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Random ramblings, again

October 2, 2009   

Been sleeping on the livingroom recliner the last couple of days (minus yeterday), which is much better on the hip & pelvis.

I started a blog post titled “Nesting, Nagging, and Nurture Shock” but didn’t finish it because I’m too tired and it felt like it was going to be a long post.

I have something on the brain about “wanting to give what you felt you lacked” when it comes to parenting and other close relationships, but much like the prior attempt, it seems like it’ll take too much time. The basic gist is that people perceive what they wish they had when they were kids, and try their best to make sure that their kids don’t feel that same deficiency.

As an example, if you felt that you were never praised enough, you might tend toward overpraising your child. If you, like my older brother, always felt like there was never enough to go around such that ever penny earned (whether by him or my parents) went toward necessities, then you might tend toward excessive buying of toys/clothes/etc. for your progeny, even if he/she doesn’t have any desire to have whatever it is you are getting them.

I think it is difficult not to see your own blind spots. I wonder what my own blind spots will be. I know that with my little brother, my older sister bought him a ton of cute little clothes when he was little, and maybe that reflected how we always had second-hand clothing growing up and how that made her feel when others perceived this. My older brother brought home a new toy almost every trip outside the house. He still buys him all sorts of things: new cell phones, laptops, stereos, computers, food, clothes. There’s nothing wrong with it, but often he buys things that the little bro never even showed an iota of interest in, because he thinks he might want it.

What did I do and what do I continue to do with him? I do the same thing in my own way, which is to try to give him what I wanted. When I was really small, I really, really wanted books. We didn’t have books in our home (except for a bible and a homemaker’s encyclopedia) until I was about 5 or 6. This wasn’t because my parents didn’t want the best education and literacy for their kids; it was because back then, the home finances were such that my mom would talk down the guy who sold mung bean sprouts the equivalent of a penny from the cost of the 10 cent bag.

I remember when my mom bought two 30-book sets on an installment plan from the door-to-door bookseller. One set was for me & my sister, and the second set was for my older brother. I remember when the bookseller came to the door, and we looked at the sample books from two different kids’ books, in addition to the older, more history-oriented books for my brother. One set was full of pictures and didn’t have a lot of words on the page. I could read it right away. The other set had only about one black & white half-page picture every 20-30 pages, with a couple of color illustrations in the front. Each book was probably about 200 pages and were collections of stories from different countries.

I honestly don’t remember which set I wanted more — being a kid, probably the picture books — but my mom ended up getting us the more verbose one, and I am so glad. I’ve read every story in every book many, many times in my lifetime, probably upwards of about 30 times each. I loved the stories and still remember most of them. I read my way through them then through my older brother’s history book set. His books were probably more like 350 pages each and discussed various historic figures from around the world. This must have been before I entered the first grade, but after I learned to read, which wasn’t until I was about 5. I learned to read late for America, but in Korea at the time, I don’t think people tried to get kids to read until just before school (which starts at age 7), despite the enormous academic pressure that immediately accompanies the start of school.

What was I talking about?

Anyway, I loved and still love to read. I used to go over to my neighbor’s house and read through their kiddie science books while my sister was playing house with the girl who lived there. I was fascinated by the worlds opened up within these books, the knowledge they shared, the stories they told. I was so hungry for reading & knowledge that I even read the homemaker’s encyclopedia (1000 pages of stuff my 6 year old self didn’t really understand) that belonged to my mom.

When I came to the US and eventually learned to read English, one of the small things that my parents always made sure to budget for whenever I wanted to order books through Scholastic Books in my school. I wanted to order every time, and I got to get three books each time. If money were not an issue, I would have gotten at least half the books every time.

So from the time my little brother was an infant, I always wanted to get him books and educational toys. I realized at some point that I was also ignoring his actual wants and needs in favor of my own when one year, when I told him I was sending him a birthday present, he replied, “I bet it’s something ‘educational’.” I could hear the air-quotes in his voice. Of course, I was mad at him at first for being such an ungrateful little twit and told him so 😀 but I did stop to think about what I was doing. I was doing the same thing that my older siblings were doing: giving him what they wanted, instead of really seeing what it is that would be good for him or even what he himself wanted. So I started to talk to him more about what he was actually interested in. My gifts for him almost always still border on the nerdy/educational, but at least are geared more towards his fields of interest rather than my own.

And on this brink of becoming a parent, I think to myself, I don’t know what my blind spots are. I know the biggest thing I want for our son is for him to grow up to be a moral, responsible, self-sufficient person who leaves behind him a world slightly (or much) better than he found it.

I think in the core of that wish is the thing that my adult self see as something I want(ed) more than books, more than learning, and that is the ability to live out my own life. I love my life and I love my family dearly, but there had always been a sense of obligation instilled in all of us to take care of each other. And see? That’s not even a bad thing. I’ll even say it’s a great thing, and it’s the thing that pulls families and friends together, knowing that there is a commitment and desire to care for each other through thick and thin. I wouldn’t trade the closeness I have with my family for anything. Each member of my family sacrificed hard to make things work for the whole, and that is why it functions and grows.

But I don’t want our son-to-be to make every major decision in his life with that thought weighing heavily on his mind. I want him to know that we, his parents, will be able to take care of ourselves and that he can be free to pursue his own purpose in life. I want him to feel the freedom to make his own way in life, instead of being predisposed to always choose the responsible option. And in many ways, I know I want to be grossly irresponsible at times myself.

So will the blind spot come in the form of accidentally having him think that he shouldn’t care for our well-being, that he’s the only important entity in the family, that he can live capriciously? I certainly hope not. Because it’s a blind spot, it’s hard to tell where it will be.

I ramble, therefore I am.

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