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Disney’s “Frozen”

22 Mar

Disney-Frozen

I walked into the Disney store a month ago because the kids wanted to look at “Frozen” merchandise: Elsa and Anna dolls, a singing Olaf, dresses, wigs, and many more. I caught a glimpse of a sign that read, “Froze: Coming to DVD March 18.” My oldest saw the sign as well. She turned to me and asked if we could buy the “DVuhD” as how she calls them.

“We’ll come back when it’s out,” I replied to her.

The store associate nearby heard me and said, “You can preorder the movie. If you preorder it, you’ll get lithograhs from the animation, while supplies last.”

Why not? I am planning on buying the DVuhD anyway. The movie stills will be a bonus.

“Frozen” has been on repeat since I picked it up from the mall Wednesday.

Let it Go

elsa-magic

Disney is doing a better job at redefining the role of a princess. It has been some process, but it is slowly changing. “Tangled,” “Brave,” and now “Frozen.” Merida (Brave) and Queen Elsa (Frozen) have to be my favorite Disney princess/queen by far.

“Frozen” is about two princesses, Elsa and Anna, who live in Arandelle. Elsa, is born with a power to turn things into ice and snow. One day Elsa accidentally hurts Anna with her magic. From then on, Elsa isolates herself in fear of harming the ones she love. On the day of her coronation as Queen of Arandelle, Elsa inadvertently freezes her kingdom and vanishes into the mountains. Anna follows her to find a way to stop the eternal freeze. This is a story about finding oneself and the meaning of “true love.”

The film’s soundtrack is lovely. Our favorites are “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” “Let It Go,” and “In Summer.”

Queen Elsa sings “Let It Go” after she disappears into the mountains. This is when she embraces herself and her powers.

“Let It Go” is such an amazing song. There are two (US) versions: the pop version sung by Demi Lovato and the original ballad in the movie, sung by Idina Menzel. I do prefer the movie version over the pop version. And it seems many do as well, since it’s being played on the radio and it also won Best Original Song at the 86th Academy Awards.

Elsa and Miley Cyrus?

I stumbled onto an article on NPR a while ago about “Let It Go.”

Anne Powers, NPR Pop music critic, talks about Elsa and the song’s meaning. Powers stated that during the performance of “Let It Go,” Elsa “claims talent and decides that she’s going to be herself.” This song is about self-empowerment, said Powers. And I do agree. “Let It Go” is loved by many because of its theme of self-empowerment, self-love and acceptance. Elsa has been told to “conceal, don’t feel” for so long that when she freezes Arandelle and runs away, she embraces her talent and just let. it. go.

Powers continued on to say, “Every 10-year-old girl is coming out of her shell and coming into her own and she needs this kind of song to grab onto. And it’s really important that it not be overly sexual or sexy. These are girls who have been heartbroken by Miley Cyrus and her transformation. They need these kind of pure emotional songs.”

What?! How did Miley get dragged into this?

Yes, Miley is no longer Hannah Montana. The little Disney princess is gone. Miley has completely transformed herself into… well, you can guess… herself! Just like Elsa. Miley is embracing herself for who she is at the moment. How she changes in the future is completely up to her. If we are to compare Elsa and Miley, then they are very much alike. Elsa decides to let whatever it was holding her back go and be her true self. Miley did the same. She shed the Hannah Montana look and decides that she was going to be who she wants to be. Elsa transforms into a much sexier self—makeup, poofy hair, glittery blue dress with slit, and heels. Miley took off her clothes and swung on a wrecking ball.

But Elsa didn’t take off her clothes, twerk, or lick a hammer!

This is about the idea of change, self-empowerment, and self-acceptance, not about who is sexier or over-sexualized, or slut-shaming. That is another topic altogether.

My point is, when Powers mentioned Cyrus, all I could think about was, “But Miley is just being herself as is Elsa. What is wrong with that?” We cannot shame one who is on a journey to claim her identity and praise another for doing the same thing, even if the former is different from what we deem as “acceptable.”

“You can’t marry a man you just met.”

One of my favorite lines in the movie has to be when Elsa tells Anna that she can’t marry someone she just met. Anna responds with, “You can, if it’s true love.” And Anna fights for her true love, only to be betrayed and only to find out in the end that true love comes in many forms—in her case, true sisterly love. I like to believe that Disney is poking fun at themselves with Anna’s line because previous Disney princesses have found “true love” in someone they’ve just met—which we all know, doesn’t work in real life.

My second favorite line is when Kristoff exclaims to Anna, “You want to marry a man you just met?!” Even Kristoff knows it’s impossible to fall in love and marry someone you don’t know. Their funny conversation goes on with Kristoff questioning Anna to see how well she knows her “true love.”

I really didn’t expect much from “Frozen” because it is a Disney animation film. I didn’t want to be disappointed with the fantasy of true love, evil villains, or happily ever after. It just happened that one day in late November, early December (I forget), Mermaid just said we (kids included) were going to the movies and watching whatever’s playing that was suitable for children. And it turned out to be “Frozen.

“Frozen” is different from previous Disney princess movies. I have to give Disney some credit for making progress. Should I look forward to upcoming Disney princess movies? We shall see….

olaf-flower

My favorite “Let It Go” cover:

Best parody (I dedicate this to all the people who have to endure my children singing “Let It Go” nonstop:

On Santa’s lap

15 Nov

The holidays are approaching.  The mall just had their tree-lighting ceremony last weekend.  I already see Christmas decorations and Christmas merchandise in department stores way before Halloween.  Every year, Christmas seems to start earlier and earlier.

One of my family’s Christmas traditions is to take a walk down Christmas Tree Lane.  Three years ago, we went on opening night.  Santa Claus, Mrs. Claus, and the elves were there.  I asked my older child, who was 2 at the time, if she wanted to take a picture and talk with Santa.  We excitedly got in line when she said yes.  When we got to Santa, my child would not sit on Santa’s lap.  She hugged my legs as she peered at this strange man in front of her.  Before I knew it, one of the elves tried to help my daughter on to Santa’s lap, but she cried and I pulled my child away.

“It seems she is scared of Santa,” I said to the elf.  I turned to my child whose face was stained with tears and asked, “Koj ntshai Santa lod (Are you scared of Santa)?”

She nodded.

“Okay, ces peb mus xwb mas (Then we can leave),” I said.

But she didn’t want to leave until we got a picture with Santa.  So we stood next to Santa Claus and took our picture.

It’s interesting that we teach our children about the dangers of strangers, but tell them it’s okay to sit on a strange bearded man’s lap for pictures.  But that’s okay because Santa is a nice person. So is the pedophile who lost his puppy or the relative who pays too much attention to a child.

Every year, as I shop at the mall during the holidays, I would pass by the Santa station.  Sometimes I stop to watch.  I have seen children jump excitedly on Santa’s lap and tell him their long list of Christmas wishes.  I have also seen children cry because they don’t want to sit on a stranger’s lap.  I see their parents pushing them and telling them that they have to or that it’s okay.  Some even threaten, “If you don’t, Santa’s not bringing you anything for Christmas this year.”

I furrow my brows and shake my head.  This situation (or any similar) always makes me feel uncomfortable.

My family and I were at the mall yesterday.  Santa was there.  My children wanted to stop by and say hi.  My older child was happy.  The younger one did not want to go near Santa.  The visit lasted about 2 minutes.  It was an awkward moment.  Although my older child was sitting next to Santa, she didn’t talk with him.  He gave her two candy canes and a paper reindeer hat.  When her younger sister saw that, she hesitantly walked up to Santa and he gave the same goodies.  And that was it—the visit.  I asked my children if they wanted to talk with Santa, tell him their Christmas wishes.  My older one looked at me and shook her head.  The younger one just stood by my side.  So I said, “It’s okay.  You don’t have to talk with Santa if you don’t want to.  Let’s go.”  And we did.

Santa was our last stop at the mall, so when we got to the car, I reminded my children about the dangers of strangers, even if they are Santa.  “If someone offers you candy in exchange to touch your body, what do you say?” I asked in Hmong.

“No,” my older one replied.

“Yes, even if he is Santa Claus.”

Children should get a say on their physical boundaries, whether it is with Santa, a relative, or even you—the parent.  If your children do not want to hug, don’t force them.  If they don’t want to kiss, don’t force them.  By dictating that they should, you are undermining their feelings of comfort.  This tells them that they are not the owner of their bodies and should discard their instincts, which makes them vulnerable to being sexually abused.

Irene van der Zande is the co-founder and executive director of Kidpower, a nonprofit empowering and educating people of all ages to stay safe.

I have had to tell friends and relatives many times that my children do not want to be hugged.  Fortunately for me, no one has gotten offended by it (or if they have, they have not said anything to me).  Some reply, “Maybe in 5-10 minutes when they have settled.”  And in 5-10 minutes when my children have familiarized themselves with the people and surrounding, they usually run up to hug their auntie or uncle who was asking for a hug earlier.

I don’t have a say in who they want or do not want to be affectionate with.  When my children tell me they dislike someone, we have a conversation about it.  I remind them that they cannot be mean to that person, but they don’t have to like them.  Just because I am their parent does not mean I have to make them like someone they do not.  How would you feel if someone told you you have to like someone just because they are another person’s friend or relative?

Some have said that I am too liberal and giving my very young children too much freedom—which may lead to them being out of control, vulnerable to abuse, and promiscuous.  I beg to differ.  My spouse and I have rules in the house and are consistent in reinforcing and punishing our children.  I just believe that my children get to express their emotions and make decisions on their physical boundaries.  Why am I going to force my children to do something that they feel is wrong and/or uncomfortable?  Like Irene van der Zande stated above, by making children “submit to unwanted affection…, we teach them that their bodies do not belong to them….  This leads to children getting sexually abused.”

“BULLY”

26 May

My two girlfriends and I have girls night every other Friday.  This week, we decided to move girls night to Thursday because there was a showing of the documentary “Bully” at the State Theatre.  While my friends were in the lobby buying mimosa to sip on during the film, I was wondering what kind of movie my dear friend Rosabel had picked out for us.  You see, she is a person who doesn’t have the patience to take crap from anyone and has this sarcastic sense of humor.  Never serious.  If you didn’t know her well, you’d think she lacks compassion.  So, I thought “Bully” would be a comedy.

The film starts out with David Long, talking about his 17-yr-old son, Tyler, who hanged himself after enduring years of bullying from schoolmates.  This is going to be a tear-jerker, I thought to myself.

BULLY is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary.  At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of America’s bullying crisis.  Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, BULLY opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders.   It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.

“Bully” takes its viewers through the struggles of 5 families dealing with bullying.  Throughout the film, I kept having flashbacks of junior high school.  I was fortunate enough to have not been bullied in middle school (although someone did try to bully me in high school).  Everette, Kevin, Oscar, Maggie, and Elaina.  These are the names of my fellow classmates who were bullied in junior high.

BULLY

I was in the GATE/Honors program at MT Junior High School.  I distinctively remember a group of boys in my cohort bullying Everette, Kevin, Oscar, Maggie, and Elaina.  The leader of the group was Tommy.  For a while there, I felt as if he maybe thought he could get away with bullying because his father was a well-respected orchestra teacher at MTJH.

Like the all-star football players you see in movies, Tommy was popular.  He was liked by every teacher.  Probably idolized by the boys at school.  All the girls swooned head-over-heels for him (Girls even cried of broken hearts because his father didn’t allow him to have girlfriends).  I thought he looked like a lanky, big-eared dork, but of course, being the silent person that I was back then, I kept the opinion to myself.

Everette didn’t have good hygiene and came to school stinky.  He also never turned in his homework.  Kevin was awkward and a loner.  Maggie was quiet and wore braces.  Elaina was fat.  Oscar—what can I say about him?  He was part of Tommy’s bullying crew and yet they bullied him as well.  I think it was more as the I-want-to-fit-in-so-I’ll-bully-with-you-guys-even-though-you-guys-bully-me syndrome.

I never saw or heard Tommy and his friends resort to physical bullying, but the mental, verbal, and emotional bullying was very evident.  Everyday, I heard the incessant laughter from these boys whom I silently judged from the back of the classroom.  How mean and horrible can they be to these kids, I thought.  And one of them is Hmong!  Did his parents not teach him well?

Thursday night, Rosabel told me that Tommy regrets bullying his classmates.  As an adult, he realized how horrible he had been and is sincerely apologetic.

Bullying was such a foreign concept to me.  Being as sheltered as I was, I didn’t know this kind of behavior was called “bullying.”  Of course, DARE officers taught bullying in elementary school, but it didn’t ring any bells until later.  Bully is not in the Hmong vocabulary.  How could a Hmong student describe the act of bullying to their parents?  Neeg ua phem rau kuv (People are mean to me).  This translation does not even cover the depth of bullying; it simply does the victims no justice.

According to stopbullying.gov, the definition of bullying is:

… unwanted, aggressive behavior among school aged children that involves a real or perceived power imbalance.  The behavior is repeated, or has the potential to be repeated, over time.  Bullying includes actions such as making threats, spreading rumors, attacking someone physically or verbally, and excluding someone from a group on purpose.

I don’t believe that bullying is exclusive to school kids.  Adults can be bullied as well, but I shall leave that for another blog entry.

During the film, [I believe it was] the sheriff [who] stated that if there is no physical harm done to a child, then he does not consider it bully.  I was raging because I could not believe the ignorance of some people.  Bullying takes many forms, although physical bullying is the most apparent.

Physical:
This involves pushing, kicking, punching, and taking and/or throwing a student’s personal items.  It basically is aggressive physical contact with another student.

Emotional/Verbal/Psychological:
This includes name-calling, derogatory remarks, putting someone down, insults, and teasing.  Intimidation through stalking and threats would fall into this category as well.

Social/Indirect bullying:
This is when someone is deliberately left out of games and/or ignored.  This also includes spreading rumors about someone that is not true or telling others a secret they promised not to tell.

Cyber-bullying:
With the invention of the wonderful Internet and World Wide Web, cyber-bullying is born.   Harassing someone through text, chat, emails, Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking sites is considered cyber-bullying.

English: this is my own version of what bullyi...

Many adults—this includes school officials as well—believe that bullying is just a phase a child may be going through.  “Boys will be boys.”  “They are just horsing around.”  “They didn’t mean it.”  These are their responses until someone commits suicide or kills someone due to the anguish after years of harassment and ridicule.

The most heartbreaking scene from “Bully” was when the assistant principal from one of the stories insisted that two boys shake hands after what one can only speculate was a fight during recess.  At first, I was confused as who was the bully and who was the victim.  However, as the scene progressed, it became evident that the victim was the one being berated for his unwillingness to shake hands with the boy who had just bullied him.  The school administrator wanted to be fair, but her actions just enabled the bully and validated the victim’s feelings of helplessness and being alone.

I became very irritated with this administrator after Alex’s parents (one of the characters in this film) seeked counsel after finding out the level of bullying Alex had experienced.  Alex’s mom requested Alex switch buses.  The assistant principal’s reply was that she has ridden on that route many times and the children are as “good as gold,” and then redirected their attention to her grandchildren.

Is it because bullying, like many of forms of violence (sexual assault, domestic violence, intimate partner violence), is simply a subject too hard to resolve and no one has a clue about where to start or what to do?  Many schools have anti-bullying policies, but do they follow the protocols when they’re aware of a student being bullied?

My sister was a victim of bullying.  Every day, she would tell me stories of how girls at school would spread rumors about her, harass her on Facebook or Twitter.  They even went as far as to create a burn page on Facebook and attributed my sister as the creator.  This happened when she was away for the weekend with her friends, without internet access.  This had been going on since the start of high school.  The reasons for bullying?  She was dating someone they liked.  And when she did break up with her boyfriend, it was because she was the ex of someone else’s boyfriend.  She was also nominated for Homecoming and a student body position.

A couple of months ago, I answered the phone at my mom’s house.  It was the principal of my sister’s high school.  He informed me that my sister had bullied a couple of girls at school through Twitter.  She was calling them names and making derogatory remarks.  He stated that CHS takes bullying—especially cyber-bullying—very seriously, so if she does it again, she’ll not graduate from high school this year.

I asked my sister what happened when she came home from school.  She informed me that the girls who were bullying her had attacked her on Twitter (as they always did) the night before.  She got tired of their constants harassment that she finally counter-attacked by calling them names.  They made copies of my sister’s tweets, deleted their Twitter account, and showed the copies to the school administrators.  When my sister argued with the principal that they started harassing her first, he basically told her that he wasn’t going to believe her if she didn’t have any concrete proof and warned her that if it happens again, she wasn’t going to graduate.

Of course, CHS takes bullying very seriously, however, they failed to investigate who was the primary bully in my sister’s case.  I believe this is the problem school officials have when it comes to bullying.  Who is the bully and who is the victim?  Growing up, my friends and I have always joked that if your sibling hits you, never hit them back because mothers will almost always witness the person hitting back, but never the person who hit first.  And it’s quite true.  When the bully victim takes matters into his/her own hands by retaliating in some form, the bully gets away and the victim gets punished.

Bullying can lead to severe consequences: suicide and school shootings.  And it is after these tragic events that people will ask “Why?”

MB & Sam, March 2012

I was bullied in high school.  During my first week of freshman year in high school, my boyfriend asked me what did I do to a certain group of senior girls because he heard they wanted to jump me.  I couldn’t believe it.  Here I was, barely starting high school and trouble was already brewing.  The next day, a girl I was friendly with told me that her friends wanted to jump me for no apparent reason.  Well, needless to say, more and more people started asking what did I do to these girls because they were enraged with me.

I took piano class 2nd period.  It was a laid back class where you could either sit around and chit-chat or practice on the keyboard.  One morning, as I was chatting with a classmate, a group of girls walked into the room and aggressively looked around the room.  Somewhere in my gut, I knew they were looking for me.  I confirmed later on that they came in to see how I looked like.  I could not understand what was going on.  They wanted to jump me but didn’t know me and have never seen me before.  I also didn’t know them and have never seen them either.

I finally confronted them.  Meek and trembling, I asked them what I had done to them to want to physically hurt me.  The leader of the pack was actually very nice.  She said that someone had told them I was talking shit about them.  I told her know that I don’t know them and have no idea what they were talking about.  And then she dropped the name: it was the same girl who told me that her friends wanted to jump me.

I thought this girl (let’s call her C) was my friend, but it was clear that she wasn’t.  So I steered clear of her from then on.  C was a two-face.  Whenever she was alone, she’d be nice to me.  However, when she was with her friends, she would try to intimidate me through glares and stares and spread rumors about me.  I had my wonderful friend, Sam, to stand up for me.  Every time I was around Sam, this girl didn’t dare bully me.  And this was because Sam had told her off.  You see, Sam and C lived in the same neighborhood.  While walking home one day, C started up a conversation with Sam.  After a while, C turned the topic to me.  She remarked that I was this [blank] and that [blank].  Sam responded that C was talking about her friend and she didn’t appreciate it, throwing a threat or two in there as well.  And from then on, C never bothered me when Sam was around.

Having a friend to validate you and stand up for you is the greatest thing that could happen to a bully victim.  I am very grateful to have Sam during high school.  Where would I have been without my friends?

So, what can you do if you witness or know someone who is being bullied.  Stand up for that person.  Tell the bully that his/her behavior is not acceptable.  Let the victim know that it’s never their fault.  No one deserves to be treated this way.  Talk to the victim.  Be their friend.  Then let school officials, or a trusted adult, know.

If you want more information, you can go on these websites:

http://www.stopbullying.gov

http://www.bullyingstatistics.org

http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_mind/problems/bullies.html

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/bullying.html

Innocence

21 Mar
JLNX

Brown long sleeve and red sleeveless shirt with yellow shorts. She has her hair pulled back with a plastic headband.

When I look at my children, I am filled with a tingly happiness that I cannot describe.  This happiness makes me smile and forget about my worries.  I can have an emotionally draining day at work and come home to see my two beauties sleeping soundly in their beds, and I forget what a rough day it was.  Motherhood can overwhelm me to the point of wanting to pull out my hair, but when my dorksters give me a hug or a kiss, I forget why I was ready to explode.

I believe it’s my children’s innocence that make me feel this way.  They don’t know anything of this cruel cruel world, and they have yet to grasp selfishness or hatred.  They really do give their love unconditionally to everyone around them, especially their Mommy and Daddy.  I wish they could stay like this forever—happy with no worries in the world.  Such innocence come with expressing themselves in their own way, without conforming to society’s expectations (because they have yet to care about society).  They let their imaginations run free without stressing over how others are going to perceive them.

I’ve always taught my children from the day they were born that they can be whatever they want to be.  A girl can have short hair.  A boy can wear make-up and a dress.  A girl can shoot a gun.  A boy can be a ballerina.  Nothing can restrict them but themselves.  Use your imagination and anything is possible.

Because my children have always been comfortable with being themselves, they’re not afraid to express their uniqueness.  Here is a clip of my older one wearing a make-shift dress I fashioned out of a sheer curtain panel.  She proudly wore her dress with her “pearl slippers” all the way from Grandmother’s house to Great-grandmother’s house and didn’t take it off until her dress unraveled—even when my 7-year-old cousin asked her what she was wearing (in an OMG-what-the-heck-are-you-wearing kind of way).

Even though I buy my children’s clothes (sometimes I let them choose if they’re shopping with me), it’s really up to them on how they want to put it together.  “I want to dress like the rainbow,” my 4-year-old told me when I ask her how she picked her striped pink leggings, green shirt, purple tank top, brown-beige butterfly sweater, and mismatched colored socks.

A month ago, as I was dressing my 2-year-old for bed, she picked out two PJ bottoms and a top.  Thinking it was a mistake, I asked her which one she wanted to wear.  She said both.  She then proceeded to put on the PJ pants.  She asked me to help her with the PJ shorts because she couldn’t slip it over her pants.  I laughed to myself.  She thought she was the cutest kid in front of the mirror wearing two different PJ bottoms.

Brown t-shirt, rainbow striped leggings, heart PJ shorts, purple flip flops, and her blankie covering her head.

Brown t-shirt, rainbow striped leggings, heart PJ shorts, purple flip flops, and her blankie covering her head.

I had forgotten how colorfully fun life can be until I had children.  I came across this amazing quote on pinterest: “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.”  We live in a world where we are reprimanded if we break society’s “rules.”  As we age, we become fixated on how to please society and conform to the norm that we tend forget to express our individuality, whether it is through art, fashion, words, or actions.  And because we live this life, it’s refreshing when we see innocent children, who have yet to be tainted these “rules,” be themselves.

I want my children to not be afraid of others judging them simply because they are different.  I want them to be comfortable in their own bodies without feeling like they need to conform.  I want them to express their individuality to the fullest.

Top 3 parenting tips for fairly new parents

12 Sep

The most stressful time of parenthood is the first 5 years of your children’s lives.  This is a time when they are learning and are the most helpless.  Of course, I am a fairly new parent—only 4 years at my job—so I have yet to tackle the notorious adolescent years.  I will remind myself to write a blog about that stage when the time comes.

These are my parenting tips on how to make life easier for you during your children’s first 5 years.

1.  Take your toddlers off the bottle by their first birthday.
Teach your children to drink from a straw or cup (no sippy cups with spouts, please!  The sippy cups with straws is fine).  The sooner your children learn to drink from a cup, the better it is for you!  Drinking from a cup helps your children develop their fine motor skills.  Additionally, you will no longer need to make bottles, look for stray bottles hidden around the house, or clean dirty bottles.  And, your children will have lower chances of getting baby bottle tooth decay.

It’s hard to take your children off the bottle because it’s easier to console your children’s cries with a bottle.  And you don’t want to deprive your children of milk.  My mom got angry both times when I took my children off their bottles at 12 months.  She yelled, stating that I’m not feeding my children.  Hmong grandparents are the biggest advocates for bottles—They will offer a bottle to their grandchildren until they say no.

Please keep in mind that milk is different from breast milk or formula.  The latter is a food and the former is a drink.  So, if you feed your children food, they will not starve without a bottle of milk.  Offer milk in a cup instead.

Offer your child milk in a cup.

2.  Potty train your children as soon as they show signs of readiness.
If you’re like me, you’d hate to change dirty diapers.  The older your children get, the stinkier the poop gets.  Once your toddlers get curious about the toilet or is old enough to speak a couple of words (usually around 16 months and older), you start training.  Slowly start.  Buy a little potty and introduce your children to it.  Have your children sit on the potty with clothes on.  Have your children mimic you while you use the toilet, even if they are not pooping or peeing.  Don’t scare your children by initially putting them on the big toilet.  The hole is too big for their tiny bottoms and the flush may just scare them away.

Of course it’s going to require a lot of effort and patience on your part at first, but it’ll pay off in the long run.  (Don’t give up.  Do a lot of positive reinforcements and please don’t punish).  They will graduate from the tiny toilet to the big one and pretty soon, all you’ll have to worry about is helping your children up onto the toilet and wiping after they’re done.  Then, once they can reach behind to wipe, your children will do it all by themselves.  You’re a free parent!  No more stinky diapers!

During a discussion about potty training, my aunt told me that she doesn’t have time.  And it’s more convenient for her if her child wears a diaper.  If her child needs to poop or pee, she wouldn’t have to rush to the bathroom.  She could change the dirty diaper whenever she has the time to.  I find this quite backwards.  You’re going to have to potty train anyway, so why delay it?  The sooner you potty train, the more time you will have on your hands.

Potty train your child.

3.  Make sure your children have regular sleeping patterns.
I cannot stress this enough.  Your children need their sleep.  A toddler needs about 12-15 hours of sleep per 24 hours.  This is a time for your children to grow and recharge their energies.  Make sure your children have a regular bed time, usually around 7pm or 8pm.  Sometimes your children may not want to go to sleep because you’re not sleeping, especially if you share the same room.  They will most likely cry and fuss—and it will be hard at first—but they need a set bedtime.  Tuck your children in, turn off the light, and leave the room.  Don’t worry if they don’t fall asleep right away.  And make sure they stay in bed.  This will condition your children to sleep at a certain time.

Naps are also beneficiary in the same way that sleep is, so do not discourage them.  Naps are also a parent’s down time.  This is when you can get things done around the house and/or recharge your energy as well.  If your children no longer nap, make sure they have a quiet play time.  Sleep is essential.  When your children are well-rested, they are more likely to listen and behave.

Sleeping is a necessity for growth.

That’s it!  Those are my top 3 parenting tips for fairly new parents like myself.  No bottles.  No diapers.  And regular sleep.  If you have any tips yourself, please leave them as a comment below.

The value of a son

28 Feb

I read a blog post last night by MK Chang about the “requirement” for a Hmong couple to have at least one son.  MK Chang is a married Hmong American with children, like myself.  And like most Hmong married couples with no sons, MK Chang and her spouse are pressured by family to have at least one son.

I have 2 beautiful healthy daughters.  That is more than I could ever ask for.  And that is all the children I will have.  I spoke to my dear spouse about my decision to only have 2 children and he agreed.  The first reason why I want only 2 children is because I know what I can handle, and I know that I cannot handle more than 2.  My mom took care of 7 children by herself after my father left.  I have only 2; I also have the help of my spouse, and I’m already pulling out my hair when I get overwhelmed.  I don’t know how she did it.  What I do know is that it was very hard for her and she sacrificed a lot for my siblings and me.  Knowing that my future will involve work and family, taking care of more than 2 kids is something I know I cannot pull off.

The second and last reason is my dear spouse and I are not financially secure to have more children.  We have only one income and that income is sufficient for only the 4 of us.  I choose to not work and be a stay-at-home mom until my children go to school.  Once they start school, I will start on my career.  Once I start on that, no more children for me.  I want to spend my children’s early years with them.  Research has shown that the first 5 years are the most crucial in a child’s life because they provide the basis for brain development and function.  These years shape the child’s future coping and learning skills (social and emotional) as well as overall happiness and growth.  And because of this, I don’t work so I can be there to stimulate my children’s brain, love and nurture them so that they can develop a sense of trust and security that I didn’t have growing up.

Everywhere I go, Hmong people bring up the discussion of having more children (specifically sons).  This is usually how our conversations would go:

“Are you going to have any more children?”
“No.  Two is enough.”
“You don’t want a boy?”
“Nope.”
“You should try for a boy.”
“Why?”
“So that your husband can take him fishing and do ‘boy’ stuff with him.’”
“If you mean outdoorsy activities like fishing and camping when you say ‘boy’ stuff, then he’s already doing that with our daughters.  He doesn’t need a boy to do ‘boy’ stuff with.”
“Well, at least have a son to carry on your clan name.”
“I don’t want any more kids.”

I don’t believe in having children for their gender.  If I did, I would have saved up (or racked up credit cards) for in vitro fertilization.  I would be able to have as many girls and boys as I want.  But no, having a boy was not my motive when I decided I wanted children.  It was simply just that: I wanted children.  Happy.  Healthy.  Children.

Males are highly valuable assets in the patriarchal Hmong culture.  Like I’ve stated in numerous blogs, the males are the ones to carry on the clan name and care for parents in their golden years.  Females are viewed more as a liability than an asset.  Because of the way the Hmong culture is set up, when a woman marries, she takes on her husband’s clan name and becomes his “property.”  She no longer has ties to her biological family and is considered an “outsider.”

Back in the “old country,” you had to have a lot of children to help out around the house and farm.  And they cared for you as you aged.  Children, especially sons, were a means to an end.  The more sons you have, the more likely you’ll be well taken care of when you retire.  And why should parents value a daughter when she will get married and leave?  Like all traditions, they make their way into the “new world.”  And it is in this “new world” that belief systems collide.  For someone like me, who grew up in the US and has embraced my own beliefs, it is difficult when culture and family pressure you to have more children simply because you have no sons.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, I do want a boy.  What if my third child is another girl?  Then what?  I try and try again, yet girls pop out one after another.  Should I try again after my 11th daughter?  (Believe me, I know people who don’t stop until they’ve reached their desired number of boys even if they have a gazillion kids running around).  No!  That is why I don’t believe parents should continue to have children for a desired gender.  My parents had 7 children (5 girls and 2 boys) because of this so-called “requirement.”  I don’t want to have 7 children that I know I cannot financially support just because of my greed to have sons.

In today’s world, it shouldn’t matter whether we have daughters or sons, but what that person does with his/her life.  You can have a son whom you value above all, but it doesn’t mean anything if he is unmotivated and sits at home all day playing Black Ops.  How will he take care of you in old age with that kind of disposition?  I see more and more Hmong daughters becoming independent, striving for their dreams, and making something of themselves (to prove to their culture and family they are not just a liability).

I am a proud parent of my children.  I will teach them that they’re worth everything life has to offer and no silly Hmong belief or tradition should make them feel inferior to the opposite gender.

I am not Hmong; And I don’t speak Spanish!

2 Sep

hmong-1

A few of years ago, Dear Spouse’s niece exclaimed, “Auntie, I know how to say door in Spanish.”“Dora, the Explorer” was one of her favorite children’s television shows at that time.  I wondered if she had learned that from “Dora.”

“How?” I asked.

Qhob rooj!”

I gasped in surprise,  “That’s not Spanish!  That’s Hmong.  And the correct way to pronounce it is ‘qhov rooj.’”

Two years ago, the same niece got offended when I told her that she is Hmong.

“I’m not Hmong.  I’m American and I speak American,” she stated.

She does have a point; she is American.  She was born here.  She lives here.  She goes to an American school.   She learns about the American culture, history, and language at school.  But she can’t deny the fact that no matter how American she wants to be, she will always be Hmong.  Even if she labels herself as “American”, others are going to label her as either “Asian (Asian American)” or “Hmong.”

My spouse’s is not the only one.  I have witnessed too many small Hmong children who are ignorant about their culture.   Too many Hmong children don’t speak their native tongue and don’t even recognize the Hmong language when they hear it.  Too many Hmong children don’t know what the essence of being “Hmong” is about nor do they have pride that they are Hmong.

Who is to blame for ignorant Hmong children who believe their grandparents speak Spanish?  Who is to blame for Hmong children refusing to claim their heritage?   The parents.

Growing up, I didn’t have cable TV or watch American movies like my peers.  My mom bought Hmong movies and Asian movies dubbed in Hmong for my siblings and me.  If it weren’t for those Hmong movies, I believe I would’ve lost my ability to speak Hmong a long time ago.

My mother taught me how to do cross-stitch embroidery when I was 8.  We would spend every year embroidering new clothes for the Hmong New Year.  And once New Year came around, my mother would not hear that I did not want to wear the new Hmong clothes she sewed.  No matter how much I complained, I ended up going to the Hmong new years in our traditional clothing.

KLS was a very popular Hmong band during my pre-teen and adolescent years.   Like many other Hmong girls who crushed on them, I learned how to read and write in Hmong by singing along with the lyrics that KLS generously provided along with their albums.  It’s funny because I can’t even remember the band member’s name whom I crushed on.

These are just a few examples of how much I was immersed in the Hmong culture growing up.

My baby sister is very different from me.  We have the same mother, same family, almost same living environment as children—except for that, my mom stopped trying to “Hmonganize” us in my late teens (My sister was 6/7).  I guess, my mom just accepted the fact that we are in America and no matter how much she tried, our traditions are slowly melting away in this huge melting pot.  And because my mom stopped trying, my sister hardly understands when anyone speaks to her in Hmong.   And like many Hmong children nowadays, she doesn’t want anything to do with the Hmong culture.   All she sees are the negative aspects of our Hmong society that stick out so much more than the rich and beautiful culture hidden underneath.

JLNXX

My child in Miao clothing during Hmong New Year in Fresno, CA.

That is why now; I try my best to immerse my children in our Hmong culture so that even though they see the negative, they know that there is also a positive.  I teach them as much from my knowledge as possible.   I speak to them in Hmong 90% of the time.  I introduce them to Hmong movies and Hmong music.  And once they’re older, I would love to enroll them in a Hmong class as an elective.

Whenever my children have questions, I try to answer them to the best of my abilities.

“Mommy, nws ua dab tsi nab (what is that person doing)?” my older one asked when she saw a Shaman for the first time.

“Oh, he is called a Shaman.  And the little table he is jumping on is his horse.  He is traveling to the spirit world,” I responded in Hmong.

“Why does he do that?”

“Because they just had a baby in this family.   They are doing it for the baby and the mommy.”

“Oh.”

It’s hard to hold onto our native culture when we live in America.  We, especially our children, assimilate too fast to the mainstream American culture.  I am trying my best, as a mother, to make sure my children get the best of both worlds.  I want them to know at least something about their culture, even if it is just to be fluent in Hmong.

I know that learning and speaking English is inevitable.  I worry that once preschool and kindergarten comes around, my child will lose her ability to speak Hmong (like many Hmong children I know).  However, just because I don’t speak English to my children doesn’t mean I am preventing them from learning English.  In fact, my older one has started speaking English from observing everyone around her.  And when she does, if her grammar is incorrect, I correct her. “It’s ‘Mommy, is that mine?’ Not, Mommy, that mine?”

I am cherishing the days when my child would rather watch Hmong movies over cartoons.  When she sings Kwv Txhiaj and carries her kawm around.   I know they will go by fast because I have already started to see the changes.

I don’t want my children to be ignorant of their ethnic culture.  I don’t want them to say that they’re not Hmong and that they don’t understand “Spanish.”  Too many Hmong children don’t know what Hmong is.  I am proud that my daughters knows how to speak Hmong and loves to be Hmong.  Little kids may ask me why my oldest is speaking “Spanish” to them.  I just laugh and reply that she is speaking in Hmong, not Spanish.  Grown-ups may say that my child is very MTT (a FOB)** , but I just shrug and say, “I didn’t know that was a problem.”

**(Because someone asked).

MTT stands for “Hmoob Thaib Teb (Hmong Thailand).”
FOB stands for “Fresh off the boat.”

A FOB is an immigrant who is “fresh off the boat” and is ignorant or not up to date with the mainstream culture or not “Americanized.” It is sometimes used as a derogatory term. MTT means the same thing, only except that it is a specific term for Hmong people.

Baby leashes

28 Jul

It’s cute.  It’s cuddly.  It’s soft.  But most importantly, it keeps your child safe.  It’s been around for years!  Every parent recommends it.  Every parent needs it!  If you have small children and care for their safety, why not get one?  BABY LEASHES!

Child safety leash backpack.  Child safety harness.  Child 2-in-1 safety (leash and backpack).  Baby leashes.  Do I hear a “woof woof” anyone?  Who invented this contraption anyway?!

Every time I see a child in one of these awful things, I think to myself, “Self, what kind of poor kids have parents who believe that it is okay to tie their child up like a dog?”  Might as well buy a collar and kennel too.  And what makes it worse are the parents who don’t allow their child to lead while wearing this “backpack.”  Instead, they drag their child by the leash.  “Come here!”  [Yank!].  “Ow!  Mommy, that hurts!”

I don’t understand the concept of putting your child on a leash.  The people at 4coolkids.com advertise baby leashes as,

Excellent for families with toddlers and small babies.  Allows you to tend to your baby while knowing where your toddler is.  A chance you can’t afford to take.  Adventurous toddlers and public places just don’t mix.  It’s all too easy to lose hold of your child’s hand in a crowd, or lose track of him among racks of merchandise.  That’s why we recommend this tether.

[Hmmm...]  Even after reading that persuasive justification, I still don’t buy it.  (No pun intended).

I’ve read reviews on these things.  “Great product!”  “Great for going on walks!”  “Gives me a sense of security and my child freedom.”  “Only wished the cord was longer.  (Perfect, they should make retractable cords, just like retractable dog leads).”

I have two daughters.  Jade is 3 and Sage is 1.  They’re both adventurous, energetic, and touches everything in sight.  I take them everywhere I go.  At the grocery or department store, I usually put Sage in a cart and let Jade walk beside me or hold my hand.  And when Jade wanders too far, because she usually does, I either quickly follow her or tell her to wait for me and we’ll explore that section of the store together.  The mall, the zoo, the park, walking in the neighborhood, they’re all the same.  No leash.  Holding hands is perfectly fine.  For Sage, the stroller works just fine.

My aunt bought a baby leash for my cousin.  She explained that because he’s a boy, he’s too naughty, so he needs one.  He is 4 and I do babysit him from time to time.  I don’t find him any different from any other children at all.  When you’re firm with him and explain to him why he cannot do something, he understands and listens to you.  The first time I took him to the neighborhood park, my aunt was reluctant to let him go.

“He’s too naughty.  He’ll run off.  You can take him if you want to.  Let me get his leash.”

“No thanks.  I’ll just have him hold my hand.”

And he listened just fine.  He did not run into the streets.  He did run a bit ahead of us, but when I told him to wait for me to cross the street, he did.  The problem with him is that because his parents believe he is more naughty than he really is, they don’t take him anywhere.  So when he does get the chance to go somewhere, he wanders off.  And that is usually how it is with children (and adults).

If parents are going to complain that holding hands is not enough, well, isn’t holding a leash the same has holding a child’s hand?  Let’s see….  You hold the leash.  You hold your child’s hands.  If you grasp is not tight, when your child tries to run off, the leash (or your child’s hand) will fly out of your hand.  If someone wanted to take your child, the leash isn’t going to stop that person.  Chances are, any kidnappers will be more likely to take a child that is 2 feet away from you than one who is right next to you, holding your hand.  Baby leashes are a waste of money.

If you feel that you need to restrain your child, put your child in a stroller or cart.  You don’t want your child to come to you when s/he is a teenager or adult and say, “Gee, Mom (or Dad).  Thanks for putting me on a leash.  It scarred me for life.  Now I can’t even stay in a decent relationship, find a job, or live by myself.”