It started out innocently enough. Perhaps because she was the younger child, the second grandchild, her Japanese family just didn’t seem as interested in her as in her older brother.
I thought perhaps since they only had sons, or that my mother-in-law only had brothers, they were not sure how to interact with a small girl.
I suggested things that she liked to do, bring over toys she likes to play with so they could interact. (This resulted in my brother-in-law developing an iron-beads addiction, but had no impact on the grandparents at all.)
Then there were subtle things: talking over her, not listening, not answering when she asked a question. Some people are just like that to children, I thought, though I knew in my heart they hung on every word my son said.
“She is talking, too, let’s listen!” I try to draw attention to her.
Then they joined in the cacophony of voices around us, “Girls don’t sit like that. Girls complain too much.”
“It isn’t only girls,” I try to laugh it off.
We would go their house, and they would put out only one cookie, even though there were two children. “We didn’t think that she would want one.”
I make the children share, or I go to the store for another ice cream or bottle of juice.
She received only half the amount of money at New Years for otoshidama (a cash gift given to children from relatives,) and was specifically told it was because she was a girl. “You must have heard wrong,” said my husband.
When we went home, I made the children pool the money and split it evenly.
Then this year on Children’s Day, we arrived at the in-laws house to find a beautifully wrapped present.
My heart sank because I knew. I knew that now she would know; that I couldn’t cover it up this time. There was no misunderstanding. This wasn’t a snack brought home on a whim, or an envelope that looked the same on the outside but was different within. This was a gift that had been searched for, lovingly wrapped, put in a place of honor for all to see on a day to honor our children.
But it wasn’t for her.
I saw her eyes dazzle in excitement, dart in confusion, then steel over with resignation. Her big, brown eight-year-old eyes.
She didn’t say anything, she didn’t cry at the injustice, until we were at home.
“Why is he more important than me?” she asked.
The simple truth is that they are both important. The sad truth is that there are people out there who refuse to acknowledge that, who treat these two children that I love equally with all of my heart in a very unequal way.
I wish sometimes they weren’t so close to home.
I can see that it is damaging to have that dynamic in our extended family, against the backdrop of a world that is unkind to women (to put it lightly.)
In the moment, I decide against explaining to my little girl that the cards, in many ways, are stacked against her. Instead I hold her close and tell her that all children are important, and anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong.
Have your children experienced instances of sexism? How do you talk about it at home?
This is an original article by World Mom, Melanie Oda.
If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety.
She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother.
You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.
Secrets. I believe they’re important. Especially for children.
When I think about adults with secrets, I mostly imagine sadness, nasty stuff or crime. Mostly sadness though. Actually, I don’t even know if I have big or little secrets myself. Probably not. I’ll have to think about it.
But a child with a secret, I absolutely love that. It’s touching and a little bit nostalgic. It makes me think about the candy I once hid under our beech tree, savouring one every once in a while, including the black sand it was buried in. My secret treasure…
My two children, they share a secret. The youngest however, age 7, is absolutely terrible at keeping secrets. At Mother’s Day, she has never made anything, especially not for me, and I shouldn’t go looking behind the couch at all. Oh, and it doesn’t have hearts all over it. That kind of terrible. She just adores sharing inside knowledge. And now she has to keep a secret.
Yesterday, she almost told me, while we were driving home from school. It was a school secret, completely fresh and just begging to be shared with the world. Or at least with me. Her big brother was just in time to keep her from giving it away.
When we got home, she whispered she would tell me later, when her brother was not there. Now that was quite a difficult parenting moment for me.
You need to know that I am a terribly curious person. It makes me who I am. I could never be a mail woman. All those closed letters, never knowing what is inside, what the story is behind that stamp, whether it is good news or not: my fingers would itch all the time. At least as a scientist, I can give in to that natural curiosity and the urge to reveal secrets.
That day, I had to grit my teeth and be a mother, not a scientist. I told her she was not allowed to tell me their secret. I explained to her that it is important for siblings to have little secrets, so they learn to trust each other. I did tell her she could tell me the secret if it was about something dangerous or something which didn’t feel right to her.
I ended my little speech by telling her I didn’t want to know their little secret anyway.
She didn’t believe that last bit. This daughter of mine is less naive than I am.
But she did walk away without spilling the secret. I’m not sure which one of us had the hardest time at that.
It has been five weeks and I still don’t know what it was about.
It’s killing me.
How do you feel about your children keeping secrets? Do you think it is important for them or do you fear they will also keep less innocent secrets when they grow up?
This is an original post to World Moms Network by K10K. Photo credit: Lisa M Photography. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
If you ask her about her daytime job, Katinka will tell you all about the challenge of studying the fate of radioactive substances in the deep subsurface. Her most demanding and rewarding job however is raising four kids together with five other parents, each with their own quirks, wishes and (dis)abilities. As parenting and especially co-parenting involves a lot of letting go, she finds herself singing the theme song to Frozen over and over again, even when the kids are not even there...
When I was born, my half-sister was already married and had three kids. As far back as I can remember she has lived in the same house, in a middle-sized town in northeastern Indiana, in the United States, and for most of my life our contact was via postal service. (more…)
Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog.
Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.
I was happily preparing dinner the other day and I could hear my three children chattering away in the hall. Pretty soon the talking turned to bleeting, yes bleeting… and baaing, like a sheep. I could hear my 12-year-old son, JJ, say, “everyone is doing it at school.”
With my parenting radar on alert I popped my head out of the kitchen to ask what they were talking about and JJ explained to me that there is a teacher at school who looks like a sheep and all the students baa at her.
I was pretty horrified at this and I asked what ‘Miss’ (as they call their female teachers) said about their behaviour. JJ told me it was all done behind her back but she was a ‘good laugh’ and he couldn’t imagine she would mind. This of course was one of those moments that led to me abandoning dinner and sitting all three children down for a chat.
If I can help it, I don’t want any child of mine becoming a bully.
You might think I over reacted and that all children get involved in silly things, harmless teasing some might say. Character forming I’ve heard it called before and we’ve all heard the old rhyme ‘sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me’ but it is not true, names really can harm a person, especially a vulnerable one.
I know this first hand, I was called many names as a young child, most of them revolving around my weight and being just a little (and it really only was a little back then) bigger than the average girl but the main reason I know about the hurt and pain that continues for many years long after the name calling stops is because I was a name caller and I really hurt someone else.
I still feel the shame when I write that, I don’t think the regret for the damage I did to a little boy called Simon (name changed for obvious reasons) will ever leave me. I first wrote about having been a bully as a child back in 2010 and it was so important to face up to the past and really acknowledge what I did. I had no idea at the time that what I was doing could be so destructive, as far as I was concerned I was just a little girl desperate to fit in with the gang and going along with everyone else.
But when your whole class cross their arms and mutter ‘fleas, injected for all my life’ each time you come near them, it is a big deal. I don’t recall Simon ever letting on at school just how much this hurt him but I do think he spent a lot of time on his own. The sad thing is that I don’t really remember that much about the whole situation to be honest, as it was inconsequential to me but of course not to him, not when it was damaging his self-esteem each and every day.
That damage went on for a very long time too. I know this as when I was 28 (quite some years ago now) I was contacted by Simon through Friends Reunited and then Facebook. He asked me about our time at school (primary school, ages 7-10) and why certain things had happened and did I remember…. I had to honestly say ‘No. No, I do not remember most of it’. I think it was therapeutic for Simon to be in touch with a few of his bullies and to be able to finally get a heartfelt sorry from us.
I praise the Lord that he told me he had found a good partner and was at last finding some peace and happiness after years of counselling. He talked about his early upbringing with a stern father in the military and a mother who was never mentally present. Moving areas and schools every two or three years of his life had been tough and a bunch of middle-class kids made it worse and made him doubt himself.
As I quite seriously told my own children this story a couple of weeks ago I had a lump in my throat and I had to fight to stop the tears forming. They were pretty shocked and I really hope they understood what I was saying about how something that seems harmless and just a case of simple teasing can turn out to be life-damaging for some children or even adults.
From the 16th – 20th November, it is anti-bullying week here in the UK but I’d encourage you, wherever you live, to please have a chat with your children about bullying and help them to understand that the line between harmless fun and detrimental behaviour is very fine. Best to just never get close to it and to adopt a positive attitude towards all people, whether they are easy to be around or not.
Have you ever been involved with bullying, either on the receiving or doling out side? What impact has it had on you?
Michelle’s tales of everyday life and imperfect parenting of a 13-year-old boy and 9-year-old twin girls and her positive Christian outlook on life have made her name known in the UK parenting blogosphere. Her blog, Mummy from the Heart, has struck a chord with and is read by thousands of women across the world.
Michelle loves life and enjoys keeping it simple. Time with her family, friends and God are what make her happiest, along with a spot of blogging and tweeting, too! Michelle readily left behind the corporate arena but draws on her 25 years of career experience from the fields of hotel, recruitment and HR management in her current voluntary roles at a school, Christian conference centre, night shelter and food bank.
As a ONE ambassador, in 2012 Michelle was selected to travel on a delegation to Ethiopia with the organisation to report on global poverty and health. Then in 2014 she was invited to Washington, DC, where she attended the AYA Summit for girls and women worldwide. When asked about her ambassadorship with the ONE Campaign, she stated, "I feel humbled to be able to act as an advocate and campaigner for those living in poverty."
The author and her brother, as children, with their paternal grandmother, Loli.
Among the greatest blessings I have ever had in this life is the time that I have spent with my grandmothers, Loli and Mama. They were two of the greatest women I have ever known.
Loli is my paternal grandmother, and Mama is grandma on my mom’s side of the family. While they are no longer around for me to hug, the lessons and wisdom that both have given me remain in my heart.
Today I share some of these lessons with my fellow world moms:
1. True love DOES exist
My maternal grandparents spent 68 years together before my Mama passed away. Those years of marriage were not perfect, and of course had their share of ups and downs. But on her deathbed, my grandmother opened her eyes and focused on my grandfather, sharing a final moment with him before she left us.
At the end of it all, we knew that there was no one in the world she loved more than him. We could feel that she didn’t want to leave him, and in the end, the assurance that he will be okay was what she needed in order to let go.
I will never forget the way my Mama’s eyes would twinkle each time she looked at my grand dad, how she would laugh at his jokes and hold his hand while they walked. Marriage is hard, but it can be worth it. And true love does exist.
2. Make sure to create memories with your loved ones
In my family, there is no shortage of photographs and stories to turn to when we want to remember fun times. I appreciate these so much more now that I am older.
My grandmothers made sure that we planned something for every occasion, be it Christmas, birthdays, or even random, ordinary Sundays. What mattered was that we made time for each other, and that we made our time together count.
3. Come what may, you can always count on family
There is comfort in knowing that your family will be there for you no matter what happens. We were raised to love one another unconditionally, and to watch each other’s backs. Our grandmothers had our parents make sure that it stayed this way, even as we all grew up.
We now pass these close family ties on to our children, who are not just cousins but also the best of friends. Truth be told, I cannot imagine what life would be like without my siblings and cousins.
4. Allow your children to be spoiled by their grandparents
This one is a tough pill to swallow, and I fought against it for many years with my own son and parents. But looking back, the best memories that I have of my grandmothers were those times I had alone with them, where I was the princess and got whatever I wanted.
When I was pregnant, my Loli would steal extra packs of lunch or save half of her share to bring home to me as treats after her meetings and get-togethers. My Mama indulged me in mini birthday celebrations in her home, complete with spaghetti, ice cream and cake, when I was already in my 30’s!
These are memories that I hold so dear. They have their own happy places in my heart and can never be taken away. Someday, I hope that my son remembers moments with my mom and mom-in-law with the same kind of fondness.
5. At the end of it all, love is what lives on
I’ve had my fair share of scolding and tough love from my grandmothers, but not once in my life did they ever make me feel unloved. I miss them each day, the nagging phone calls, their funny tales from the past, their hugs and kisses.
The love that they left behind lives on in me, and in each of us in the family. It’s what binds us together now and keeps us strong.
Theirs was the kind of motherly love that transcended generations, the kind of love that I, too, hope to give to my family through the years.
The author and her sister with their maternal grandmother, Mama
*In loving memory of Natividad F. “Loli” de Castro (1921-2008) and Presentacion T. “Mama” delos Santos (1929-2015)
This is an original post for World Moms Blog from our contributor in the Philippines, Mrs. C
The images used in this post are attributed to the author.
Patricia Cuyugan is a wife, mom, cat momma, and a hands-on homemaker from Manila, whose greatest achievement is her pork adobo. She has been writing about parenting for about as long as she’s been a parent, which is just a little over a decade. When she’s not writing, you can usually find her reading a book, binge-watching a K-drama series, or folding laundry. She really should be writing, though! Follow her homemaking adventures on Instagram at @patriciacuyugs.
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to my hometown to attend my high school reunion. I was excited about the trip for several reasons. I rarely travel without my children, and this visit was just for me. I would be able to see my parents, my sisters, and childhood friends with one night out on the town. (more…)
Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Network!