Four years ago, I sat down to have dinner with my husband and two of his friends. It was my first time meeting them. We had not yet ordered, when one of them asked, âWhere did you graduate from?â When I told them I had not finished college, their eyes widened as they turned to each other and whispered something in Hindi. In the Indian culture, if you donât have a college degree, itâs code red.
I come from a background where education wasnât the first priority. Independence and learning to make the buck was. And though Iâm grateful to have been inculcated with these virtues, I am taking a different path in my role as a Mother. Iâm making a generational change for my family. Moving away from one paradigm to the other end of the spectrum is not necessarily anxiety free. Â Therefore, my sonâs education will be one of my biggest investments. And I donât necessarily mean financially, but my time, my support.
I have been called, âuneducated,â âlazy,â and was once told, âYouâll never finish school.â But in spite of the irony, I am completely devoted to my sonâs education. And yes, Iâm sure my own personal failures are part of the drive, but this isnât a do-over for me. This is not me putting pressure on my son to give me a second chance. I want him to have his best most fulfilled first chance. And, I do admit, a college degree is not everything. (Says the girl with no college degree, huh?) However, I want my son to have one. I donât want my son to follow my path, I want him to finish college and continue a life of the mind. But not for the sake of saying he has one, not for the pedigree it provides, but for a deeper meaning. I don’t want him to get a degree for the diploma and pretty frame but rather for the journey and hopefully for the lesson that what one learns in college is but a fraction of what one should learn throughout oneâs lifetime. What college affords is a block of time in life where your priority is to better yourself and by extension your society through intellect, curiosity, ingenuity. There are college and graduate school alum who use their experiences to just check a box. (Many people have college degrees and do nothing with their lives, or are very successful individuals but never take a step back and enjoy the journey, always obsessing on what is next) âŠâThe world doesnât care what you know. What the world cares about is what you can do with what you knowâ (Wagner, Forbes Magazine). Â So with that in mind, I donât want him to go to school to be stuffed with knowledge and memorization, I want him to gain knowledge, sure, but with that knowledge become an innovator. Do something with it. To be curious and let that curiosity propel his imagination. And learn to see multiple perspectives. I will allow him the space to learn to be, himself, a thoughtful citizen of this increasingly divided country and world, someone who will chart his own path even if I may not be on board with all of his choices, he will learn they are his choices to make. Â
And I may not have graduated but I read critically, I write and organize my world in a thoughtful conscientious manner. Isnât that being an educated person in the world despite what a diploma says or doesnât say?
The loteria game – Itâs like BINGO with no letters and you bet money. The bets range from a few cents to $1 if you’re feeling lucky. I learned the game when I was four or five, but despite your age you better bring a few cents to join the pot. It was our version of family game night, and I donât remember any phones on the table!!!
Last night we went to a dinner party after taking a walk on The High Line. Most of the people were married with children, some were single with no kids. I was drawn to a couple, his wife in particular, who reminded me so much of Ellen DeGeneresâ ingenious humor and honesty. I wanted to sit next to her all night, be a part of her world for a little while. She was radiating. I should have made it a priority to exchange phone numbers, but I didnât, and now wish I had. While I sipped on a glass of Va de Vi sparkling wine, one woman, she must have been in her early 30âs, said, âI canât have kids.â âIâm sorry to hear that,â I said. âOh no. Noooooo. Itâs not like that. I donât WANT to have kids.â âI just canât imagine having a little leech sticking to me all day, because thatâs what they are. Leeches. Sucking the life out of you.â She spoke with an assumed air of importance as she said this matter of factly and everyone remained quiet. I think some people were stunned at her unsophisticated commentary. It took me a while to process it. Was the comment rude? There was an unmannered taste to it. She seemed not to have noticed the thick silence that enveloped as she kept talking: âMy sister has 3 kids and she came to visit me last weekend. She lives in Boston. And all she could do was tell me how much she missed her children. That it was her first time being away from them. She has twins and a 4.5 year old and she missed her husband and the âchaos,ââ adding air quotes to chaos. She meant to be funny, but no one laughed. âAfter two days of that, I had to tell her to stop it. Snap out of it. My god! You are human!â âWhat do you mean sheâs human,â I asked her. She responded lacking all kinds of reasoning, âSheâs human. She shouldnât forget sheâs human, too.â She said this almost equivalent to a âDuhhhh.â Â âShe just went on and on about her kids and at one point she cried. Can you believe that?â âActually I can believe it,â I said with warmth, sympathizing with her sister. âAnd Iâm sorry, I still donât understand your comment about reminding her that sheâs human. Is it not human to express that?â I asked genuinely confused. I really did want to understand. I had listened to her, listened with depth, to an unrefined rant, and I felt it was fair that I understood. She sparked curiosity in me. âWell itâs just not normal. Right,?â and I was going to answer, âNoâ, but I realized her question was rhetorical. Itâs not normal to her. It was not normal to her that her sister missed her children, her husband, her life. And that she missed them so much she had to speak about it incessantly. âI think itâs perfectly normal.â I said. And after that, I no longer wanted to be a part of this conversation with someone, who I realized, perhaps a little later than others, was a bit insensitive. I could romanticize this by calling her fearless, but her graceless monologue proved to be nothing more than pointless. Perhaps, one could argue, she knows what she did not want in her life, and thatâs a valuable thing. To know. To know what you want and donât. Itâs better than being confused or pretend. But the leech analogy is something that I have heard before. So I found her to be inauthentic and that bored me. I continued sipping my wine, looked at my husband and he gave me a wink and a smile. âNo more wine for her,â exclaimed the the Ellen DeGeneres-wish-I-got-her- digits-could-have-been-a-friend-lady.Everyone started talking again at this point, cheerfully about their children, their lives, and of course their careers. But most spoke about the tribulations of parenthood while drinking more wine, which then turned into some pretty hilarious stories. Especially when we started talking about Ryan Reynoldsâ parenting tweets. Have you read them?
Happy Mother’s Day to all. We just wanted to share Family Magazine’s recent book review sponsored by
Mamaâs Nightingale: A Story of Immigration and Separation
by Edwidge Danticat, illustrations by Leslie Staub
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Sayaâs Haitian mother is in jail because the âimmigration policeâ arrested her at work. Papa writes letters to judges, the mayor and congresswoman, and newspapers and TV reporters. But, no one writes back. Every week Saya and Papa visit Mama âat Sunshine Correctional, a prison for women without papers.â
Saya loves the Haitian stories her Mama tells her about the beautiful wosiyol, a nightingale with a sweet song (also Sayaâs nickname). She misses Mama deeply. And, there is some comfort for Saya when cassette tapes come in the mail. She can listen to Mamaâs voice telling stories and singing the nightingaleâs song.
After one sad time, Saya writes a story herself, to help relieve her sadness. When Papa mails what she has written, a newspaper reporter prints Sayaâs story for people to read. As a result, others get involved, helping to change this familyâs story.
Bright oil paintings convey a sense of island culture. Also, folk art touches â like blue and pink nightingales â easily combine dream symbols with images from daily life. And, the expressive face of Sayaâs stuffed animal, a monkey, both comforts and accompanies her.
Miami author Danticat was herself an immigrant from Haiti as a child. She writes with tenderness and conviction of a family torn apart because of a need for âthe right papers,â as Saya calls them. This is an important immigrant story for our time.
Dial, $17.99 Interest Level: Grade 1-3Â (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Doral, Edison, Lemon City, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional, Opa Locka, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
by Timothy Knapman, illustrated by Patrick Benson
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Raju, a baby elephant and his mother, begin an adventure when the morning is still dark and cold. His repeated question (different from the familiar, âAre we there yet?), âWhen can we go home again?â receives a patient response from his mother, âSoon.â
Along this journey they encounter danger. First, they meet snapping crocodiles. Then, a snake comes slithering. And later, a prowling tiger roars toward them. Rajuâs mother, however, knows exactly how to keep her little one safe. She âstamped her feet so hard, it made the ground tremble,â and she âblew her trunk so hard, it made the trees shake,â and finally she âreared up so high, she was as big as a giant.â
When they come to the mountain, his mother tells Raju to hold on to her tail. At the top, the two share the beautiful view.
Watercolor illustrations show sun-washed details. Face and body expressions are expertly matched with skillfully written text. Together, carefully crafted paintings smoothly blend the rhythmic flow of language with the subtle emphasis of repetitive phrases.
Although the young elephant is tired and his feet hurt after returning home at dusk, Raju asks, âWhen can we do it all again?â Even the youngest children will know the answer.
Candlewick Press, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-School â Grade 1 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library: West Dade Regional, West End Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
by Sandra J. Howatt, illustrated by Joyce Wan
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â A crescent moon anchors both the story and each picture in this beautiful bedtime book. Illustrations with rounded shapes curve and comfort in seamless combination, with reassuring âsâ sounds to lull little ones asleep.
Rhyming text steers readers through the moon-bright night. The featured animals are never named. But each one is called a âsleepyhead.â Such repetition quietly leads the child to name the creatures that inhabit this snuggly storybook.
The pencil illustrations are colored digitally and, while it is nighttime, the darkness is warm and welcoming, not scary. The gentle invitation to âLook!â is used again and again. And, the light from stars and/or fireflies lights up each open page spread. Itâs a comforting reminder that creatures and people all sleep under the same sky.
After following the rhymes and finding all the little ones âin houses and in barns,â the one still missing is âasleep in Mamaâs arms!â
(This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Main Library, Culmer Overtown, Doral, Edison, Lemon City, Miami Lakes, North Dade Regional, West Dade Regional. Also, may be purchased from local and online booksellers.)
Other great choices:
Henry Finds His Word
by Lindsay Ward
Dial, $16.99 Interest Level: Pre-School â Kindergarten (This book is available to purchase from local and online booksellers.)
by Liz Rosenberg, Illustrated by Stephen Gammell
Philomel, Interest Level: Kindergarten â Grade 2 (This book is available to borrow at the Miami Dade Library; Doral, North Dade Regional, West End Regional.)
I am beginning to get a bit more comfortable with the whole blogging situation. At first, I was like gasp, hand on chest, I think I missed a comma…Everyone will see this and think Iâm an idiot. Now itâs more like I have this friend who is a really good listener and he or she never really interrupts my stories with their own. At times my very polite friend will drop a comment, but it is always directly related to me and my stories, so it is obviously important.
You may consider a trip to the movies this week end to watch Disneyâs Zootopia. If you are like me, you will want to see what the critics have to say. Below I have compiled a few perspectives from popular news sources and parent minded sites.
Make breakfast. Drop him off at school. Text messages invade my phone. Answer them. Call the cleaning lady. Reschedule the dentist appointment for the tenth time. Is my mom coming tomorrow? I hope so. I forgot to drop off the clothes at the cleaners. Pick him up from school. Give him lunch. I hear more text messages coming in. Turn off sound. Read to him before he takes his nap so he can unwind and take the nap. Heâs asleep. Quick kiss on his cheek, breathe in his scent, and close the door. Begin cooking dinner. Focus on what the boys eat. Tapas loves vegetarian, and Ishaan loves anything with beans. Heâs up. He calls for me, âMami,â in a drowsy and longing voice. With arms wide open we embrace each other. I kiss him. And kiss him. As he nestles his head on my shoulder. Walk to the living room. Give him some water and start the unfinished puzzle he was working on before. Watch a little bit of Sesame Street. Dinner time. Tapas is home. Clean the kitchen. Milk time. Bath time. Read to him before bed. Turn the light off. Repeat again tomorrow.
I canât say for sure if itâs a struggle to find my own voice or is it a struggle to block the voices of others. Maybe as I write this cathartic piece I will find an answer. And this isnât a cry for help by the way.Â
On a personal note and you know I donât mind getting personal.
With Ishaanâs birth came a lingering perpetual fear (along with waves of concerns); a fear that is unsettling and harrowing. Itâs like a supernatural being that haunts me. I canât seem to get rid of it. I am afraid this fear will be a constant in my trajectory as a Mother. (My Mom warranted this) Itâs a fear that has made me paranoid. Neurotic? Or as Tapas would say, my neurosis has inevitably reached itsâ peak. This person I am describing, this person consumed with fear, is autonymous to who I was. I didnât wake up everyday with dread hanging over me. Sometimes I feel as if I am barely a recognizable shell of my former self. And perhaps itâs not as awful as I make it sound. Perhaps it is. Sometimes the dread is more subtle, quiet, obscure, but present nonetheless. Other times itâs paralyzing, noisy, and confusing. The thing is, just like with stress, I donât know how to handle this particular anxiety. All I have ever really been afraid of my entire life is flying, and I have been on more than a handful of planes. However, I take aÂ Valium with a glass of wine and just like that! – I pass out. Itâs an easy fix. In other words, thereâs an outlet. However, not with this specific daily angst. Itâs a hellish loop. Iâm pretty much doomed.
Several days ago I posted the lessons Motherhood had instilled in me this past year. When I saw how many people were reading it and sending me e-mails, a thought occurred. What did being a first time Father teach my husband, Tapas?Â After all, it wasn’t just me who became a parent. I wasn’t alone in this trajectory. And so I asked him.Â
As the year comes to a close, Reflection seems to be my biggest assignment. (Believe me. I have become an insomniac over it.) Itâs like my mind is calculating and reevaluating each moment passed, moments I vaguely recall, almost fleeting. Moments that have been blurred in the back of my mind. And then there are the dark moments, the real dark ones which I absolutely choose to forget, though I doubt I will ever attain that. Theyâll always be lurking around. The back of my mind is just a hiding place for them to haunt me perpetually. However, there are those other moments, the incredible moments!-which have seeped into my core as I breathe them still today, and with that, I realize the most significant element of all, the most obvious, was transformation of self. I have changed. That is clear as a bell. I am no longer the free bird flapping her wings, living aimlessly in this alluring and spirited City. I am no longer the one without agenda on weekends, discovering one of the loves of my life, New York. (How I miss the City!) I breathed and exhaled without a single care in the world as I had nothing to lose then. But! Now I have everything to lose. I am a Mother now. My son is my gift. My home is my son.
I have struggled a lot writing this post. With three very different drafts, I am now wondering if there will be a fourth. See, what do I tell you about a woman whose happiness, laughter, and loving ways have brought peace and joy to my heart? That she lights up when she sees her family? That when you see her glowing around us, you become a little sad because you realize she has missed us, and then you feel terrible at having been that busy (or that selfish?) the last few months that you couldnât pick up the phone just to call her to say hi. She deserves that call and more. Everyone knows it.
Photo by Luiz C. Ribeiro http://www.luizcribeiro.com/
I have been swamped with childrenâs birthday parties these past several weekends, including my sonâs first birthday which I celebrated a week ago. (Iâll write about that soon!) Hustling from one birthday party to the next, has given my son and I a lot of exposure which we donât usually have. In random conversation, this woman says while looking at us, âHeâs a mamaâs boy.â This is after her attempt at trying to carry him and him nodding his head while moving away from her. In other words, telling her, a blatant no. (He asserts his free will shamelessly. -As he should!) Frankly, I feel that term is used a little loosely nowadays. With that being said, Ishaan is definitely a mama’s boy, if what you are referring to is that he is extremely attached to me, but then again, heâs a one year old baby. My mother has a name for it too, mamitis (ma-me-tees). Thatâs the Dominican version of a mamaâs boy. Truth be told, it wasnât long ago that he discovered we were two separate entities. And now that the reality has settled he experiences some intense separation anxiety. What he doesnât know is that I do too.
Several days ago I was looking through my son’s toy basket for his remote control, and while doing that I found his old mobile. I had forgotten about it honestly. And itâs not like it ever really helped him fall asleep much less stay asleep. Iâm not sure what made me turn it on. Sentimentality? What was I yearning for? As the Bach baby lullabies began, a flood of memories came over me. Picture after picture came to mind, like snippets from a movie roll. Ishaan in my arms as I rocked him to sleep. Ishaan on our bed as I sang to him, You are my sunshine. Ishaan wearing his beanie from the hospital. (The same beanie all hospitals have. My sister, who was born in 1990, had the same one. You’d think their sense of style would have evolved by now.) Anyway, I kept remembering things I had not necessarily forgotten, just not thought about in a while. In a very long while perhaps. There’s a picture of him on our desk of his first time wearing the tika. And I remembered that day, the events, the actual feelings I felt. Remembering that the mobile had different functions, I then switched it to the sound of the waves. That was our white noise for months! I will admit it was more relaxing for me than for him, much less my husband. It reminded me of some nights where my husband and I jokingly would lay in bed while it played and we would guess which lullaby would come next as we would hum it in a whisper to avoid waking up Ishaan. This became our pillow talk.
Motherâs stand at the kitchen sink pondering something they never tell. -Anne Carson
The Latin culture is largely misogynistic. Being a minority group that already experiences oppression, equality between men and women continues to be a struggle that we face. The blatantly sexist treatment women face is machismo behavior at it’s peak. This is one of our biggest dysfunctions as a culture.
“Is he sleeping through the night yet?” That is a question that I have been asked intermittently. (It drove me up a wall to be honest) If I am recalling correctly, as far back as him being just 6 weeks people were genuinely asking me that. For me, that’s ca-ra-zy, but what do I know.
So here’s the deal. I’m sleep training. To some that may sound ambiguous, to others, this may be self-explanatory and a concept all too familiar. To me, it’s a test. Will we pass or fail? When I say fail, I don’t mean that either one of us would be labeled as failures, I simply mean that it didn’t work out for us. If we win, well then it’s evident we’re winners because we overcame the hurdles.Â
I have been silent. I have unfinished pieces, with half assed titles, on open tabs saved on my google drive. None of which have any potential, but each falsely claim they do. So why the dormancy? Because, World, Iâm a Mom. Did you hear me? Hey! World! Iâm a Mom! (Can you hear the passion in my voice as I say that?)
Windows are wide open as the petrichor (smell of rain) perfumes my humble abode.
Itâs a rainy day; subtle, but windy. Umbrellas are a nightmare at this point.
Iâm sitting here on my sofa, accompanied by the gloom that has ascended outside my window. I have left behind the swooshing ofÂ tires, the incessant honking, screeching breaks; and the occasional âfuck yousâ; it was the unruliness of 3rd Avenue. And although many would find that familiarity dull, I was comforted.
Pandemonium stage of 3rd Avenue (outside our old apartment)
My thoughts are rampant. Though my heart is calmed, like the rain that falls now.
The rustling of leaves distracts me, as they engage in whispers. I watch as their dance begins, swaying in a harmonious methodical rhythm, moving to the tunes of the raindrops. Drip. Drop. Drip. Drop. And though their waltz-like dance lasted only a moment, I was moved.
âThis is homeâ, I say with peace in my voice and a quiet joy in my soul. This is home.
I am remembering a conversation, as a summer scented, soft-blowing, breeze brushes through my white curtains, ruffles the pages of my book of poems, which sits on my rusted looking coffee table, and caresses my long bare legs. I lose my self in retrospection.
Life has been full, far from the barren days.
I trace my ever-growing belly with my fingertips. Its egg shaped and hard like shell are scattered with light chocolate and strawberry colored freckles. I find a quiet liking to them. Â My belly button is almost flat, leveling with my stomach. Iâm somewhat intrigued by this phenomenon, although it looks foreign to me. Everything about me seems alien-like. Someone has unequivocally invaded my body. Itâs difficult to marvel at this change, find the âbeautyâ in it, as my skin stretches, expanding in places I vainly wish it wouldnât. The image obsession of our society is not to be blamed. Itâs me. Iâm comfortable in my old skin, the old version of me, the one with small jaunty breasts, which now resemble two large inflated balloons. I donât want them. Then I feel our baby kick, preparing for the daily somersault show, and Iâm reminded of the whys of this transformation, understanding its purpose and finding ways to embrace it. Once that knowledge sets in, I relish in it all. But because of those reasons. Because of the whys. Itâs a profound erudition that marks me with an irreversible perspective.
The inevitable physical transformation is only a part of the journey. (Who is that person staring back at me in the mirror?) However, thereâs a deeper metamorphosis taking place mentally and emotionally too. Since I found out I was pregnant my thought pattern has undeniably changed. I feel like a book of encyclopedia for momâs-to-be. Ok. So thatâs awfully exaggerated, but there is more knowledge. I am a little wiser. A little more cautious, more responsible, little less foolish. A bit more calm. And then a warm thought surfaces, I know Iâm going to coddle my baby. A. Lot.
I recall my childhood from the eyes of a mother-to-be, no longer as the absent-minded young girl I was. She has taken leave. Thereâs a new layer of myself to be exposed and shared. And the most surprising revelation I will make to you is that, I am beginning toÂ feelÂ like a mother. Though I still donât know what itâs all about.
Motherhood weighs me with questions, but with the same intensity fills me with light.
My thoughts turn to my Mother.
I draw the silhouette of her soul. Finding the woes of Motherhood permanently engraved, I begin to smear it with streaks of black lines, creating dark shades from where her heart is, to her mind, then to her fingertips and right down to her toes.Â I then pick up a blue crayon, and then a yellow, green, (her favorites) and start coloring everywhere, her lips, her nose, her eyes, retracing her heart and mind, reflecting on the euphoric moments of her trajectory. Sure there were those rainbow filled days, where she triumphantly arrived home with more energy than usual, after an eight hour work day, cooked our favorite meal, as we all sat at the dinner table, devouring the food and each of us obediently responding to, âHow was school today?â (I was always first to speak. Not because I am the eldest, but because I was eager to speak to my mom, and did, still do, love sharing my life with her.) But there were also the unbearable wretched times. The days I did not want to be told what to do, and I spoke back. The days my brother was asked to take out the garbage, not once, not twice, not thrice, but ten times before he begrudgingly did as he was told. The day my sister called 911 and pretended there was a fire in the house, there wasnât. These are only morsels of her story. My sketch does not encapsulate her journey, nor does it exhibit her extraordinary vitality.
(I do not walk alone. I have my husband. Though my strength allows me to stand on my own two feet as we hold hands, there are moments where he carries me.)
Am I entering my glory days? I donât know. What I do know, is that I donât want to be molded into someone entirely different. Otherwise, I may as well be âdust in the wind,â as Kansas once sang. I donât want to lose myself as many mothers do in the process of becoming a mom. Â If I fear anything at all, itâs that. Though I can definitely list a litany of small fears that supersede. Forgetting who I am, what I am, what I love, like my writing. My husband and I not having time to ourselves. I assume like with everything else in life, I have to find my balance. But I have realized the following in just 5 and a half months of pregnancy. Having a baby does change you someway or another. I mean, that is if you plan on being any kind of mom at all. And instead of fearing that change, whatever that change will be, I am learning to take pride in it and find confidence in that other woman I am undeniably becoming. Sheâll still love writing and she will write, and if itâs not as much as she was able to before, thatâs ok. Sheâll still be left in enchantment when her husband speaks and laughs until her stomach hurts. Theyâll find their moments to kiss too. Sheâll still love to pop in her Beatles CDs, and perhaps one day share this with her child, explain how The Beatles are the best rock band that ever existed, but especially how their music, helped her through hard times and duplicated the good ones. Sheâll still dance, but now she wonât dance alone. Sheâll have a dancing partner, her child. And sheâll get to see her husband become the amazing father she knows he will be. So hereâs a warm hello to this new self, a new version of me. A I-think-weâllâget-alongâjust- great. A I-think-weâll-be-the-best-of friends.
And though pregnancy is not this breathtaking ride as many would see it, it has its moments of bliss. Like now, when the baby kicks and pokes me on my left side. I stop to write just for these moments.