When I first came to Canada just over seventeen years ago, I was struck by the fact that every murder in Toronto made front page news. Every single one. When I heard that 2000, the year of my arrival, had seen 81 homicides in the Greater Toronto Area, I was slightly stunned.
81 homicides in Canada’s biggest metropolitan area, and less than 600 in the whole of Canada? What, in just one year? It just didn’t seem real.
To put things into perspective, I came to Canada from South Africa, which at the time was experiencing roughly fifty reported murders every day. Only the most sensational murders, such as the violent demise of South Africa’s former first lady Marike de Klerk, made national news. The rest got a three-line mention on the inside pages of the local community newspaper.
The realization that I had become desensitized to tragedy was one of the most sobering moments of my life. I felt that in losing my ability to mourn the loss of human life, I was losing a key part of my humanity.
I fear that this kind of desensitization is happening en masse in North America, specifically in the United States. We are becoming so accustomed to hearing about mass shootings that we are no longer surprised by them. What’s worse is that we actually expect them to happen. They have become an inevitable part of life in the United States.
American children are growing up in a world in which gun violence is “normal”. Their parents are becoming increasingly resigned to the fact that since gun laws are unlikely to change in any meaningful way, this is just going to keep happening.
In the wake of the Las Vegas mass shooting that killed 59 and wounded hundreds more, I am seeing some depressingly world-weary sentiments on my social media feeds.
“If nothing changed after Sandy Hook, why would we expect it to change now?”
“The right to guns is more important to lawmakers than the right to life.”
“It’s going to happen again before long.”
And the one that really breaks my heart:
“We just have to accept it.”
It seems that Americans fall into two very general camps. There are those who are spending their time trying to convince everyone else that, in spite of overwhelming evidence and common sense, guns are not really a problem. And there are those who desperately want things to change for the better, but are losing hope that this will ever happen.
The danger is that once that resignation sets in, desensitization is likely to follow. If you don’t think anything is going to change, you start to accept the status quo, and you lose the ability to be shocked by mass shootings.
My American friends, I say this to you with love. Keep the faith. Don’t lose hope, and do whatever you can to bring about the change that is so desperately needed. Educate yourself about the gun laws in your state and lobby your government representatives to change what isn’t working. Above all, use the power of your vote at every possible opportunity.
Don’t allow yourselves to get used to tragedy. Nothing will change unless we continue to feel the shock, the outrage, the sadness. We can avoid desensitization by thinking of the lost lives, the parents who have lost children, and the children who have lost parents, brothers, sisters and friends.
Shed some tears, feel the sadness, mourn for the victims of mass shootings. And for them and their loved ones, keep fighting for change, and keep believing that change is possible.
This is an original post to World Moms Network by Kirsten Doyle of Ontario, Canada. Photo credit: Steve Snodgrass. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
My oldest child just started middle school, which in the United States generally means sixth through eighth grade, or the years between elementary school and high school. Middle school has a tough reputation. It’s a time of huge change in every way possible. Kids go from being in one classroom pretty much all day to moving from class to class and managing multiple teachers’ expectations. They are also surrounded by many new faces from several different elementary schools that are blending together for the first time. Students are in every different phase of personal, physical, and emotional development. It’s the wild west of adolescence.
There’s lots to absorb and get used to, and the first week for my son encompassed a little bit of all of it – the good, the bad, the ugly. At one point he said to me, “No matter what you do, middle school happens to you .”
In the process of watching and listening to my son’s experiences, it’s hard not to go back to those days in my head. Each up and down that he experiences reminds me of something from my past. He will even ask sometimes if a particular situation ever happened to me, and of course, I always have a story to share. And as we swap stories, those old feelings come roaring back to the surface.
As parents, we want to spare our children the harsh moments we experienced and exalt them into the glorious ones, but life doesn’t work that way.
One evening, I was attempting to encourage my son to try getting to know his new classmates even if it feels awkward, and I asked my husband for backup. I couldn’t help overhearing their conversation. My husband was talking about when he went to college. It was a huge school in a new city, and he didn’t know anyone. He decided to go to a freshmen welcome party at a different dorm. Looking around, he noticed a guy wearing a concert t-shirt for a band he also liked. My husband decided to go up to the guy and comment on the shirt to start a conversation. The two got to talking, and they decided to hang out. T-shirt guy took my husband to his dorm to meet some friends. One of those friends was me. We became pals, a year later we started dating, and the rest is history. We went to a huge school, lived nowhere near each other, and studied completely different things. Looking back, if my husband hadn’t created an opportunity over a t-shirt, we easily could have never met.
I like to think that this talk gave my son some perspective. It sure gave me some. As much as I don’t like seeing my kids uncomfortable or struggling, it’s so central to growing up. Learning to be comfortable in your own skin through trial and error is essential. It’s not just that middle school happens to you. Life happens to you, and it’s up to each us to face it on our own two feet.
I am glad to say middle school isn’t all bad, and my son is opening up a little more all the time. In fact, by sharing about himself, he learned that he had common ground with someone he had previously had difficulties with. I don’t believe that things will be rosy all the time or that every new face will become a friend, but at least one can always start again. It just takes walking up to someone and saying “hello.”
How do your children cope with new places and people? Has a simple “hello” ever changed your life?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by Tara B. of the United States. Photo credit: University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.
You might have noticed we were a bit quiet on our website this summer as we took our annual “Blogcation.” Well, here is what some of us, World Moms, were up to during July and August of 2017!
Tara Bergman, USA
“My family and I took a backpacking trip to an alpine lake in the Cascade Mountains in Washington State, USA. It was a lot of work to get everyone on the trail with packs, but we made it to our destination and had the whole lake to ourselves overnight. The birds were chirping until 10pm and started up again around 4am, so I guess we had some company after all.”
Tina Rodriguez, Philippines
“No holidays here in the Philippines now. I’ve been trying to juggle many things like family and home life (including homeschooling the kids), work, advocacies, etc. By God’s grace, I’m surviving! ?
My family and I were even able to squeeze in some bonding time with my parents, which made for many precious moments!”
Ketakandriana Fafitoson, Madagascar
“My kids have just finished school but I don’t know if we will have time to go on the seaside this year (we live in the highlands). The fact is that I am 6 months pregnant now, and still have to travel a lot for my job and my activism…But I will try to manage some time to take them to their favorite place, maybe in early September…If everything goes well”
Tes Silverman, World Voice, USA
“Summer’s was busy for me & my family! My daughter, Shaina, graduated from high school in June, and then my whole family headed down south to Virginia Beach in early July to celebrate my great-aunt’s 100th birthday! What an amazing reunion of aunts, uncles & cousins I haven’t seen in years, and especially for Shaina, who met a lot of them for the first time. My most favorite moment was going up to my great-aunt Pacing (the woman of the day in pink), and after being told who I was, seeing her eyes fly wide open after recognizing me and giving me a big smile. I then moved over so I could introduce her to Shaina, and her response was, “oh so pretty!” It was so moving for me that she recognized me after so many years, and that I had the opportunity to have Shaina & Micah see her again.
That weekend spent with my relatives made me realize how precious life is & how awesome it is to have an extended family. If l live to be 100, I hope to see as much family around me as my great-aunt had. As a result of this weekend, we are now planning to get together again next year, to make sure that the 2nd generation (mine) & 3rd generation of cousins (Shaina’s) keep in touch.
To-wen Tseng, USA
“Currently pregnant with my 2nd child, I had to take some time off earlier this year because of pregnancy complications. Now into 27 weeks, I’m feeling better and trying to catch up at work. I have a new book due exactly on the baby’s due date! Wasn’t aware of the pregnancy when I sign the contract with the publisher. A busy summer for me!”
Founder Jennifer Burden, USA
“We headed to the U.K. and Italy for a month to vacation and catch up with family and friends. Here’s a photo of the girls looking out over the ruins of the Forum in Rome.”
Bessma Bader, Saudi Arabia
Elizabeth Atalay, Managing Editor, USA
“This was an epic summer for us, having both turned 50 this past year, looking forward to our 20th wedding anniversary this fall, and sending our oldest of four kids off to college in the fall inspired us to go big with our summer plans. It was a dream come true for me to travel to Tanzania as a family with Proud African Safaris
, a small Tanzanian owned company that provided a trip of a lifetime. We spent 6 nights in the Serengeti viewing spectacular wildlife, and visited a Masaai village as well as several tribes in the lake Eyasi region. Then spent a few days at the beach in Zanzibar. Soon after our family trip, I did a week long women’s trip to Israel that was incredible. Then as a family we traveled into the path of totality in South Carolina to view the Total Solar Eclipse!”
We are excited to be back, to share the global stories that we have collected and dive into a new season together!
What did you do did this past summer? We’d love to hear!
My husband is a software engineer who specializes in smart phone application development. Our four-year-old son described his father’s job as “very challenging.” He said, “Dad is always fixing phones, lots of phones. His lab is loaded with phones.”
I am an independent journalist and a freelance writer. Our son described my job as “very easy.” He said, “Mom is always playing with her computer, chatting on the phone, and traveling by air.”
So this is how my son looks at writing to deadline, phone interviews, and business trips. How cute, yet how annoying! My husband and I joked about this, and I told him, “So our son thinks your job is challenging and mine is easy. That’s not fair. I don’t want to be looked down on—not by our own child!”
For the first time I saw myself through my child’s eyes. I was both surprise and amused to realize that I actually have a fear of being looked down on by my child. Then I thought about my mother, and what she was like in my eyes when I was four years old.
Back then, I was afraid of my mother. She was a so-called “tiger mom” who spanked me often. Most of the time, I didn’t know what I had done wrong. I was constantly scolded for my “bad attitude” when I was too young to even understand what an attitude is. I vividly remember how scary my mother was when she was beating me, but I barely remember what I did to anger her.
There are a few things that I remember, though. Here is one memory. My mother used to make fried rice noodles and throw in a lot of dried shrimp. The smell of the dried shrimp totally covered the flavor of the shiitake mushrooms and the sweetness of the cabbage.
I asked my mom, “Can you not put so much dried shrimp in the fried rice noodles?”
She effectively silenced me with an angry shout: “This amount of dried shrimp is necessary in fried rice noodles! Shut your month and eat up, or I’ll beat you up.”
When we visited my uncle, his wife made fried rice noodles, but without the dried shrimp. It was delicious. I ate two bowls and happily said to my mother, “Look, Auntie made fried rice noodles with no dried shrimp! It’s good! Let’s try this, too!”
When we got home that day, my mother grabbed a tennis racquet standing by the door and started to strike me with it. She was too upset to find the rattan that she usually used. The racquet strokes fell on me like raindrops; the pain was great. I started to cry, “Why are you hitting me?”
She shouted, “Because you have a bad attitude! Stop crying or I’ll beat you even more!”
For a long time, I didn’t know why I was punished. My mother was an irritable and horrible person in my eyes. I guessed she hated me, but I wasn’t sure. I dared not ask.
Later, when I was in middle school, a friend of mine lent me her CD of Blur’s. I brought it home, totally forgetting that we didn’t even have a CD player. I put the CD on my desk.
My mother saw it and asked me, “What’s this?”
I said, “It’s a CD I borrowed from a friend. But we don’t have a CD player at home, so never mind.”
My mother asked me what a CD was. I said, “A CD is a compact disc. You don’t know that?”
She suddenly raged, grabbed a clothes hanger and hit me in the face. I cried, “Why are you doing this?”
She shouted, “Because you have a bad attitude!”
I was fourteen years old. While I was being hit by that hanger, I started to hate my mother. I thought she was being unreasonable. I thought she was just randomly beating me up because she happened to be in a bad mood, or worse, for no reason at all. I vowed that I would never become somebody like her.
Then I grew up. I left my parents a long time ago, but I’m still searching for the answer to the tough question, “Why my mother physically abuse me?” I tried to look at her from a mature woman’s eyes, and not from a child’s eyes. I finally figured out that maybe, just maybe, I knew one of the reasons behind my mother’s abuse. She spent her whole adult life as a housewife, and was kept at home for the whole time. My father’s parents did not have a harmonious marriage. My grandmother once ran away from home, and as a result, my father was insecure about relationships. He limited my mother’s social and career life. My mother hated to be isolated from the outside world, but she was helpless. She was afraid of being despised, especially by her children. And when I showed the attitude that she considered scornful—for example, by criticizing her cooking or questioning her knowledge—she beat me to maintain her dignity.
When I was a child, I first feared and then hated my mother, but I didn’t despise her until I became a teenager. Now, when I think of her sense of inferiority, my heart almost aches. But I don’t want to be sympathetic. My mother had a big ego, and it would be painful for her to know that her daughter had sympathy for her.
When my own son described my job as “very easy,” I realized that I too did not want to be underestimated by my child. So I reminded myself about my own mother. She was eventually despised by her own daughter, not because she made bad fried rice noodles, not because she didn’t know what a CD was, and not because she was an isolated housewife, but because she had abused her child. Ironically, she abused her child exactly because she didn’t want the contempt.
I realized that children are not confused. They only despise parents when the parents despise themselves.
I asked my son, “Surely Dad is great! When you grow up, do you want to be an engineer just like him?”
He said, “No. I want to be a writer just like you. So that I can play with my computer, chat on the phone, and get on airplanes all the time.”
How did you see your parents when you were growing up? How would you like your children to see you?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng. Photo credit: Mu-huan Chiang.
“Has anyone ever told you that you look like a young Lynda Carter?” an older man asked me in a park. I was in my 20s at the time.
“Yes, actually,” I replied. “Thank you.”
I smiled and walked on. It wasn’t the first time I heard that comment. A few people likened me to the actress who played Wonder Woman in the mid-late 1970s on television. Though she started to portray Wonder Woman the year before I was born, people would mention her name as my apparent doppelganger from an early age. I guess it was the dark hair and eyes.
I’ve always had a thing for Wonder Woman. I wasn’t really ever into comic books or superheroes, in particular. But I had Wonder Woman underoos and a felt a connection to her character. Maybe because she had similar features as me. It could also have been that she was a strong, badass female. What girl doesn’t want to be like Wonder Woman?
I dressed as Wonder Woman two Halloweens ago. I hadn’t dressed up for Halloween in decades, but my gym was having a fun outdoor workout that encouraged Halloween costumes. I bought a costume in a local store. I knew exactly who I wanted to be. When my ex-husband came to my house to pick my boys up for the night, I was outside dressed in my full Wonder Woman costume. He didn’t say a word. I posted something on Facebook about the encounter, thinking it was a funny/awkward little encounter. I left my phone for a bit, worked out, dragged a tire a few times and found over 200 likes to my funny little post.
I felt pretty badass that night and have been told that the Wonder Woman character fits me well.
It wasn’t until I saw the most recent Wonder Woman movie that I truly understood why I’ve felt a connection to the character for so long. Watching her story unfold reminded me of my own. It’s hard to explain, but I saw a girl who grew into a woman that, despite being told “No” a whole lot, fought for what she believed in. She appreciated life, truth, babies, ice cream, didn’t have a need for the acceptance of men (and pointed out that besides procreation weren’t really needed at all) and rocked a tiara. She was kind, funny, had a need to defend the world from bad and was ready to fight if the need arose.
When every man on the screen told her not to cross No Man’s Land, Diana Prince became Wonder Woman. She took her coat off to reveal her true self, raised her shield and walked straight there, deflecting bullets with her bracelets. The men followed. Like others, I may have teared up a little during this scene.
But it wasn’t about winning a war. It was about love.
As Diana said, “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”
I write this here because I think most moms feel the same way. As a single mom, my kids see me mow the lawn, lift weight, cook dinner, watch their sporting events, go to work, among other things, every single week. They’ve seen me at my highest and lowest points and love me no matter what. They roll their eyes at me, tell me I’m mean and still give the biggest, most loving hugs I’ve ever received.
As moms, we are all wonder women. We persist when we’re told no. We seek truth and justice. We keep going because we are out to protect our kids and our love. Nothing will stop us.
Have you seen the Wonder Woman movie? Did you feel a connection to Diana?
Photo Credit: WolfPack Fitness
The author serving as a substitute teacher at a local Chinese-language school in San Diego
I’ve served as a judge at some local children’s Chinese-language speech and recitation contests on several occasions. I still remember my first time. I saw a little boy in a suit and tie, speaking with a crisp voice, saying, “Summer is my favorite season because the sunny days are cheerful and inspire me to do great things for my people.” When speaking, he raised his two fists high in the air.
Then I saw a little girl in a dress and high heels, who with a clear but shy voice said, “Winter is my favorite season because it reminds me the Chinese fairy tale ‘Snow Child,’ a story that describes the noble sentiments of Chinese people.” Then she wiped her eyes in an exaggerated way.
These children were all born in the United States, of Chinese descent. They spoke Chinese in crisp, clear voices, but the speech content was confusing. I really wanted to ask the girl what she meant by “the noble sentiments of Chinese people,” or the boy what “great things” he was going to do for his people. I got the impression that most of the scripts were written by parents.
After the young children spoke, the older kids stepped onstage. A couple of teenagers in T-shirts and shorts hesitantly walked up, muttering things like, “We should respect our teachers, because…because Chinese people believe in their teachers, well I’m American, not Chinese, but… oh well, let’s just respect our teachers” or, “We should respect our parents because…because they are too old to understand anything we say…let’s just listen to them when we are home.”
It was funny to see young people of Chinese appearance speaking with such strong American accents – so strong that I could barely understand them. Nine out of ten parents sitting in the auditorium frowned, clearly not enjoying the speech. Were they sad because their teenagers were not speaking Chinese as well as they had in elementary school? Were they worried because their children’s speech was not good enough to get them into college?
While considering how to score, I thought of my own child. He was then nine months old. I couldn’t help but wonder whether he would be able to tell the fairy tale Snow Child in fluent Mandarin Chinese. Would he become an American kid with an American accent and complain that “Mom is too old to understand anything I say”?
I frowned, like all the parents in the auditorium.
In my family, we speak Chinese at home and English at work or school. My son was a late talker, but our pediatrician comforted us, saying that although bilingual kids can be slow to speak at the beginning, they usually catch up quickly. He encouraged us to insist on speaking Chinese at home.
We tried to create a Chinese-only environment at home with hopes that my son’s first word my son would a Chinese word. But the hope came to naught: his first word was an English word he learned at the daycare: “Daddy”. This was my first failure in raising a bilingual child. In spite of this, we continue to speak Chinese at home. Every night we read bed time stories together in Chinese. By the time he was three, my son could speak fluent Chinese, and tell “Snow Child” and many other fairy tales without help. I was very proud.
But my pride didn’t last for long. Just a couple of months ago, his preschool teacher told me that he had a hitting problem. The theory was that because my son didn’t speak English as well as other kids, his ability to stand up for himself in arguments was limited, and he turned to physical means of expressing himself.
The teacher suggested that we set an “English time” at home to help my son improve his English. I didn’t like the idea: the more I exposed him to English, the less chance he got to speak Chinese. Didn’t he speak a whole lot of English at school already?
But the hitting problem got worse. After consulting our pediatrician and therapist, I finally gave in and started a daily English storytime at home. Kids are really like sponges, and his English improved in no time. He stopped hitting his preschool classmates, but his Chinese language skills went backwards.
I started to understand why I kept seeing the same thing at Chinese speech and recitation contests: the younger the children are, the better their Chinese language skills are. I started to understand that my hope of raising a bilingual child fluent in Chinese might once again come to naught.
I worked as a staff writer at a local Chinese-language newspaper when I was young. Many times, I interviewed outstanding second or third generation Chinese-Americans. When I asked them for a Chinese name for publishing purpose, they often said, “I don’t remember my Chinese name.”
A Chinese-American anti-death penalty activist once “drew” down her Chinese name for me after an interview. I couldn’t read the symbols she had drawn. I tried to guess and wrote down two characters next to her drawing. She read my writing and happily announced, “Yes, that’s my name!”
When the article was published the next day, I got a phone call in the newsroom from an old lady speaking Chinese with a sweet Beijing accent. She identified herself as the mother of the anti-death penalty activist, and said that I had gotten her daughter’s name wrong. I apologized, and she said, “That’s okay, I understand. My daughter must have made the mistake herself. She never remembered her Chinese name. But I just want to let you know.” Then she was silent. “Hello! Hello?” I said, not sure if I should hang up. Then she started to talk again, asking me where I was from, if I was married, and if I had children.
At that time I was married but there were no children yet. The old lady aid earnestly, “Take my advice. When you have your own kids, always speak Chinese to them.”
“Sure, sure,” I said, just saying that to make her happy.
Through the years I’ve seen many second generation Chinese-Americans struggling to learn Chinese.
Since having my own child, I often think of the old lady and her daughter who couldn’t remember her own Chinese name. The thought is almost painful.
It is not just the America-born children who are struggling. The away-from-home adults are also struggling. I am a professional writer who was born to Chinese parents and raised in Taiwan, but who has spent her entire adulthood in the States. I struggled to improve my English during my first years in the United States. Now I write English more then Chinese. I can clearly see that I no longer speak Chinese as well as I used to. When I was in my twenties, I was eager to get rid of my Chinese accent. Now I’m desperate to maintain my Chinese language skill.
My son will soon be four, old enough to go to the Chinese language school. I decided to let him start this fall. He doesn’t like the idea of going to school on weekends, and asks, “Why do I have to learn Chinese?”
I didn’t know how to explain the concept of culture to a toddler. I just told him, “So you can read ‘Journey to the West’.” The other night I read him the chapter “Monkey Subdues White-Skeleton Demon” from the classic novel. He wanted to know if the Monkey eventually returned to his teacher Xuanzang. I wouldn’t tell him. I told him that he will read it one day by himself.
I still hope to raise a bilingual child who speaks fluent English and at least understandable Chinese. I don’t expect him to love the Chinese language right away. Language is always first a tool and then an art. I hope my son will first learn how to use the tool, and then, maybe one day, he’ll truly fall in love with the art.
Are you raising a bilingual child? How do you manage the cultural balance between more than one language?
This is an original post for World Moms Network by T0-Wen Tseng. Photo credit: David Sprouse.