The author with her Japanese host family,
Oshogatsu (New Year’s Day), 1994
When I was eight years old, my mom moved from our home, outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to start a new life for herself in Los Angeles, California.
Growing up on the East Coast of the US, in the 1970’s, I had been exposed to only small pockets of Asian, immigrant populations; I knew nothing of the large, well-established Asian populations out on the West Coast.
On one of my first trips out to visit, my mom took me to an area of Los Angeles called Little Tokyo. As its name infers, it was a predominantly Japanese neighborhood and wandering around its streets made me feel like I had been transported to a different land.
I can’t remember if I had ever had sushi before my visit but certainly I had never experienced sushi in as authentic a setting as the restaurant she took me to that day.
The entrance involved crossing a wooden bridge over a small koi pond. There were stone lanterns and bonsai trees. the waitresses were all clad in kimono and the sushi arrived at our table on small wooden planks. I was mesmerized. For me, it was love at first…bite.
This experience had such an impact on me that, from that day on, I was enthralled by anything Japanese. I wanted to know everything I could about the country, culture and its people.
The Japanese were the great inventors of all things prominent in my childish memory: Iron Man, Godzilla, Kero-Kero Keroppi, Hello Kitty, my first Walkman. What a genius tribe they must be!
The rise of my curiosity coincided perfectly with the rise of the Japanese economy. Access to their food, products and even language grew increasingly accessible.
When I was in high school, a small group of students expressed their desire to study Japanese, a language option not yet offered at my school. Fortunately for us, since our school was less than an hour from Yale University—one of the US’s leading colleges—we petitioned for and received permission to get transportation to Yale one evening a week, so we could take an introductory-level Japanese language class there.
When I began researching colleges the following year, I selected only those with an established Japanese language program and study abroad opportunities.
I ended up at a small, liberal arts college in Tennessee with a strong International Studies department. I enrolled in every Japanese class they offered. In my sophomore year, I applied for and was accepted into my school’s Japanese exchange program with our sister university in Osaka, Japan.
At the end of my sophomore year, when all students had to declare their majors, I–along with one other student–petitioned for and was granted permission to develop the school’s first degree track in Japanese Studies. It seemed an auspicious plan, considering the Japanese purchase of the iconic, US landmark, Rockefeller Center, earlier that same year.
I spent my entire junior year of college abroad, studying at a Japanese university, living with two separate Japanese families and absorbing as much of the country and culture as possible for a college-aged kid.
I turned 21 there, a major American coming-of-age. I participated on Japanese sports teams, took painting and pottery classes, studied the culture through the fascinating lens of manga (Japanese comics), dated only Japanese men and immersed myself in the pursuit of understanding all things Japanese.
The author and her host sister dressed in kimono
My study abroad experience had an unbelievable impact on my life. It launched my passion and insatiable hunger for travel and Asia, beyond Japan.
I gained greater independence, broadened my global perspectives, forged life-long friendships, developed cultural empathy and experienced life as a minority; a gaijin (outsider) in a homogeneous land.
I consider my study abroad experience the foundation of the life I built upon it. I know that many of us here at World Moms Blog also have had experiences living and studying abroad; it is one of the many ties that bind us. We are global citizens striving to raise our own children in an increasingly globalized world.
But, as you will learn later today from World Moms Blog Founder, Jennifer Burden, here in the US, accessibility to and enthusiasm for studying abroad are not as prevalent as many of us may think.
So what’s it like in your country? Are study abroad programs prolific on your college campuses? Did you benefit from studying abroad? Tell us about what the experience means to you.
And stay tuned later today for Jen’s post on Studying Abroad and how the White House is playing a part…
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two rising, global citizens, Kyla P’an.
The pictures used in this post are credited to the author.
The Wicked Witch of the West
Eight years ago I had my first child, a daughter. Like most new parents, I got all sorts of advice and did a great deal of information gathering; particularly on those uncharted, early stages of infancy and babyhood.
I knew it was possible my child would have colic, GERD, and rashes. I had heard about the “terrible twos” and the “trying threes.” I was fortified for long days and short nights, especially during the early years. And I knew having a child home to entertain and educate for five years would be a whole different challenge from my professional life.
But, I thought I was ready because I knew—at the end of a long, sometimes dark, tunnel—there would be kindergarten, followed by the blissful and innocent days of elementary school to put me back on track. I anticipated that from age 5-11, life would be pretty seamless. Five years of struggle followed by at least six of predictability before the challenges of the teenage years moved in.
So when our daughter entered kindergarten three years ago, my husband and I settled in for the “predictable” parenting years we were expecting.
Sadly—and far too soon—those years are coming to a close…
This past summer, we got glimpses of something we had heard about but weren’t prepared for just yet: moodiness, sassy attitude, changes in speaking style, exploration of identity, greater awareness of appearance and increased self-consciousness.
Now that 3rd-grade is in full-swing, those glimpses are becoming the norm. It’s fairly clear that we are entering a new stage of parenting: we’re entering the TWEENS.
“Tween” is a term we use here in the US to describe the pre-teen stage of life. It’s in-between being a sweet, young kid, who’s dependent on parents and family for every aspect of life, and puberty, when a child morphs into a sassy, experimenting, independent teenager, stomping off toward adulthood.
The Tweens is a stage of life—I think populated almost exclusively by girls—when kids try to propel themselves prematurely into their next growth phase. They test out language they pick up from older kids, through pop-music and from movies and television. They mimic styles they see in the media. They use vernacular such as “like” and “whatever” and “no way!” They gravitate almost exclusively to their own gender groups.
And despite even the best attempts to shield children from pop culture and the negative influences present on TV, they still somehow find their fix at school.
The tweens are a funny, little limbo-land.
Take our daughter for example: She’s still afraid of the dark (in fact, she’s fairly convinced the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz is living in her closet); her favorite Disney character is Sofia the First; she loves kittens and rainbows, unicorns and stuffed animals. But recently, she also has discovered Disney’s High School Musical, and when we go to our pediatrician’s office, she pours over the book, It’s Perfectly Normal, (she has a lot of questions about both).
These days, she prone to emotional outbursts, demanding “alone” time and spontaneous moments of being shy. Aren’t these teenager behaviors?
Tonight, while my five-year-old was in a martial arts class, my daughter and I sat in the car having a chat. She said she was sad because she felt frustrated and sort of out of control. I found myself explaining puberty to her and talking about hormones and endorphins and lots of other changes in our bodies that made us feel confused and out of sorts…Uh, did I mention she’s only 8?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the onset of puberty in girls now happens as young as 7! OK, so none of my early parenthood prep or information gathering or family planning ever involved needing to have these conversations so soon. Afterall, my youngest just started kindergarten. By my accounts, I had just come out of the trenches. I’m not battle ready. I don’t have my armor on. This is going to be a massacre!
But this is where we are these days…the in-beTWEENS. Wish us luck.
Have you experienced these sorts of changes in your own child(ren)? If so, at what age? Any advice for getting through to the other side?
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two (one of whom is entering her tweens), Kyla P’an.
The image used in this post is credited to Karen. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
From almost the moment our daughter came onto the scene eight years ago, we knew she had a strong personality. She was one of those incredibly alert and determined babies; the type you could tell was processing her surroundings and trying to figure out what to do about them.
While many babies and toddlers her age were delighted to be pushed in a swing, my daughter would have nothing to do with swings until she was old enough to figure out what made them go. She had no desire to be the passive recipient of being pushed, instead she wanted to be in control; she wanted to conquer it. She took the same approach with toys, puzzles and games. She was an early walker, a determined eater, and an all-around intense little thing.
My husband and I frequently got comments like: “boy, you’ve got your hands full with that one,” or “she’s going to keep you on your toes.”
As our daughter grew, by far her favorite activities involved sorting, organizing and problem solving. I have one vivid memory of her toddler music class, when she was just two years old. About three-quarters of the way through the class, the teacher put out a basket of instruments for the children to choose from and play along with. Our daughter, who was particularly fond of the little plastic eggs filled with beans—which she called shake-a’s—was determined to collect as many of them as possible. Driven by this singular motive, she went around the room delivering alternate instruments to fellow toddlers and parents alike. Anytime she encountered an individual who already had a shake-a, she’d attempt to persuade them with an alternate instrument in exchange until she had gathered a significant cache.
During these displays of self-assured behavior and go-get-‘em spirit, I often found myself shrinking into the background, hoping other parents wouldn’t fault me for having such a pushy, precocious child. At this particular music class, however, a parent approached me afterwards and commended me for having such a “strong child with clear leadership potential.” With her few words of encouragement, this parent liberated me from my deep mommy guilt about having a child with drive.
I was in constant conflict because, even though I am a child of the 70’s—a time when many of our mothers here in the US were breaking down stereotypes and entering the workforce en masse—I was raised by my father, who came from an old-world upbringing and had old-fashioned views of how boys and girls should behave.
I am reluctant to admit that, rather than celebrating my daughter’s inherent leadership qualities, I labeled her as “bossy” and occasionally even criticized her for being too demonstrative.
Bossy, a word inferring that someone is behaving “boss-like,” should be a compliment heralding someone’s leadership skills but ironically, instead it criticizes her for it. It’s a label reserved primarily for girls. You rarely hear it applied to boys. A little girl on the playground, organizing kids into teams and assigning them roles will quickly be knocked down a few rungs by calling her “bossy,” whereas a little boy taking the same actions might be respected and followed.
I’m ashamed to admit, even I supported this stereotype. I was concerned my daughter was too confident interacting with adults, leading activities and organizing groups. I was concerned she wasn’t “girly” enough, lacked empathy and a gentle, nurturing-side. As a modern, liberated and independent woman myself, I still didn’t want her peers to ostracize her or put her down.
Why was I struggling between nurturing and diminishing my daughter’s inner boss? Why was I uncomfortable with her being a leader, or overly-confident or intensely goal oriented? What could I do to help raise this new generation of girl-leaders?
Two weeks ago I got some reassuring answers. They were in the Wall Street Journal, on a full-page, front-of-section article titled, “Don’t Call Us Bossy.” And the women giving the encouragement were the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, and the Chief Executive Officer of Girl Scouts, USA, Anna Maria Chavez.
Sandberg and Chavez’s goal is to redirect our thinking about the way girls lead. To relabel our vocabulary about girls’ take-charge behavior. Instead of bossy behavior, recognize it as executive leadership potential, like CBS television anchor, Norah O’Donnell does. Instead of discouraging ambitious goals, support girls to recognize their inherent ability to achieve whatever goal they set out for.
I think the world would be a very different—and frankly far more pleasant—place to live in if there were more “bossy” women in charge.
Let’s take a stand to have more female bosses in the workplace; Here’s to raising our girls to be the leaders they are capable of being, not the followers our lexicon makes them feel they are supposed to be!
Did anyone ever call you “bossy” growing up? Do you see these qualities in your own child? How do you feel about assertive and confident girls?
For ways to encourage leadership in girls, visit LeanIn.org and BanBossy two of the movements supported by Sheryl Sandberg, Ana Maria Chavez and Girl Scouts, USA.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two, Kyla P’an.
The image used in this post is credited to Pat Moore. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.
SPARK = Successful, Positive, Authentic, Resilient, Kids
The moment you sit down with Christine Guthery, a funny transformation takes place, you find yourself swelling with optimism, self-confidence and personal-potential. It’s a gift Christine has, she simultaneously exudes these attributes and brings them out in others. She’s passionate about what she does and her enthusiasm has a way of igniting passion in others.
Christine is a lawyer by training but as the mother of three children (now ages 16, 9 and 7), she has discovered that her real calling is as a community activist and SPARK Kindness is community activism at its finest.
SPARK is the offshoot of a coalition called Parents against Bullying and Cyber-Bullying, which Christine founded in 2010, and its sister organization, the Metro-west [Boston] Anti-Bullying Coalition (ABC). The need for an anti-bullying coalition arose from a wide-spread, cyber-bullying incident at a local middle school, which impacted more than 90 students and their families in 2010.
Ironically, though neither Christine nor anyone in her family has ever been a victim of bullying, Christine is on a mission to prevent it. “Bullying is a social justice issue,” Christine says. “in order to rise above it, you have to be resilient, empowered, self-confident. I’m a lawyer by training and this idea of building resiliency inspires me. Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. That’s my cause.”
“The definition of ‘bully’ used to be pretty straightforward. It was a label once reserved for kids, who were considered outliers or playground thugs, the type of kids who committed physical acts on their victims. But times have changed. Now it’s not just the kids who are insecure or outcast that are doing the bullying, rather it’s also the popular kids, both boys and girls, who are trying to reach the top of their social/athletic/academic pyramid that can be the perpetrators,” Christine says.
“Not too long ago,” Christine continues, “a slanderous note passed around at school could impact a whole class of students or even a school community but when the kids went home at the end of the day, they left the incident at school. Now, with the Internet and smart phones, [and thanks to social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Instagram,] bullying incidents can enter the cyber-sphere and quickly go viral. Kids have no way of leaving an incident behind them,” explains Christine. “In fact, these days, a great deal of bullying occurs during out-of-school-time.”
Christine believes that genocide and ethnic-cleansing—such as the ones that have occurred in Darfur, South Sudan and Nazi Germany—is “bullying taken to extreme measures.” And it’s really this mindset, this deep desire to eradicate the cause at it’s root, that has given rise to SPARK Kindness. The evolution came in 2012, when Christine realized that just talking about bullying wasn’t making progress.
“For two years [2010 & 2011] I had been focusing on bullying and trying to understand it better,” she says, “but then I realized, what if we shifted the conversation away from the outcome (bullying) and toward the prevention (nurturing kindness and resiliency)? What if our efforts were proactive rather than reactive?”
She compares this shift in mindset with the approach of Western medicine, where the focus is on addressing the illness, not on maintaining and promoting wellness. “I was finding that just talking about bullying was disempowering,” Christine reflects. “When I focused on the positives of resilience, kindness and courage, I felt empowered. It was exactly like the emotion of ‘elevation’ or self-transcendence that psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, described in his 2012 TED talk,” she says. “In other words, when you witness someone doing something positive or altruistic, it inspires you to do something positive or altruistic. This is where SPARK Kindness came from, how can we build the community we want rather than just address the ills we want to avoid?”
teach children not just about kindness and emotional self-awareness early on but how to be resilient and seek support when they are feeling insecure or are suffering. SPARK Kindness, ignite positive change in your community.
To find out ways to SPARK Kindness in your own community, click the logo above or visit http://www.sparkkindness.org/.
This post summarizes an interview between SPARK Kindness founder, Christine Guthery and World Moms Blog Managing Editor, Kyla P’an. This is a World Moms Blog exclusive interview.
As parents determined to raise global citizens, my husband and I were reticent to channel financial resources toward a Disney-vacation rather than taking our children abroad for enrichment. But, there is something that stirs inside both of us when it comes to celebrating the ephemeral days of childhood that made us reconsider.
Here in the US, a visit to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida or Disneyland in Anaheim, California is a childhood hallmark. In fact, I have met parents, who began planning their Disney vacation the moment they found out they were pregnant with their first child.
And even though a Disney family-vacation can cost upwards of several thousand dollars (with hotels, park tickets and flights), it doesn’t necessarily mean that parents will wait until their children are old enough to fully enjoy the experience nor, in some cases, are even old enough to remember it; tots, barely able to toddle, are a common site at Disney theme parks. (more…)
Last week my 7-year-old daughter invited a friend over for a playdate after school. My daughter and this child aren’t close friends, in fact, they aren’t even in the same class at school but they did play on the same town soccer team last year and the child has invited my daughter over a few times—including to her 7th birthday party—so we were due to reciprocate.
This particular little girl comes from a family of four children. She lives nearby in a large house in a posh sub-division and with four kids in her home, they have a lot of toys and things to play with.
Furthermore, her mom is one of those Alpha moms, who runs various nominated volunteer positions at school and who always seems to have her stuff together: pressed and polished at morning drop-off and calm and controlled when you see her in the pick-up line at the end of the day. You know the sort. (more…)