Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Trying to Figure it Out

I haven't been feeling so chatty lately. As if I don't have much to say -- or if I have something to say, it isn't very original or interesting. That most things have already been said before. Ever since I had my baby, I've been spending a lot of time thinking about my family and families in general -- and how to be a family now. And how to avoid some of the stresses we suffered as a family. In some ways, trying to figure that out feels overwhelming. I think spending so much time thinking about these issues and trying to dissect my family has been exhausting and makes me want to shut down a little.

A few months ago, someone asked me what I would do differently in raising our child from the way I was raised. It seems like an incredibly difficult question to answer. I didn't know how to sum up my upbringing so neatly, view it with enough detachment to see all of its holes and crevices, and then be astute enough to present solutions to those holes and crevices. At 39, I feel as if I am just beginning to understand some basic things about myself. I also feel reluctant to judge my parents and their parenting through the norms I've adopted growing up here. It seems awfully unfair and narrow-minded.

But I'm not sure how to reconcile the family I had growing up with the family life I want to create for little T. To think about this clearly, I need to be able to see my past with some objectivity, but I don't know if that is even possible. Maybe at the end of the day, there is no such thing, and all I have are clashes of values and subjective choices -- and I have to simply choose as best as I can based on my current context -- which then creates additional anxieties about unexpected future shifts that may upset my paradigm, as it happened to my parents. Or maybe we don't even really have choices in that way, and we are largely the by-product of the environment in which we grow up, what we have around us. Are any of us really capable of detaching ourselves from our cultural/social norms, instead of just bouncing around within it?

So instead of trying to figure out answers to questions that I can't answer, I've been spending my time just hanging out. Meeting with friends for lunch. Going to playgroups and swim class and music class. Shopping for little outfits for our little guy who's growing in spurts. Preparing his meals.

Immersing myself in the day to day feels like a relief somehow. Watching the little guy chew on his tractor and then flop on the green one-eyed monster and then bang on the music table, cushioning him when he's pulled himself up against the ottoman and suddenly lets go in a free-fall, pulling him to my chest when he cries out rubbing his eyes. Letting him bounce up and down in the Jumperoo as his feet thud and thud against the hard wood floor and his arms flop up and down while he squeals and giggles. Wrapping his warm little body against mine and feeling the supple, dimpled chub on his arms and legs. In those moments, I feel content, as if nothing really matters. And in those moments, I think, maybe this is the way we're meant to parent.


  1. Ah, the Baby Zone! It's amazing how simple life can be when the center of it is so cute!

    I think the best parenting advice I got was from my mother's father. He used to say that each generation takes what they liked best from their upbringing and leaves the worst behind. I do think if you had a tragic childhood, like my mother, that included alcoholism, infidelity, and physical and emotional abuse, you make a conscious decision to continue or break the pattern. But the environment you were raised in does makes its mark in other ways.

    Go easy on yourself. The greatest lesson in parenting is... there are no simple answers.

  2. Hi Shinyung,
    I think you're doing a great job just by being active doing things with your son, creating experiences you want him to have. Give yourself a break. You may never be able to reconcile both worlds because they are so different but that doesn't mean they can't co-exist. My favorite saying is, "It is what it is," for some reason when I say it aloud it gives me permission to accept things as they are sometimes. Little T is so sweet!

  3. Stay with the tight focus for now, and enjoy it. That's what he needs the most.

    It gets intellectually harder as they get older, when a hug and bottle don't fix all the problems any more.

    I think WorkingMom's comment sums up the changes from generation to generation perfectly.

    Unfortunately, it is easy to bring some of the bad stuff along too, just because it feels natural--it is what we were raised with. It is good that you are thinking of these things.

  4. Having a child has made me more foregiving or accepting of my parents, because now I comprehend in my gut how much they love and worry about me. My mom is an angry person because of her childhood, but I now understand that my parents did the best they could. And if my parents love me the way I love my son, how can I not accept them?
    I loved the description of your contented days with your son.