Tag Archives: parenting

My Baby Sister Grows Up.

So, my baby sister turned 18 years old yesterday and I’m a bit of a stressed out worried mess right now.

I’m mortified for her.  Why?  Because she’s officially in charge of her life.  Neither I or my mother can dictate to her now what time she’s to be home, what she can and can’t drink, that she can’t do drugs, that she can’t date x, y, and z, that she must go to school, that she must do anything good for herself.

This reality both deeply panics and relieves me.  As an older sister, 9 years her senior, I have not been the most perfect elder sibling (in my opinion), but I have tried my best.  Namely, I’ve always tried to protect her from harm and guide her towards safety, wholesomeness, and working for her dreams.  Quite honestly, I didn’t do this in the healthiest way possible.  While we were growing up, I didn’t really know any other ways so I scowled, screamed, guilted, grounded, and spanked.

Not all the time, of course, but when I felt “the fear” and therefore, that she “needed to be taught a lesson for her own good.”  I don’t regret my intention, which was to protect her from the perils of the world or to teach her how to stay out of harm’s way, but I do regret many of the methods I used in doing so.

Over the past 2 years, however, I’ve become really conscious of the dysfunctional 1950s Dad-style discipline I was inflicting on the person I loved the most and its ramifications on our relationship.  I sadly realized that a distance and distrust had developed on both our ends towards each other while I was “teaching her the right way and protecting her.”

She, like her older sister (me 😉 ), has turned out to be much of “A Wild Child.”  The only difference between the two of us is that she started at age 12 and I started at age 18, and I knew how to hide it well.  I was a straight-A student and career-driven workaholic. My motto was always, “Work Hard and Party Hard.”  Also, there’s a saying in Cuba that goes “Si nadas desnuda, guarda la ropa,” which translates to “If you swim naked, hide your clothes.”  I did just that.

My little sister, on the other hand, wears her “wild times” on her sleeve just like her big heart.  A sweeter, more loving and loyal sister, I could never have asked for.  She’s as endearingly transparent as a puppy who sees the front door wide-open.  Therefore, I ALWAYS know — whether she tells me or not — what mayhem she’s getting into or about to embark upon.

Yet, over these past 2 years, through my own personal healing and self-discovery, I’ve learned that all I can do as a loving and supportive older sister to HELP HER is: A) Let her make her own mistakes B) Love her through them, without guilt trips or harsh judgments and C) Show up for her whenever she needs me, but not at the cost of my sanity.

This is fucking hard … and also, spiritually liberating.

I have to accept more and more each day there’s a limited amount of things I can really do for my baby sis’, at this point and for the rest of our lives, because, as of yesterday, she’s a grown woman.  They go as follows:

1. Listen to her (without judgment)

2. Love her  (without expectation)

3. Give her advice (without forcing her to take my advice)

4. Show up for her when she needs me (without enabling her misbehavior or sacrificing my sanity in the process)

5. Let her make her own mistakes (without worry and fear for her safety … as much as possible)

6. Breathe in & Breathe Out (without thought)

7. Pray for her (with complete faith)

8. Trust she has her own God (in complete surrender)

9. Trust that she’s going to be more than “just fine,” but in fact “Great”

10. Blog about it

and

11. Eat some dynamite cake.

CONNECT 4 CHAMPIONS: TIED AGAIN


Stabbing “The Brass Ring” in tha’ HEART.

Well, I haven’t written a blog post in almost a week.  Strange feeling since I’ve been blogging almost every day since the year began.  Liberating feeling since I was blogging on a daily basis because I had something — YET AGAIN — to prove to myself.  Oh brotha!

I’m glad 2011 is the year of stabbing The Brass Ring — concept and way of life — in the heart and laying it gently on the ground to die.  Like I mentioned in a previous blog post, I’m dedicating this year to cultivating the 5 primary characteristics that, in my experience, open up the depth and dimensionality of my perception and thus make me feel most wholly fulfilled:

1) Humility 2) Gratitude 3) Compassion 4) Fearlessness 5) Peace

Definition of The Brass Ring according to:

Webster’s Online Dictionary: The Brass Ring: US Informal: A very desirable prize, goal, or opportunity.

Wikipedia: The brass ring as a term also means striving for the highest prize, or living life to the fullest.

TheFreeDictionary.com: n.Slang An opportunity to achieve wealth or success; a prize or reward.

This is how I’ve come to identify and pinpoint The Brass Ring: It pulsates at the center of your Ego — as its primary desire.  Your Ego’s sole purpose in life is to achieve it.  Your drive to get The Brass Ring corrodes the pure joys of your spirit with “alterior motives.”  Let’s take, for example, 2 types of filmmakers:

1) The filmmaker who is one because they like being called “The Filmmaker.”

2) The filmmaker who is one because they really love making movies.

Often times, the filmmaker who likes being called “The Filmmaker” began as a person who loved making movies, but over the years their Ego grew more powerful than their spirit.  Consequently, their quest became being called “The Filmmaker” as opposed to making movies they love a.k.a. their quest became about The Brass Ring.

A book was recently published explaining how to raise Brass Ring-driven children. It’s titled Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and is summarized by NPR (click here to listen to the 11 min podcast) as:

“Strict, uncompromising values and discipline are what makes children raised by Chinese parents successful. That’s the message in a new parenting book by Yale Law Professor Amy Chua. “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother,” based on Chua’s personal experiences has raised questions about whether the book reinforces stereotypes of the unsparing Asian parent.”

Or read The Onion’s hilariously brilliant summation:

New Parenting Book Sparks Outrage

Last week, Penguin Press published Amy Chua’s book Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother, which criticizes “Western” parenting and advocates an “Asian” approach that includes forbidding playdates and being highly critical of children in order to make them more successful. Here are some other tips from the book:

  • Take your children to Chuck E. Cheese’s and let them play any game they choose, then make them watch as you burn their tickets
  • Ice cream is a great motivator for kids; promise them that if they do everything you ask, they can have some when they turn 18
  • Inform your child that televisions receive all of their power from flawless renditions of Brahms’ Violin Concerto in D
  • Only let your children have a pet dog if they can tame the most rabid dog at the pound
  • Should your child express interest in spending more time with his or her friends, simply pack up and move several hundred miles away
  • To ensure academic excellence, inform your children that there is a mark higher than an A-plus and then shame them for failing to attain it
  • Replace their frail little limbs with less fragile prosthetics
  • Remember, you may have to put up with one or two suicides before you finally craft that perfect child you’ve always wanted

Mind you, I have yet to read the book.  I plan on it.  For now, however, I’m just enjoying reading other people’s outcries about it a.k.a. watching us react in horror toward/abhor a darwinistic way of thinking that we Americans — Chinese, Cuban, Jewish, Indian, Anglo-Saxon Protestant, etc  — have ironically been taught to regard as “ambitious” and “industrious.”   Of course, Americans live the varying degrees between the opposite extremes of The Brass Ring way of life.  Obviously, we’re not known the world over for our overachieving attitudes.  Still, The Brass Ring way of life exists at the core of our national spirit, raging with the ferocity of adolescent hormones: “Compete and win.  Prove you’re the TOP DAWG!”

Even our president Barack Obama, in his recent State of the Union address, declared he’d tenaciously go after The MOTHER of Brass Rings:

“…So, yes, the world has changed. The competition for jobs is real. But this shouldn’t discourage us. It should challenge us. Remember — for all the hits we’ve taken these last few years, for all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. (Applause.) No workers — no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.

What’s more, we are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea — the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny. That’s why centuries of pioneers and immigrants have risked everything to come here. It’s why our students don’t just memorize equations, but answer questions like ‘What do you think of that idea? What would you change about the world? What do you want to be when you grow up?’

The future is ours to win. But to get there, we can’t just stand still. As Robert Kennedy told us, ‘The future is not a gift. It is an achievement.’ Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.

And now it’s our turn. We know what it takes to compete for the jobs and industries of our time. We need to out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world. (Applause.) We have to make America the best place on Earth to do business. We need to take responsibility for our deficit and reform our government. That’s how our people will prosper. That’s how we’ll win the future. (Applause.) And tonight, I’d like to talk about how we get there…”

I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with striving to realize one’s full potential on an microcosmic individual level and a macrocosmic national level.  I feel that, in fact, it’s the duty of every human being to do their personal best.  I’m questioning the motivations behind the drive.

Do you work hard on bettering your nation so that it’s considered better than all other nations or do you work to better it so that your citizens live a healthy and fulfilling quality of life?  Do you study for countless hours so you can Ace the math exam to prove to yourself and others that you’re an “A” student or do you study to learn the material and take pride in the “A” grade because it ultimately reflects how much — through hard work and dedicated focus — you learned on the subject matter? Do you make a caliber kick-ass film in order to walk down the red carpet, screen at Sundance, and win an Academy Award in a designer dress or do you make a caliber kick-ass film in order to connect with other human beings and hopefully add to their experience by sharing a story that exposes and explores a subculture dear and meaningful to your existence?

I’m truly coming to understand in my old age ( ;p ) that intention decides the consequence of an action because it points that action toward a direction.

For instance, I was researching and compiling a list of bloggists and blogs, which inspire and teach me, where I’d like to submit my book for review, and I came across this fantastic article in The Guardian about a Japanese woman who became a best-selling poet at age 99.  She sold 1.5 million copies of her first book — a self-published collection of poetry — “in a market where 10,000 is seen as a success…”

I immediately clicked on the piece and read it from head to toe.  I was profoundly inspired by it.  I had to ask myself, “Why am I so elated?”  What was it about her story that so inspired me?

Was I inspired because of My Ego’s obsession with The Brass Ring?  In other words, was I inspired by the story because the Tiger Mother inside, that part of me that says “WIN so you’ll KNOW you’re not a failure,” is thrilled at the prospect that I have until age 99 to prove I too can become an overnight-sensation best-selling poet?

Or was I inspired because, according to the article’s description of her, she’s a humble, grateful, compassionate, fearless, and peaceful old woman who brazenly took up the pen as a new way to express the pure passions of her spirit when her body became too old to continue realizing them through dance?

“She was encouraged to write poetry by her son, who is in his mid-60s, after recurring back pain forced her to give up her lifelong hobby of classical Japanese dance.”

Quite honestly, I’m sad to say, that my ego was inspired first.  It became inflated to exaggerated proportions with grandiose visions of receiving public acknowledgment, reverence, and acclaim.  The Brass Ring dangled before my Ego like a Cannabis Card before a stressed out pot-head.

The spirit beneath my ego, however, squirmed … writhed with disapproval.  I can no longer react blindly toward the whims of my ego — I can no longer give into its lazy and polluted cravings.

If I’m ever going to be substantially fulfilled, I must remain aware of my tricky Ego and its Brass-Ring drive.   Consequently, I must think, feel, and act opposite to its inclination.

THUS:

I may never be a best-selling poet or give a presidential speech or have a film premiere at Sundance.  These “nevers” are very real possibilities.  I may, however, create fearless works of art and honest thought, which one day lead me to proudly proclaim, like our 99-year old poet, “Thank you, I am really happy.”  Those, I believe, are very real possibilities too.

Thanks for being an example of humility, gratitude, compassion, fearlessness, and peace, Toyo Shibata.  I can’t wait to order your book.  Big hug your way! 🙂

I really do believe that choosing to be a citizen rather than a simple consumer is an essential, deliberate, and potentially-radical act. – Darren Hughes


Not at “Ceviche Loco” — Contemplating Birthing & Raising Children

Well, I’ve decided to relax on the “Ceviche Loco” today because it requires driving in rain.  Whereas “Tacos Mexico” is conveniently right next door to my office.  I’m a native Los Angeleno without a proper car defroster and a broken air conditioner, and I hate driving in the rain.  It’s sticky and sweaty and blurry.  You may ask, “why does this chick need an air conditioner in the rain?”  I don’t.  I just wanted to let you know it was broken.

So, my aunt’s friend is visiting from Mexico with her 12-year old son and I gave them a ride to the local mall this morning.  They were going through the regular mother-child banter.  He’s got a cold, she wants him to put on the extra sweater.  He says he’s hot and doesn’t need the extra sweater because he’s “FINE.”

The back and forth of  “put on your sweater, I don’t want you to get sicker” and “I’m hot.  I don’t want to.  I’m FINE” continues for about 15 minutes.  Honestly, I wasn’t annoyed or irritated in the least.  I actually found it quite endearing … like when I watch mother lionesses on “Animal Planet” teaching their lion cubs how to survive in the wild.

I got to thinking again — as I have this year more than any year before — about “having children.”  I’m 27-years old and a growing number of my female friends are either getting pregnant, getting engaged and talking about pregnancy, or hurting over the fact that they aren’t pregnant because they want to be a mommy “sooooo bad.”

I really enjoy living in a neighborhood with lots of families.  It’s refreshing and invigorating to watch parents play with, teach, and love their little thems.  I like kids too.  They’re prime proof that Nature is ONE SMART MOTHER.  Kids are the cutest, most adorable, funny, inquisitive, endearing useless little pieces of life on earth.  They’re completely co-dependent on another for survival and do nothing but swallow the energy, knowledge, attention, and money of those they depend on.

Yet we’d die for them and sacrifice our last piece of bread if it came down to choosing between feeding our hungry mouths or theirs.

Many of these baby-wanting women in my life also yearn to carry a mooching, growing, draining tadpole-ish creature in their belly for 9 months.  A parasitic specimen, which will mercilessly feed off their body’s nutrients, throw their hormones out of wack, stretch their body to uncomfortable proportions, and finally, force them to endure the potentially fatal adventure of pushing a fully formed human being out of their vaginas in what has been described as pain SO bad it’s “worse than sitting on a hot iron cow-brander and spinning.”  Or something like that…

Lesbians, Straight & Bi-Sexual women, those with booming mula-making careers and taxing minimum-wage 9 to 5-ers, are similarly going through this HARDCORE “I want to have a baby soooo bad” phase.  I honestly don’t know much about men’s need to procreate since I don’t hang with that many and when I do we rarely talk about “babies” or “raising a child.”  We tend to banter more about art projects and the real hoebags/housewives of new jersey.  I mainly hang out with gay men — Bears, Cubs, and Otters to be exact. I’m not saying they don’t want babies and BAD, they just haven’t talked about it much with me.

So I’m sitting in the car with this woman and her child FEELING the unconditional love between them.  They bicker over his sweater.  Essentially over his health and care, and I wonder to myself…AGAIN…

Do I want to bring a baby into this world or raise a child (whether I give birth to it or not)?

Reactively, the base of my gut releases a claw that grabs onto blood cells and rushes throughout me in a thick dark red stream, speeding up my heart beat. It explodes at the tip of my spinal cord spreading, like electricity, through the metropolitan cities of my mind. Finally, it cools and solidifies into these three words: HELL-FUCKING-NO

HELL-FUCKING-NO I don’t want to give birth or raise children! … But why?  WHY? I like families.  I like kids.  I think mother-child relationships are beautiful and priceless.

Why then has my biological clock been dipped in acid?

What killed my need to mother? Maybe painful childhood trauma?  Maybe the fact that I grew up the elder sister/substitute father figure? … BUT I know plenty of people with much more putrid rancid childhoods than mine who were responsible for too many siblings and scatter-brain drug-addicted parents at too young an age who STILL really want to have kids.

The deep silent abyss of my belly thanks God every day that I am not “with child.”

People speak about “having kids” so lightly — like it’s a Wii game or a holiday movie with a definitive beginning, middle, and end.  In my experience, parenting children is anything but that.

You’re conditioning another human being with your every word and action.  You’re responsible for keeping this little person alive, healthy, and sane … so that maybe one day they won’t turn into yet another terrible whiplash upon the back of humanity.  You’re responsible for loving and helping your child unconditionally — even if they’re born with unmanageable frightening ailments like aspergers, paranoid schizophrenia, a passion for football, or conservative values.  To top it off, you never EVER stop raising your kids.  18 – Shmayteen!  Adults are more lost, require more wisdom and guidance, than children do!

It’s ultimately a toss of the dice how nature and nurture mix to create the human being you’re raising.  He could turn out to be Mussolini or Paul Newman?  She could turn out to be Octomom or Rosa Parks?

Seems like a lot of unnecessary pressure to me.  I think I’ll pass on giving birth to and/or raising a child in this life.

I’d enjoy playing “coooky aunt” to the kids a whole lot more: Cooookster gets to joke, laugh, and run around eating candy while wearing a crab hat.

Then when the kids start getting cranky because they’re tired, Aunty Vanessa gets to hug them goodbye, drive home wearing the crab hat because it’s mine, and pray that those cute little munchkins don’t grow up to be racist serial-killing prostitutes who steals senior citizens’ retirement funds — from the comfiness of my warm silent peaceful bed.

I must say: Props to all the moms out there!!!!  Being a mom is a harrowing selfless task.  Thanks for keeping the human species alive, ladies…

Because I REALLY don’t want to do it!


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