.

Now I’m a woman who is halfway to 90 (as one of my drama queen contemporaries likes to say) and almost three years gone from the workplace. My line of work is no longer an option. I have a young child and outside help one day a week. This job search is like riding a bike up a mountain with one leg.

As Dr. Phil would ask: How’s that working for you?

Not so well, Phil. It’s hard to keep the momentum when you have six days between efforts.Until I find work, I can only use FREE babysitters. So far, I’ve found one who’s willing to give one day a week. I’m grateful for the day but one day does not a job search make.

I live in the state with the highest unemployment in the nation. I’m trying not to let that get me discouraged. Much.

I remain hopeful. I joined a babysitting co-op. My little one starts part-time preschool next week. Something has to give.

Job hunting in 2009 is not the same as it was in the late ’80s and early 1990s. Then, it involved typewriters and telephones. It involved pieces of paper, bulletin boards, classified advertising sections of the newspaper and talking to friends and family.

No one I know seems to have any clear answer for today’s big hunt. Get a Web site, they say. So I did. Create your own personal brand, carve out your niche, they recommend.  Still working on that one. Get on social media and work that bitch daily. I do. Although sometimes it feels as empty, cold and meaningless as, well, working some bitch. Networking? I’ve got a steep learning curve on that one. Remember, I worked as a copy editor for the last decade.

Don’t even get me started on the frustration of online application processes. Do you know what happens when you spend 45 minutes completing an online application for a specific position and then the free Wi-Fi zone drops your Internet connection?

For the first time in my adult life, I’m not sure what my role is in the world. It isn’t enough for our bottom line for me to be a mother and caretaker of the family and home. It won’t be enough for my children if I’m gone all day and tired and stressed when I get home. I’m not sure I can return to the workaholic career treadmill I ran on for almost two decades.

Does society smile upon the mother who cares for her children at home? What about the mother who decided to put her family first for a while and now seeks work? Is she given the same chance as the mother who put her career first but lost her job for economic reasons?  The workplace seems to frown upon the mother who chooses her family over her career. Society also frowns upon the mother who does not take care of her children.

There are no easy answers to any of this. One day a week I try to figure it out.

This I call frustration.

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Yin and yang of motherhood

fun

Mary, who runs the whole operation over at the Mama Mary  Show tagged me on this one. It’s the brainchild of another blogger, Her Bad Mother,who is trying to fly this one around the globe. So, I’ll do my part and then pass it on.

Five things I love about motherhood:

  • The bond of love between mother and child (The privilege of being both a biological and adoptive mother makes me appreciate this one immensely. This connection is taken for granted with a child born to you. I had to earn it with Girl from the East, who came to me at 10-1/2 months of age.)
  • Built-in excuse to play like a child (Think: swings, slides, running through the sprinklers)
  • The awesome responsibility of leading by example and leaving a legacy
  • Holidays are so much more fun with children involved.
  • Getting a fresh take on the world around me through my child’s eyes
  • Five things I don’t love about motherhood:

  • Lack of sleep (I don’t call myself a MomZombie because I like movies about the undead.)
  • The stereotypical mom look: overgrown hair, baggy clothes, practical shoes (Despite my best efforts to fight it, often I’m too tired or busy to look my best.)
  • Pregnancy was an interesting experience, but it didn’t clean up after itself. (I’ll never wear a bikini again.)
  • The disconnect of parental bonding during the teenage years.
  • Expectations of perfection: There is so much pressure on mothers from society, from extended family, from the media, from ourselves to do it all perfectly every day.
  • Since I’ve only connected with two bloggers — who are also mothers — in other countries, I’ll tag them and get on with my day.

    In New Zealand: I Love Retro Things

    In Canada: Tanya at I Should Be Napping

    Oh, and by the way, I’m from the United States, specifically, the soon-to-be Third World State of Michigan.

    Tale of two

    yellowwhite

    bluewhite

    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.

    Vulnerable mom

    My motherhood has always been as vulnerable as a featherless hatchling twitching on the pavement. My introduction to it with Girl from the West came about by surprise, so I was caught off-guard and scrambled for months to embrace the notion that I — rock ‘n’ roll zombie at the time — was going to be a mom.

    Following the birthing experience, I became a WORKING MOTHER and often felt the wrath of those who looked down upon moms who paid others to raise their offspring whilst they pursued careers to pay for their fancy shoes and expensive highlights.

    Not long after, I was a DIVORCED MOM and a PART-TIME MOM, the former was fact backed up by court records, the latter was a label thrown at me by those who didn’t support my decision to end the marriage and share custody.

    Then Girl from the West was old enough to join after-school activities. This is where I learned I was not only SINGLE MOM, but also FAKE MOM because my oldest daughter and I didn’t share the same last name. It didn’t matter that we had the same eyes, nose and laugh. I was a fake for sure according to one Brownie Scout. I suspected a few of the moms in that troop thought the same thing.

    Of course, the FAKE MOM label is perpetuated now with the arrival of Girl from the East, who was born to another woman in China and legally became my daughter in 2006. We don’t share the same eyes, nose or laugh, but we certainly have the same last name. We share just as much love as any child born to me.

    Still rather new to me is the STAY-AT-HOME MOM label, which is self-imposed since it’s how I answer the cocktail-party question of: What do you do?

    Last weekend, Teleflora sponsored a Mother’s Day contest on NBC that asked viewers to nominate women in various categories, including the NON-MOM. I guess this is a more awkward way of saying “fake mom” when referring to an adoptive mother or other non-traditional caregiver. After a barrage of complaints, the sponsor issued a fine-print apology and correction to “adopting mom.”

    In defense of all this, I call myself a MOM ZOMBIE. I do this partly because most of the time I’m staggering around in a sleep-deprived stupor. Some of it is my own doing. I stay up too late doing stuff I hate to give up: reading, exercising, making out with the Internet. I also have a big caffeine habit.

    I also do it because sometimes I have to numb myself to the negative labels attached to my caregiver/nurturer role. Despite what the world and a few random Brownies wish to call me, I love my children and would do anything for them. They call me “mom” and that’s all that matters.

    One movie, a thousand thoughts

    I’ve had my moments of despair being a stay-at-home mom: the crushing boredom, the (sometimes) lonliness, the piles of laundry and dirty dishes, and of course, the neverending supply of poopy pants.

    But nothing, I mean absolutely nothing I’ve ever dealt with in my domestic sphere compares to the horror and hell endured by this movie’s central character. I saw this over the weekend and all I can say is, if it comes to your town, go see it. Otherwise, rent it on DVD.

    It was not an easy view for the mother of a Chinese-born daughter. I couldn’t help wondering if my sweet Girl from the East would have faced a similar fate had she stayed in her land of birth. It’s harder yet to see how women have such a low standing in society and how much corruption exists on all levels of government. Hardest of all is to see the fate of many infant girls: swift death shortly after their first breaths.

    I know these issues exist around the globe and even here in the United States to a certain extent, but I’d like to believe we still have due process here and our voices can be heard if we shout loud enough. But I won’t kid you, I breathed a sigh of relief that if I’m going to be a wife and mother and stay home, at least I’m doing it in America, where I have the choice to leave the home, leave the marriage or leave the country if I wish.