Monthly Archives: November 2011

Tiny little heartbreaks

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Amelie is nearly 10 months old and developing and growing in new ways all the time, obviously. Lately she’s been reaching for her spoon at meal times to feed herself, which she actually does quite well. She can feed herself snacks too, and I was watching her feed herself yesterday at lunch and felt so proud and at the same time it broke my heart just a tiny little bit every time I saw her feeding herself with her right hand, whether it was a hit or miss. I don’t think anyone else would even notice, or even know what to look for, but I can see the difference in how she uses her hands. She’s still so tiny, and yet is already figuring out ways to overcome her handicap (or challenge or whatever the politically correct term is). And I am so proud of her. And I am so grateful that she is a healthy, smiley, happy little soul. She is such a joy to be around. Constantly smiling and laughing and being silly, especially with her sister. She has no idea of the challenges that lie ahead, and watching her happily eat with her right hand, figuring out how to get the food into her mouth even though her hand doesn’t quite allow her a really convenient angle to get it in, broke my heart just a tiny little bit knowing that her hand is not perfect, and as much as I try to raise her with confidence, that hand will most likely be the source of frustration and tears for her at some point in the future. I know it could be a lot worse. I know I have so much to be grateful for, and I’m not taking any of that for granted. There are many days when I don’t even think about her hand, or the difficulties Amelie will face in the future. But yesterday I did, and it literally hurt a little bit in my chest watching her.

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The Visit

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When I wrote my last post, it was just after my parents had left, so everything was still fresh in my mind, and I was just feeling relieved to have seen them off and not have to worry about them visiting again for another 2 years or so.

I feel horrible that I feel the way I do about my parents. I love them of course, but from afar. When I’m with them, I just want to get away from them and I find it nearly impossible to be nice to them, especially my mother. So some of the stuff that annoyed me while they were here was just because I am perpetually annoyed with them, perhaps not necessarily because they did anything particularly annoying.

There was the usual stuff though, like my mom being too embarrassed to even try saying “arigato” in Japanese, and not even saying “thank you” in English when someone did something for her, and me finding it really embarrassing. Or my dad going on and on with his bad jokes in English that are just plain annoying in English and leave Japanese people completely baffled. Or just how fucking cheap they are! I know plane tickets aren’t cheap, but seriously, my parents make a good living! Their annual salaries combined are probably double what my in-laws make, and at least triple or quadruple what Akinori and I make put together, and yet, they never paid, or even offer to pay, for anything!! No, wait, the second day they were here was a Monday and Akinori was at work and Sara at kindy, so my parents, Amelie and me went for a walk and out for lunch, and my dad started to pay, and I pulled out money for my share, and said “No, you don’t have to do that…well alright” and pocketed the money.

There were some things that really stood out though, and still do, and I really am not sure how to deal with things from here on out. First of all, Sara was not having a bar of my father for the most part. She didn’t want to hold his hand, hug him, be hugged or held by him, no piggy backs, nothing. She screamed and shouted and cried if he tried to hold her. Once we were running for a train that we needed to catch and were going to miss if he didn’t carry her up the stairs, and she SCREAMED the entire time. Another time she had fallen asleep on the train and I was holding Amelie and couldn’t carry them both off so my dad carried the sleeping Sara and when she half woke to find my father carrying her, she screamed bloody murder. My dad thinks his acne scars are what scares her. His face is quite marked from them, and he is quite self-conscious about it, and always has been. For as long as I can remember he has talked about them and how disfigured he is. Of course he’s not, and I don’t think anyone would even really notice if he didn’t make such a big deal about them, and I don’t think that’s why Sara finds him scary, because she still, to this day, says “Grandpa’s scary.

Before I had kids, my parents would come for a visit, and it was just mildly annoying. Having to translate everything for them all the time, read menus, etc. By now they are past that and don’t ask me to translate because they know how annoyed and bitchy I get. Having kids though has changed everything. Part of me has to accept that they are who they are and are not going to turn into different people overnight or just because I have kids. My mom is never going to be the kind of mother who swoops in to take over, cook, clean, etc. because her idea of cooking is boiling pasta and throwing a jar of pasta sauce over it, and that’s if you’re lucky. Usually it’s just throwing something in the microwave. And her idea of cleaning is…well…I’ve never seen her clean. Whenever I go home she calls in a cleaning company to come and clean the house, and they do a completely crap job and she’s satisfied with it, so that alone tells you the difference in our standards of what we consider clean. At one point she did say was thinking about washing the dishes for me, but didn’t know where to put the dishes that were sitting in the dish rack, so she couldn’t. (If she really wanted to help, she could have taken the dishes out of the dish rack and piled them neatly to the side and then washed the dishes, but it’s the thought that counts, right? And for my mom, even thinking of washing the dishes for me was momentous.)

Anyway, the point is my grandmother raised me, and cleaned and cooked while I was growing up. My mom (or dad) didn’t spend much time with me when I was young, and so it’s probably unreasonable of me to think that my parents would even have a clue how to deal with small children. However, that said, I find my dad is really hard on Sara. I shouldn’t be surprised, he was really hard on me. He was raised in a very strict family, and was therefore quite strict with us. I just found the comments he made about Sara quite discouraging though, and I think Sara could feel that from him, and I think she also felt the negativity I feel towards my parents coming from me, and maybe fed off that too.

Sara nor Amelie dealt very well with the change that having my parents in the house brought. Amelie was at the height of her stranger anxiety phase, and cried quite a bit if I put her down, ever. She didn’t want to be held by anyone but me. But my dad was actually really good with her when I was in the shower, or the one time they had to babysit when I went to teach belly dance and Akinori hadn’t come home from work yet. He was able to hold her and get her to calm down and sleep. But for example, when I took my parents to Kyushu and we were staying with my host family and I was busy trying to get our luggage ready to leave, and my host parents were making lunch, Amelie was just beside herself upset, screaming and crying at having been left alone in the highchair while watching me buzz around, and neither of my parents got up to pick her up and console her. It was only after my host mother went to stop preparing lunch and pick up Amelie that I said to my parents that one of them should get up and hold her, that my dad actually got up and held her. This was towards the end of the trip too and I was beyond annoyed.

When my parents first arrived and for days after Sara was bouncing off the walls (literally) with excitement at having house guests. She was seriously mental, running up and down the hallway, popping her head in, then running back out of the room again, and it lasted a few days. So the Wednesday after my parents arrive, we are sitting in the kitchen eating lunch, and my dad out-of-the-blue says to my mom, who is a school psychologist, “So what does Sara have ADD or ADHD?” and my mom replies, like it’s nothing “ADHD”. God, just writing that sentence has given me a massive headache it infuriates me so much. I was absolutely livid with both of them. My dad starts saying “well she’s been so hyper since we’ve been here, all the running up and back. She can’t sit still, blah, blah, blah”. Admittedly, Sara’s behavior leaves a lot to desired (especially lately, but that needs to be  a different post), but a lot of that is because she is 2, nearly 3, and that’s just how toddlers, especially ones who are competing for attention from their parents and everyone else with an adorable, always smiley baby, are. But my parents don’t know what Sara is like on a day-to-day basis. She was excited by their presence. Who the fuck are they to diagnose her with a behavioral disorder? If one of her kindy teachers took me aside and expressed a concern, I would listen thoughtfully to what she said, but my parents, who haven’t seen her for a whole year in person, and see her on skype a few times a month MAYBE, and even then barely talk to her because she gets too excited to sit still then either, have no business putting their two cents in regarding my daughter’s behavior! I have my own concerns about her behavior, and how over-active she is, but I will deal with that when the time comes if I feel it’s necessary, and right now, I’m more confident that she is just a super-genki, super-curious, fairly intelligent little girl.

I think that lead to me feeling very protective of Sara around my parents and I was constantly on the watch for them being negative towards her, and I was very defensive about it when they were even a little bit. Like when she would do something to annoy Amelie and they would tell her not to. It would just piss me off. I don’t want them disciplining my daughters. I think Sara also may have felt that? But she was fine with my mom, just not my dad.

I know it hurt my dad’s feelings that Sara wouldn’t warm up to him too. The worst was when we arrived in Kyushu and my host dad was waiting for us at the ticket gates and when we came out, he just scooped Sara up and starting walking to the car, and was perfectly happy to be scooped up into his arms even though the last time she had seen him was nearly 2 years ago. My dad even said under his breath “now that hurts”.

Well, that wasn’t really the worst, the worst was when we left Sara in Kyushu by accident, and I must be a horrible mother because I laughed so hard I cried when it happened. We were really late getting to the station to catch our train back to Nagano. We had to make 2 connections, and it was the last train that would allow us to make all of the connections and still get back to Nagano that evening, at least it was the last train that wasn’t a Nozomi, which my parents couldn’t take with their JR rail passes. So my parents, my host father and myself take all of the luggage and go and buy our train tickets. Meanwhile my host sister, 2 of her kids, my host mother and Sara go to the bathroom and omiyage shopping. I just thought they were going to the bathroom and would meet us on the platform when they were done.

We get the tickets and as we’re walking up the stairs to the platform, we can see that the train is already there and we HAVE to be on that train. So a bit of panicked running ensues and my host dad throws my luggage on the train, hops off the train again, then I get on followed by my parents and the doors close behind them. I turn around look at them and say “We don’t have Sara!” I look at my host dad on the platform smiling and waving and I think I screamed so the whole train could hear, hoping my host dad would hear me “Sara! SARA!” My mom FREAKS out and runs to the next car practically in tears yelling “Please stop! Please stop the train!” And I start laughing uncontrollably. Watching my mom freak out is somehow incredibly amusing to me, besides the fact that the whole situation was just ridiculous.

So I call my host sister and she says “Brenda, something very strange has happened”. And that gets me going all over again. Tears are streaming down my face I’m laughing so hard and I can barely breathe at this point. It’s decided that my host dad will get on the next Nozomi with Sara and take her to Hiroshima station, so we should get off there and wait for her, which is what we do. My host dad shows up 20 minutes or so later with Sara and his granddaughter who is the same age, and both of them are happy as clams licking lollies, and eating all kinds of junk food. So my host dad says goodbye and walks off to go to the opposite platform and head back to Kyushu. When he does this Sara starts BAWLING saying “Where’s Jiji going? I want to go home with Jiji!! I don’t want to go home! I don’t want to see daddy! I want to go home with Jiji!” and she is inconsolable for ages after that. It was all just too ironic.

While we were waiting for Sara at Hiroshima station though, I had to figure out how to get us back to Nagano as we have now missed the last non-Nozomi train that would get us to Osaka in time for our connections. It looked like there was a train that went to Tokyo that would arrive in time to catch the last shinkansen to Nagano, however, although it wouldn’t cost my parents anything extra to do that with their JR passes, it would be considerably more expensive for me to change my ticket. My parents didn’t want to pay for train tickets (as I said, they are cheap) so I decided the best thing to do would be for me to take the girls on the next Nozomi and just pay the difference on the train, and catch our original train back to Nagano from Nagoya, and for my parents to go back to Nagano via Tokyo.

We ended up getting really lucky and because we were sitting in unreserved seats, no one checked our tickets and we didn’t have to pay anything extra for the Nozomi, which means my parents could have come with us and not had to pay either, but I didn’t know that at the time. My parents though ended up getting stuck in Tokyo for the night since the train from Osaka arrived in Tokyo 8 minutes after the last train back to Nagano. Oops. So they had to get a hotel room for the evening. (I think of it as Karma having her way with them for being so cheap.) They got an early train back to Nagano in the morning, did some last minute omiyage shopping, we went to dinner with my in-laws, and then brought them back to the train station. They had an early flight out the next day, and getting to the airport from Nagano means they either had to leave here at 3 or 4 a.m. or spend the night at a hotel near the airport, so they chose the latter option.

They called before their flight took off, and then once they arrived back in Chicago, and I haven’t really spoken to them since. I haven’t been avoiding them, but I haven’t made an effort either. I hate that I distance myself from them or feel stress at the thought of seeing or speaking to them. They’re my parents and I should love them unconditionally, and although I love them, I don’t like being around them. I am a crap daughter, so how can I expect them to be stellar grandparents? My worst fear is that my children will end up feeling the same way about me, and I have a lot of faith in Karma. I am pretty much screwed.