Thursday, August 28, 2008

Halloween costumes for the happily assimilated

Forget martial arts uniforms and geisha princess dresses this year— celebrate your kid's biculturalism the Pottery Barn Kids way! Heh.

The stylist on this costume's photo shoot had to have been an Asian American with a snarky sense of humor, right? Please tell me that was the case, b/c otherwise... Oy.

Now, what I wanna know is, where are my extremely expensive giant coconut, apple, and, of course, chocolate-and-creme sandwich cookie costumes to go with this one? [I kid, I kid!]

Yes, Halloween costume season is upon us (two months out from a holiday, that's when shopping starts, right?), and for conscientious anti-sexist, anti-racist parents, things can only go downhill from here. Happy Halloween!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sleep tight

update: Princess pony at the first day of 1st grade!

Shhh, it's the last night of summer and the kids are in bed.

Princess Pony is asleep, her thumb in her mouth. Tomorrow she’ll be in first grade. She’s out like a light, always calm in the face of new adventures. It helps that she knows her new teacher from when her big brother was in that class.

Rabbit Dragon is still awake, rolling around in my bed. He’s nervous about his new third grade class. “Daddy,” he realizes, snuggled in my blankets, “in cursive I know all the lower case letters but not the upper case ones!” I tell him not to worry; he’s got a whole year of third grade ahead of him.

Mrs. Thisislarry is in the Philippines this week on business, and she’s the one with the good to-do lists. I’m more of a ‘visualize what you’ll be wearing today’ kind of guy lately, so I’ve got to think a bit: backpacks? Check. Sweatshirts? Hmmmm. Lunch? I’ll make it tomorrow. Thank goodness the kids are older and more resilient. If I forget to pack the right Quaker Oats bar I’ll get a dirty look tomorrow, but no meltdowns.

It’s the last night of summer. Forget what the calendar says, tomorrow the kids are back in school, and that means summer is over.

Goodbye daily drop-offs and pickups at day-camps with funny names like Galileo and Jefunira. Hello drops-offs and pick-ups at good ol’ Palo Verde.

Goodbye homemade lunches of baloney, fruit and shelf-stable chocolate milk. Hello homemade lunches of baloney, fruit, and shelf-stable chocolate milk. Plus a snack.

Goodbye bad influences from unfamiliar older kids at Y camp. Hello bad influences from renowned troublemakers at after-school kids’ club.

Goodbye teeth-gnashing about “did I pick the right camps for the kids this summer? Who are these counselors?” Hello teeth-gnashing about “how’s the third grade class looking this year? Who’s this teacher?”

Tomorrow, we’re up early, got to make sure Princess and Dragon are full of waffles and milk before we all walk to the big day, see parents I’ve not seen since June, trade quick vacation stories and remark about how much the kids have grown, and don’t the kinders look smaller every year.

But for now, it’s just me awake in the house, for the last few hours of the last night of summer. Daddy duties done for another day.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

"Daddy Moments"

*simultaneously posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.

I have a condition I call "Daddy Moments."

Daddy Moments are instances when due to stress, exhaustion, or temporary lapses in cognitive fluidity, I channel the collective psyche of all dads real and fictional throughout the ages. In my brief years as a father I have already channeled the likes of Mike Brady, Cliff Huxtable, and Charles Ingalls. In my darker moments: Archie Bunker, George Jefferson, and Bernie Mac.

And, Yes, ashamedly, sometimes Homer Simpson and Peter Griffin.

A Daddy Moment can also be brought about through a real life situation that unsettlingly mirrors something suited to a sitcom. For example my earliest memories of TV are not of the programs that were shown but of my dad's ass bouncing and swaying in front of the screen as he fiddled with the knobs and rabbit ears searching for that better picture. Or driving around some indistinguishable parking lot looking for the "spot," the one that was closest to the store but inevitably was even further away from the first available spot. I had a "Daddy Moment" of this kind recently.

My children are learning to swim. Excitement over this summer's Olympics helped fuel their desire to learn. They have already had several lessons. Since the start of the lessons, my wife has taken the boys to the Y so they can get some additional practice in the water. Last week, I joined them.

It's been ages since I've been in a pool - over a quarter of a century! In fact, the last time was when my mother took me to swimming lessons when I was in middle school. Just like my not having driven a car since I was 16, the opportunity or the need never arose. If it did, there was another more pressing reason not to swim or be near a pool.

It must have been some automatic response on the part of my brain, a deep-seated -perhaps primal - instinctual tactic for survival, protecting me all these years, telling me not to appear in public sans chemise.

I am not going to say my body has been ravaged by time. Any random observer would immediately note the contradiction. Let's say instead, I was an empty vessel who is now filled quite generously with time. The wiry arms and 28 inch waist have melted into wings and a muffin top.

And of course, I go shirtless on six-pack and Bowflex night at the pool.

There I was with my wife (drooling) and kids. Pieces of me swishing and sloshing and I hadn't even gotten into the water yet. Just as I would have guffawed a little over a decade ago, if you would have told me that I would be married with children today, I would not have put much thought into advice to watch what I eat or to getting more physical activity. But here I am. Desperately fighting the battle of the bulge.

In my search for a "Why?," I came across an article in the NY Times Health section from 2004 that suggested fathers as well as mothers gain weight after the birth of a child. And it added that the more children there were the greater the potential for obesity. While there are biological reasons given for women gaining weight. Fathers suffered weight gain as a result of psychology, life style, or culture. There was no explanation given.

I don't know that one is needed. In the case of fathers (at least this one), it is enough to know that the gain is not biology but a symptom of psychology or lifestyle. Which means it can be corrected (optimistically, reversed) with much less effort than a biologic-based gain.

So here I am not only watching what I eat but when and how much. I'm taking the stairs instead of the escalator. I'm eating less sugars and (gasp) rice as I try to decrease the carbs. This and more with the intention of living up to the image of these buff Hollywood dads.

Then again I found this list on alive & amplified. She lists the qualities of a "Hot Dad." Maybe I should pay more attention to what comes out of my mouth than what I ingest. Maybe I should spend more time running around with my kids at the playground instead of letting my wife take them out by herself. Maybe if I watch what I say and do I'll end up on my family's Hot Dad list.

Monday, August 18, 2008

High and low points of the Olympics so far...

If you haven't been living under a rock for the past week and a half, you've already heard that athletes from around the world are competing in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. I have to say that I'm a huge fan of the summer and winter games, despite all the controversy of the games being held in China (insert complaint of Beijing Olympics here, human rights violations, lip-syncing cute Chinese girl, terrible tragedy cover-ups, fake fireworks displays, etc...) it has been quite interesting to watch. Golden boy, Michael Phelps achieving the impossible (shh, let's not talk about Mark Spitz reaction) has been amazing. Although my wife is not happy about all the world records being shattered due to the technology of the LZR racer swimsuits, she would just prefer them to wear the regular Speedos.

Also being able to watch the games in High Definition has been such a treat! The color, detail and resolution makes everything look better. I've been trying to get my son to watch, but since M is only 21 months old, it's been difficult to get him to be interested in it all. The only way it would hold his interest if one of the competitors was Thomas the Tank himself.

So with any Olympic games there's drama and controversy, but one thing I just can't believe is the perpetuation of stupidity and racism. Both Spanish basketball teams posed for this photo for a promotional ad to wish them good luck in the 2008 games. Was there no one among Spain's Basketball Federation to review the picture and say, "Hey wait, this isn't probably the best idea." Instead they said: "No wait, it's really funny and people around the world will think it's funny." Let's just say speaking from an Asian perspective, no laughing is going on here.

Do people perpetuate racial stereotypes because they don't perceive it as being harmful? At least that's how some of the players reacted. Well let this be a message to you, "IT IS HARMFUL AND PLEASE STOP!" I thought things like this would eventually die with time. Things that I grew up with in the school yard, incidences I would talk to my son about, but hope that he would never have to face. We call ourselves progressive and contemporary, but it's often disappointing to see examples like this. You might be interested to read about some of the player's comments here.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Seven Days a Week I'm On Vacation

Soccer Dad checking in. Been on a long-delayed vacay for the past five days. A lot of firsts: first airplane ride with a 3-year-old, first trip to San Diego (Pacific Beach, in particular), first Santouka ramen. And as you parents know, you need a vacation from the vacation when you travel with a toddler. As expected there were a couple meltdowns. How do parents of multiples do it? Back to work on Monday.


Saturday, August 16, 2008

Personality Crissakes*

*simultaneously posted on Blog for Cranial Gunk.

My wife and I have this game we play. Actually, it's a game I play. My wife participates by default. In fact, sometimes she doesn't even know she's playing!

It's a game I learned from my parents, who I suspect learned it from theirs, who probably learned it from theirs, and so on, and so on. It's called: Just like your father! (or mother depending who goes first and under what circumstances)

I like to say my boys are tenacious like me but they are stubborn like their mother. They are detail oriented like me but obsessive compulsive like their mother. I say this jokingly but underneath the humor are questions regarding the origin of their behavior. While some of it might be mimicry of my wife and/or me, I am hesitant to say that it is the sole explanation. Their penchant for certain tasks and their distaste for others is not something my wife or I have taught them.

In Child Development courses, you are told there are two primary schools of thought regarding children's behaviors and personalities: Nature v. Nurture. The former asserts that genetics is the primary factor in determining how a child reacts to a given situation. The latter favors environment; a child reacts based on how it was taught to respond and/or how it learned to respond from past experience with similar conditions.

For the most part, modern psychology has determined that nature and nurture are intricately intertwined in influencing how a child responds to different stimuli. According to Wikipedia, psychologist Donald Hebb said, regarding nature's vs. nurture's influence on personality: "which contributes more to the area of a rectangle, its length or its width?"

But where's the fun in that?

While I agree with Hebb, the notion of inherited response is too mysterious to ignore. It is easy for me to accept the physical attributes of my children being genetically determined. I have accepted that my youngest looks like my oldest when he was his age. I have accepted that my eldest has my wife's hands, long delicate fingers, where my youngest has my hands, indistinguishable. But how do I explain my eldest's preference for solitary activity just like me? My youngest finds energy in interaction with others just like my wife. How?

It is a stretch of the imagination for me to accept personality as a genetic trait. It seems too simple. imagine being deprived of everything that makes you unique - an individual. We like to think our children are "just like us," but we don't mean it. No matter how much our children resemble us or share the same physical ticks, they are only facsimiles. There is "them" and there is "us." Each an individual despite current thought on DNA.

Acceptance seems bleak to me. Acceptance means the child of alcoholics is doomed to be an alcoholic. The baby of a Crack-addicted mother will grow up to be a junky. And that's only the extreme addictions! How about the one's that go unnoticed or are tolerated? Obsessions and phobias? My mother is a "germphobe," properly: Misophobia. Is that my fate? Hand sanitizers by the gallon and wet wipes? Or worse does it skip a generation? Will my boys be so phobic that they'll live in plastic bubbles - willingly?

Science A Go Go presents personality - "the vast biological hotchpotch of emotions and behaviors that organisms exhibit" - as a result of natural selection in the animal world. Natural Selection: the process by which favorable heritable traits become more common in successive generations. Heritability being "the extent to which genetic individual differences contribute to individual differences in observed behavior."

The consequences of these statements are dire. They condemn my children to walk the footprints I've left in my journey to me-here-today. Not that I am complaining about me-here-today but there were parts of the trip I pray my children skip. They were particularly unpleasant and some even painful today despite the time.

The Science A Go Go article tells of guppies who reproduce earlier and more often than other fish as an adaptive evolutionary tactic for survival. It's a Catch-22, however. In reproduction, they are slower and more easily targeted by predators. It is similar for a spider that is so predatory that it hunts its own males, hindering the chances for advancement of the species. It takes two to tango (if you know what I mean).

The article also says recent research suggests that "barring other secondary environmental factors... personalities are determined by genetics, and that personalities can and do evolve through natural selection." The article points to naturalist, Stephen Jay Gould, who believed that maladaptive behavior could be offset by positive behavior (ie. a negative personality trait could be canceled by a positive one). So there is hope for my boys, right?

The journey to me-here-today was not always pleasant but the experiences greatly influenced my personality in positive ways (at least I think so); I like to think I approach people with an open mind, avoid snap judgements and select my words carefully knowing that what I say can hurt others. So there is a chance my children make the "right" adaptive choices and excel beyond anything I can do or provide.

In speaking about genetics and its influence on personality, I am constantly astounded watching my sons interact with each other and the world around them. Just like my parents attempted to create an environment where I would develop and excel personally and professionally, I believe I have done the same for my boys. They are a little bit me and a little bit my wife. We are strong where we are similar in traits and we are stronger where our differences compensate for our shortcomings.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

SoulSnax here. Reporting for duty!

What's it been, like two months? Sorry about that. Nothing Rice-worthy here -- I'm just touching base. So what have I been up to? Well, I've been enjoying my first summer as a full-time-dad. Sunshine and I have been bouncing through playgrounds, zipping through zoos, floating through museums, chillin at jazz clubs -- me with my Knob Creek, she with her juice box... having "graduated" from the Similac. I don't know if/when I'll ever be able to live like this again, so I'm doing my best just to drink life in. SexyPants and I also got to take Sunshine to Disney World for the first time, where she was astonished to discover that Pooh isn't just some guy in her books.

I haven't been totally out of the loop. I've been keeping an eye on RiceDaddies in my RSS feeds, so I'd also like to welcome to our two new RiceDaddies: Victor and Papa2Hapa.

Oh, and if you're a fan of this group, here's something to look forward to this upcoming fall... We're catching up with some old friends in Prospect Park a few weeks ago, when my buddy tipped me in on some news...

"Hey SoulSnax, I forgot to tell you... Guess what we did, about a month ago."

"Aww, man... I dunno, Cap'n Kirk," I replied. "What, you... performed for Obama or something?"

"No man, take another guess."

"Where were you?"

"This was out in California."

"You were on Jay Leno again?"

"No dude, we were on Yo Gabba Gabba!"

"No f***ing way! What, did Rahzel get you in there or something?"

"Yeah man, we spent the whole day there, shot some video, hung out with all the characters! Did you know they shot the pilot episode in the guy's backyard?"

"No way, really? So, does J_____ know his daddy is gonna be on Yo Gabba Gabba?"

"Yeah, he's been a fan of the show since the you first mentioned it."

"Hey Sunshine, check it out, Uncle Kirk is gonna be on your favorite show!"

"Gah-bo? Gabbo Gabbo?"

There, I did it. Now it's your turn, RiceDaddies. So what have all you other RiceDaddies been up to? Don't be shy. Let's see some pictures. Let us know you're alive.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Asian American Tween Novel "1001 Cranes" Out Now (Win an Autographed Copy!)

When I was a senior in high school, o so many years ago, I submitted a short story, set in a WWII Japanese American concentration camp, to a contest being run by LA's longstanding bilingual JA daily newspaper, the Rafu Shimpo. Like many of my generation, my exposure to the paper was via my grandmother's subscription, her copies being handed off to my parents, and then to me, every week or so, bundled up in grocery store plastic bags. When, to my surprise, I won the contest, the editor of the English-language section asked me if I'd be interested in writing an occasional column as part of their perennial quest to connect with younger readers. [Which, of course, now that I'm in the newspaper business, I know is a quest not limited to the ethnic press. Heh.] Honored by the request, I wrote an erratic series of navel-gazing columns over the next two years, looking at stuff like mixed-race identity, the evolution of community, and going off to college from a self-absorbed and self-described "hapa yonsei perspective." (It was called, wait for it—"In The Mix," natch.) If it'd happened today, I'd have been just another teenaged blogger with an audience of 1, but back then, pre-World Wide Web, an editor saw something in a kid who wanted to write, and took a chance on him. And the stuff she let me write about—race, identity, community—is the stuff I'm still writing about, 16 years later. The editor's name was Naomi Hirahara.

In the time since I met her, Naomi left journalism to tackle full-time her dream, to write novels. Naomi is now the award-winning author of the Mas Arai mystery series, featuring an LA-area JA gardener (like both her father and my grandfather) turned sleuth. And now, I'm proud to announce the publication this week of her first novel for middle-grade readers, 1001 Cranes (Delacorte Press for Young Readers).

The book follows 12-year-old Angie Kato, a Bay Area girl forced to spend the summer at her grandparents' flower shop in Gardena to avoid her parents' impending divorce. We follow her journey of growth and self-awareness as she learns to fold the titular origami wedding displays that her family's shop sells [we have ours hanging in our living room!]. I can't wait to put a copy of this on The Pumpkin's "for future reading" shelf.

Naomi's kicking off a whole bunch of SoCal readings with this coming Saturday's Japanese American National Museum's Summer Family Festival, part of the opening weekend of LA's Little Tokyo's historic Nisei Week festival. If you're in the LA area this Saturday, I highly recommend you check it out.

Now, to the contest! Naomi's been kind enough to give Rice Daddies an autographed copy of 1001 Cranes to give away to one lucky reader. All you have to do to enter is, by midnight PDT on Saturday, August 16, write in a comment on this post about one tradition—familial, cultural, whatever—you want to pass down to your kids, and why. The winner will be chosen at random (probably, if one time makes a tradition, by The Pumpkin pulling a slip of paper out of a rice cooker), but you gotta write a comment to enter.

And finally, congrats, and thanks, to Naomi! Yay, more diverse literature for kids! Go get your copy now!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Picture Perfect

When my brother and I were old enough to hold a crayon, my mother started to show us how to color, draw, paint, and throw clay.

As a youngster, the simple joy you find in making a mess, making colorful designs, and creating things from your own head, is bliss.

But, there comes a time in every youngsters life that they realize they have limited potential as an artist. You realize that you're pretty much not going to progress past stick figures holding flimsy flowers.

Not only this, you might have a sibling who you look up to, and with whom you've shared your joy for art. Perhaps you've taken turns coloring the same page of a brown-paper coloring book where the colors always look grayer, and the lines always look like chalk on sidewalk.

For me, this happened in the first grade when I was just seven years young. My brother and I went to the University of Houston's summer program for young artists. My mother enrolled us both in the camp.

It was there that I watched my brother put dots in random order on a page of white. Certainly, I was a better artist than my brother's mass of dots. I began at the potter's wheel, drawing a gray mass of damp into an ash tray fit for a two-pack-a-day grandmother.

Yes, I was that kid. Honestly, who teaches kids to make ashtrays? Actually, today we call them "pinch pots." And if you're interested in making them with your kids, use Crayola's Model Magic because it is easy as dirt...or clay.

Yes, my ashtray was rainbow colored with random clay "balls" added to the edges for beading decoration.

Of course, the mass of dots that my brother was creating, a seeming swarm of black ants tracking across the page, took shape into something magical - a dragon.

I'm not talking about your kid type of dragon that looks more like a phallus, a slug with circle wings, or a fish with dolphin flippers. No, this was a full-fledged Chinese style water dragon. Complete with beard, claws, scales, tail, and snarling nostrils that sent ashes into the heart of my ashtray, crazing the lovely rainbow hue into splinters of light.

How does a seven year old even know what a dragon looks like?

Books. Yes, we had lots and lots of books on art, culture, literature and the like. Not to mention monthly subscriptions to National Geographic which fulfilled our childhood fantasies of nakedness with pictures of globulous flesh and carnivorous animals that make Blake's Tyger have no fearful symmetry.

And so, the only explanation I have of this image being regurgitated onto the paper of my brother, is that he saw it somewhere else and remembered it vividly.

Today, he's taken it one step further and become an incredible artist with sell-out gallery openings in San Fran, Orange County, Belgium, Netherlands, NYC, and Philly.

And today, I'm a writer. Albeit not hugely successful, but having published, won awards and such, and now being a Rice Daddy, the feeling is that I'm getting my stuff out there.

So my mom did a good job exposing us to the arts. My brother and I are both MFA-ers.

So imagine my pleasant surprise that Noodle has the art bug. Or so I think. I mean, don't we all imagine that our child is gifted in some way...violin (how typically Asian of me), math (another stereotype - although i do have a pocket abacus), or reading (yes, she's ahead of the curve with the other Asian kids in her class).

As one blogger commented to me, I am slowly becoming a typical Korean dad. What that means, I have yet to figure out, but what I've done is exposed Noodle to everything I can, to allow her to make decisions herself. I try not to pressure her into anything, although she broke my heart when she said she didn't want to run track, my favorite sport that I coach, and instead, play volleyball. Well, at least she's going to be tall, I hope...knock on wood. Damn, that's laminate or veneer. Does that count?

But, Noodle having the art bug began when she was young, almost one and I gave her things to color with on big sheets of paper. Why not? Get her started early.

I'd take her to museums in DC because they were free, and air conditioned during the hot summer months of July. I took her to see paintings, and sculptures. I bought her books on Frida, took her to pottery painting places, and bought her countless markers, crayons, paints, and papers.

And all I got was this lousy brown. It was a t-shirt slogan.

I mean, mud brown sometimes. Poop brown other times. Then it became blobs of color on a page. Then, shapes on the page. And it wasn't until last year that she really started drawing things that looked like, well, actual things. Butterflies, rainbows, houses, trees, flowers.

However, nothing prepared me for the horrors of when she started drawing people with enormous hands and hair below their knees, and feet that looked like basketballs. I'll chalk it off to her expressionistic phase.

Next came the fingers that would give Edward Scissorhands nightmares. Then, the eyelashes that make Bratz dolls look tame. Of course, all this as continued to morph into figures that now resemble Giacometti sculptures. Oh, she's a modernist.

I'm not saying she's the next Modigliani, but what happened next was totally surprising.

She colored within the lines.

Yes, colored within the lines, with a single color, and began to fill the pages, and finish them, and share them with even more joy than the earlier scribbles she had. In fact, she takes them to g-parents, to my brother, to anyone who will share her passion for coloring.

Trust me, this is huge. I'm already seeing her outselling painting elephants.

Of course, I'm taking this all in stride. As you can see from the painting above, she has a long way to go before she's Van Gogh. Picasso? Probably so, but not Miro.

And what about her brush skills? Well, assuming her vigorous house painting skills she exhibited last week, I'm pretty sure she'll be able to duplicate a Pollock with little trouble.

But, the biggest moment for me came when I realized that my earlier fears and disappointments in her lack of artistic sensibility resurfaced when she finished a coloring for Uncle C, and my brother said it was awesome. I suddenly flashed back to all those moments where I had to grin and smile and say that her coloring was the most beautiful thing bestest drawing ever I'd seen, when I knew it was in large part, resembling a black hole in a sea of glitter.

I have stacks of her paintings, drawings, and scraps of papers she's made for me. And I do love them because she made them. But, I didn't always find them beautiful. Until now, when I realized that the beauty behind them wasn't in the presentation of the drawing, but the act of creating.

We as father's make mistakes, share our joys with our children, have fears for them, and fears for ourselves. But, one fear we should never let grip us, is the fear that our children will fail to become something, or fail to do something for which we can be proud. And yes, we all live a bit vicariously through our children, and want in some small way for them to become something we could not. A better painter, runner, writer, parent.

So now, I realize that every day, Noodle does something that makes me proud. Whether go to a new summer camp with new friends, or trying something new on her plate, or making a new picture for someone she loves, who is sitting there, hoping she won't go outside the lines.

And when she is finished, I tell her that her coloring is awesome. Just perfect. Just like my daughter.

(posted simultaneously at Noraebang)

Guest Post: "My Daddy's Girl I Am Not" by Mama Nabi

[We have a lot of women readers. You are our partners, our lovers, the mothers of our children, our mothers, our sisters, our friends. You are Asian American mamas and mothers of the next miscegenated/transracially adopted/panethnic/multiculti Asian American generation, our fellow travelers on this journey called parenthood. And we wouldn't be here, literally and figuratively, without you. Thus, it gives me great honor to be able to repost this meditation-on-the-father-and-child-relationship slash shout-out slash exhortation-to-us-to-get-our-fingers-back-to-the-keyboards by longtime reader/commernter/supporter Mama Nabi from Kimchi Mamas. What'd'ya say, fellas? Shall we step it up a notch?]

Last time I saw my father in person, he and I took a walk around the University of Minnesota campus. We were waiting for our ride to northern Minnesota to attend my sister's wedding. I was grumpy and resentful toward my mother and sister for dumping Dad on me. That was in 1991 and I have not seen him since. 17 years. In the beginning, it was his choice to travel as he pleased without any commitment to family; for about a decade, it is I who have enforced a filial embargo against him.

During my childhood, Dad was "dumped" on me often as Mom took my sister to her various lessons and extracurricular activities. This is how I learned to sit and watch boxing and kung-fu movies... or just sit in a corner and stay quiet. He didn't take me for walks or to playgrounds... Dad is not exactly a proponent of "quality time with your kids". Despite all those potentially bonding moments, Dad and I shared more awkward silences than I have shared with bad dates.

It did not help that whenever I screwed something up or showed my temper, Mom would cluck her tongue and say Just like your father... you can't deny the genes; you are your father. It was the most hurtful thing she could say to me and it stung. I got most of my looks from him - that was bad enough, I didn't want to be like him, be him.

Thus, I read Metrodad's story in KoreAm Journal with much interest. With equal interest (along with sympathies and compassion), I read his tribute to his father-in-law who recently passed away.

Until I went to a boarding school where I met friends who love their dads, I had no idea what a dad's role as a parent could be or should be. I never talked to anyone about my dad. I was ashamed. Embarrassed. As a child, a teenager, I somehow thought it would reflect badly on me, as if I had done something so extremely terrible for my dad to behave as he did. And as an adult, I had my notions of a good father but it barely registered to me that a good father should *gasp* interact with his child.

While I hopped from one blog to another, in hopes of finding similar voices and concerns being an Asian mom in an interracial marriage, I ran into Rice Daddies and read this intro post. Intriguing... dads think about stuff, too? Well, blast them - not only did they reshape my notion of an Asian dad, they made me question my then husband's parenting involvement... or lack thereof. I started to talk about these newfangled daddy-types I found online. I wanted him to get excited about this new resource for him. Hey, these guys are trying to figure out how to be daddies, too. Maybe you might find something in common... Nada. No interest at all. Once I practically forced him to read one of Metrodad's posts - he had asked me to help him look something up online and I told him he had to read this really really funny guy - who happens to be also a daddy.

I won't repeat the exact words he used to denounce MD's humor... it was something to do with letting his daughter eat out of his dog's foodbowl. Suffice to say, we had a mini-argument. He didn't understand what was so fascinating about guys who seemed, to him, a little "too into parenting". I know. You all may close your jaws now. No worries. I am no longer married to him.

So, am I saying that RDs contributed to my divorce? No. Well, just a little. Not in a bad way. I am grateful that they showed me who a DAD is... and what to expect from him. In a way, they are also helping me heal my own dad-daughter wounds and angst. Not just in a way that tells me my father was and is an asshole... because, yes, he is an asshole, period... but also in a way that helps me navigate my own feelings toward forgiveness. Yes. I would like to forgive my father. He was never a daddy to me, perhaps he just didn't know how - although, I know he's been a better father to someone else's children (that's another post) so I am thinking he does know. Whatever his reasons may have been, I would like to one day wake up and decide to lift that filial embargo. And perhaps be there for my Little Nabi as she will have to sort through her own feelings about my ex-husband, her daddy.

RD's have lately been spotty with their posts, however. Sorry, guys, there's no gentle way to state that. They have added two new voices recently so I am hopeful that they won't become defunct... we do need their input, their collective voice, and that "y chromosome" of which they seem to be so proud (read their tag line).

So, KM readers - do visit those daddies over at Rice Daddies, show them some love... it's not often that a blog can say that it planted the seed that grew into a divorce. (And I say that with affection...)

Do you have a rice daddy in your life of whom you are proud?

-Mama Nabi

Saturday, August 09, 2008


*simultaneously posted at Blog for Cranial Gunk.

So it begins like this...

"But Daddy, It is!"

"It isn't Q! I saw it come out of the box when she dropped it."

"But it is, Daddy! It is!"

"Q, stop it. I saw it come out of the box when she dropped it."

And do you know what? It was.

It was five Christmases ago. We were with my wife's family celebrating. The kids had been given permission to open one present each. Our eldest and the cousin closest to his age chose to open a train set. His two girl cousins, an art box filled with markers, stamps, and stickers. The one girl cousin carried the box with her everywhere she went, so you could have guessed that it was only a matter of time before she dropped it and spilled its contents all over.

I asked my son to help clean up the mess. He and his girl cousin started arguing over an odd shaped piece the latter had stuck in the box. From where I sat it looked like a stamp or something that was supposed to do something on paper alongside the markers and the stamps. Did I mention there was glitter too?

So they argued. And it started to get heated as my son, who is younger than his girl cousin, started to get frustrated. I did want I was told a good 21st parent should do. I bit my tongue and allowed them the opportunity to work out the problem themselves. I bit and I bit until my son threw a marker at his cousin.

I did the parent thing and asked gently what the problem was. They told me. It seems my son believed the odd shaped piece belonged to the train set. Girl cousin was insistent that it belonged in the art box. The box had spilled away from the train set and the piece did not look like it fit anywhere on the train or its tracks. I got sleuthy and deduced that it couldn't have been a part of the train set.

My son argued with me at first but then his frustration (and possibly something else) got the best of him and he just started to cry: "Why do you believe me, Daddy? Why don't you believe?"

My wife's sister (not girl cousin's mother) came to the rescue and asked what was going on. Girl cousin retold the story. My wife's sister said gently to my son, "Q stop crying. Why don't we try putting the piece on the train? If it fits than the piece belongs to the train. If it doesn't, it belongs with the markers, stamps, stickers, and glitter in the art box."

I was immediately struck - Why didn't I think of that?

It made sense. And it was simple. And do you know what? The piece fit! My son was right all along! My wife's sister gave him the piece. He took it to the train and snapped the piece in with the cleanest, clearest snap I have ever heard.

But he didn't gloat or celebrate his "rightness." He just cried more: "My Daddy didn't believe me! Why didn't you believe me Daddy?"

What was I supposed to do? What would my father have done? All that time earning my Masters in Education and I sat incompetent as my then only son, who gives reason to those days I just want to walk away, cried and anguished over being dismissed so easily by his own father.

So I just held him.

I held him and remembered all the times I've felt hurt and dismissed by those I held close.

I held him and told him that I was sorry and that I would work at being a better listener.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Painting My Daughter

I began writing and reading blogs just over two years. It began with my need to voice my opinion on my second trip to Korea, and as a way to communicate with my family back home, without having to "email" photos back and forth. It was a great way for them to see my adventures and to share in my experience.

At about the same time, I created my blog about Noodle (my now 6 year old daughter). It was a fun way to post ideas about being a dad, raising a vegan child, and also the need to express my feelings about raising a "hapa" child.

There didn't seem to be a lot of voices out there two years ago, until I began writing, and suddenly found voices all over the world. I was tracking comments and visitors and getting hits from people in South Africa, Australia, Denmark, Russia, South America, and Asia (imagine).

I couldn't believe that there were people out there reading my blog, no matter how small and relatively simple it was, and that they were commenting on my thoughts. It was nerve racking to think that what I said and did, might influence someone.

That is, someone I didn't know. As a teacher, and a dad, I'm always aware that whatever I do or say will eventually end up coming out of someone's mouth in the future. My actions will directly lead to their actions in the future.

No, that isn't self-importance, it's the truth.

Which leads me to today's revelation. There are two types of painters in the world (not counting those who do it as their job): those who use a heavy hand to finish quickly, and those who paint light to do it right.

I’m the kind who takes his time. I believe it was Mary Poppins who said, “a job worth doing, is a job worth doing right.” I believe if you're going to start a paint project in your master bedroom, you should do it right and clean and use a light hand and several coats.

However, when you’re a single dad who has to get the house done and you just can’t leave your six-year-old daughter playing downstairs all day, you have to let her help paint. Especially after you see her beg you to let her paint for the twelfth time in 18 minutes. And thus, you must also let her get messy and allow the wall to look a bit messy. After all, you can always paint over it.

So yesterday, as I was watching her paint the wall a light mysterious gray, I kept cringing each time she dripped paint on the carpet even though it's getting torn out and replaced. I kept gritting my teeth when she used her brush wrong to smear paint over the wall, rather than "apply" paint on the wall. And I was frustrated when she kept getting paint on herself despite my best effort to teach her to dip the tips of the brush into the paint and to hold the brush out and up.

And yet, as she smeared gray over the wall, covering the pee-colored yellow that the former owner had painted, I wanted to say something more to her. But, I realized, that I was becoming her kind of painter.

Sometimes in life, when teaching our children things in life, we dads use a heavy hand. Whether it’s for a moral lesson, or a dangerous moment when they’re about to run into the parking lot, or to get them to do something that they should have done and have refused, we dads know how to lay it on thick.

I can have long conversations with Noodle about how her actions make me feel, and how she needs to act better, and that she needs to apologize, and how it isn’t nice to not listen to daddy, and how if she doesn’t behave better there will be consequences, and that she needs to apologize again, and if she even knows what punishment and consequence means, and why she won’t listen when I’m . . .

And then I realize, she’s six and can’t soak up my ten minute lesson and all this information, and I begin to think that I’ve gone overboard. So I back off, give her a hug, tell her I love her, and hope that if I use a lighter touch, that with a couple of coats, and a good primer, the end result will be beautiful.