It Don’t Start with a “G”

When we opted not to find out the sex of our second baby, my best friend, K, told me I would be having another boy. I told her to shuddup and not tell me what the Chinese Gender Predictor Calendar was revealing to her as we talked on the phone. I KNEW she would be tinkering with an Internet search as soon as I told her we’d be keeping it a surprise.

“Aight, dawg. I won’t tell you what you’ll be having. I’mma just tell you this though. It don’t start with a ‘g'” she said, howling with laughter.

“Eww, why you all SURE, too? You being cocky right now! Augh!” I said, feigning anger.

“I dunno. I just picture you as the only girl of the house. Outnumbered. Queen Bee. It’s dope!”

I thought about this conversation during recent moments where I am clearly the only lady of the house:

After receiving a hand-me-down puzzle called Diggers & Dumpers, Micah has become very interested in the different types of specialty vehicles. This is out of my realm of expertise as I am not a cool gal who knows about cars and machinery. Zero interest. He asked me what the difference between an excavator and backhoe is.

“Why not same – same, Mommy?” he asked, as he loves to match up same objects these days.

I was thinking, “Um, one sounds like the better punchline to a joke?” I explained that um…er, an excavator is bigger than a backhoe(?). Yeah, that’s it.

His earnest, wide-eyed response: “Micah backhoe. Daddy excavator. Micah small, Daddy beeg.” (I just googled “difference between excavator and backhoe” as I write up this post. Apparently, I taught him wrong. The excavator was only the bigger puzzle piece in this particular puzzle.)

Every time Micah would see the GEICO gecko on display in the window of a store we stroll by regularly, he would start screaming, “Gecko! Let’s go Mets, raahhhhh! Gecko, let’s go Mets, ahhhhh!” He would make me stop in front of the store so he could cheer properly. I just thought he was a quirky kid but today as we drove by Citifield, Micah started screaming, “Let’s go Mets, Gecko!” Sure enough, we saw a billboard with the GEICO gecko across the highway from Citifield, right from his vantage point as a little passenger in our backseat.

You right, Micah. “If you see something, say something.” Reminded again to listen to our kids. They are always making connections and what sounds random isn’t quite so.

When I heard Kevin raising his voice at Micah as he wrangled him for a bath, I said, “Hey, you know if you keep yelling at him, it won’t be effective when you really need to raise your voice at him. He’ll think Daddy just yells.”

“Don’t worry. I have a different octave for that. You gotta put some bass into it.” And sure enough, who does Micah listen to more? The one who has bass to put into it.

And finally, I had been working on getting Micah to wean off his perfectionist tendencies. I had initially thought that it was a toddler’s developmental milestone to become almost obsessed with getting everything right, i.e. when working on puzzles. I talked to a few friends with toddlers and they informed me that this is actually a part of his personality, a trait, not part of a toddler’s development. I noticed he would want to make sure he’s right, before trying to put a puzzle piece into the puzzle, or matching a picture in a book.

So I said, “Guess what, Micah? Let’s just have fun and get it all wrong. Mommy wants to show you that getting it wrong can be fun and there is nothing, er…well, wrong, with getting things wrong sometimes!”

But Micah didn’t like this game and proceeded to put every piece in its rightful place. “TA-DAAAA!” he exclaimed with pride.

Just then, Kevin walks by and busts out with, “Whooo-hooo! Micah got it ALL RIGHT! My man! High-five!”

Great. We just took a few steps back(hoe).

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Tantrum Tuesday = Bargain Movie Night

“Look, Jihee-yah. We’re just gonna leave and let you eat dinner in peace. Exhale. TAKE YOUR TIME. Don’t worry, we will find something to eat at home.”

Don’t have to tell me twice. I did not protest. Raise up, boys. Let me exhale after Micah’s Tantrum Tuesday. If mama could, she would even order some wine with her Polish platter.

Second time this month my boys left me at a restaurant during dinner. But honestly, I welcomed the ditching. Eating with a happy toddler still takes some patience and wrangling but an unhappy one? Oy.

This time, it was even before ordering. M had been throwing a few tantrums, wanting to look at my P-H-O-N-E so that he can watch videos of himself. He had gotten better the last couple months but regressed a bit lately maybe because I’ve been on it more. I can’t leave all emails and online business for nighttime especially these next few weeks.

We met Daddy at a nearby restaurant after Gymboree (where a public tantrum went down). Packed on a Tuesday night for Yom Kippur. We may have been the only Gentiles. Upset customers due to slow service. M is also upset because he wants more diluted apple juice which we ran out of. I could tell it’s only going to get worse so I say, “Let’s just go. I don’t have it in me to sit through this after today.” When Kevin told me to stay and unwind, he tried to place M in the stroller but M was so upset, he used it as a slide and came right out.

A handful of senior citizens watched shamelessly as if we were the dinner show. Almost beaming that they got a free show to add some fun to their uneventful meal, having nothing to talk about other than the slow service. One lady even said, “This is SO funny!” while Kevin huffed and puffed to calm him down and get them on their way. Glad we could amuse her. The boys left and a party of six sat by me. They had a toddler who (happily) threw his toys throughout their entire dinner.

Last time this happened, it was after our food had arrived at an Italian place in our neighborhood. The boys went home to leave me at peace, and also to look like such the stereotype for Very Pregnant Lady with a seafood linguine, fried calamari, and pizza for One. Sure, we hadn’t come with ANY toys or distractions for M as we wanted to be carefree and just walk across the street for a family dinner for once. How smart of us.

After our separate dinners and M’s bath, our friends came over to sit at our place while M snoozed away. They wanted us to treat ourselves to a final(?) date night before we become a Family of Four. What a weeknight treat thanks to Uncle AO and Auntie NK. I was so frenzied from Tantrum Tuesday that I didn’t even get to look up the movie choices the way I usually do. I actually let Kevin narrow it down on his own. Something I never do because I am so damn picky and difficult about what I’d watch. It was between a Cop Movie (action, suspense, mystery, humor?) or a Clint Eastwood-Amy Adams father-daughter flick which would also interest me because I love family dynamics (but not as critically acclaimed).

We went for the Cop movie.

Kevin is usually overprotective about what I am “allowed” to watch during my pregnancy. Koreans say that women should only watch lovely things during their pregnancy. Nothing scary or emotionally jarring. So he had banned me from many movies, including the Final Destination series that always seems to pop up on our HBO channel when I’m in my final few weeks before due date.

So why did he take me to the movie that included oh, let’s see (SPOILER ALERT for “End of Watch”):

babies wrapped up with duct tape, human trafficking, blood and gore, gang violence, babies nearly catching on fire, rotting dead bodies, knife in the eye, beat-up-to-a-pulp unrecognizable face…

I actually LOVED the movie because it took place in South Central LA (where my folks used to run a Chinese takeout joint when I was a little girl, which gave me the street cred I still carry proudly to this day, yay, yay.) Also about brotherhood/friendship and racial tensions, again riveting fave topics of mine. But oooh, not now, not after Tantrum Tuesday and while THIS pregnant. I had to cover my eyes especially in the couple scenes with the babies.

Kevin was sheepish. He looked to me and said, “Feel free to cover your eyes whenever,” as I was already covering my eyes and ears. Because it was Bargain Tuesday, some parents had brought the whole family! I heard little kids’ voices behind me saying, “Cover your eyes, Lupe!” when a striptease came on the screen. Though their ears and eyes were exposed to everything else. Again, it was a GREAT, memorable movie but just the wacky timing. The Koreans would’ve steered me towards the Eastwood-Adams flick though this was my usual style.

As we drove home to relieve our friends, K was carsick because the camerawork in the movie had triggered his motion sickness. We were laughing at our comical choice for final movie night. Drove by a car accident that again reminded us of the movie as we prayed for those involved.

Found out after the movie that while I surprisingly didn’t go into labor from the medley of jarring scenes, a Due Date friend of mine had given birth to his second baby exactly at 38 weeks along yesterday. It really struck me that I got next.

Okay, no editing for this post but starving and M may wake up soon.

35

When I was around 35 weeks along with Micah, I stopped working. I ended up having less than four weeks before he arrived and that in-between time was such a blessing. I had been able to commute on the subway and work full-time because I thought, “That’s what you do. Work! There ain’t no baby just yet.” But once I let go of this rule I had imposed on myself, I realized I was able to do it only because I was on auto-pilot – it was something I just did because of course I should keep working as long as I was physically able. But there was no intentionality behind it, just a (natural) drive to receive a few more paychecks to cover increasing baby-related expenses. I ended up trading in money for time.

When I stopped working, my body started exhaling, melting into the bed and basking in rest, like a turtle sunning on a rock. I was able to invest in quality rest everyday. Something not readily valued in today’s society, especially in rush rush rush NYC, but oh-so-necessary and healing. I’m pretty sure I moaned in my sleep a few times. The rest was so delicious, the kind where you sleep with a small hand towel under your face as you cuddle with your Snoogle because the drool will flow.

I would wake up whenever my body told me to. If I had had insomnia during the night, I could catch up by sleeping in. I didn’t have to run errands on my short lunch break. For the most part, I would find myself with only one item on my to-do list for the whole day like, “Try making scones,” “Meet Anna for lunch on Austin St,” and of course, “Daydream about baby.” Enjoyable, short to-do lists. I could take walks. Or not. I was wealthy with time. I also tried to learn to be kinder to myself for once. I didn’t have to DO anything if I didn’t want to, other than hydrate, eat well, and think pleasant thoughts for baby. I didn’t have to feel accomplished by checking off a long to-do list. Very unnatural for this child of immigrants who is naturally hard on herself.

This time around, I am not as wealthy with time or rest. I do crave some more of each before we are in the thick of it again, the sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Two other life-improving features I find myself craving: a parking spot preferably in the driveway of an actual house and a washer/dryer unit within that house (our co-op will not allow it). I should be content with our present home as it is a blessing that we prayed for in 2010, but the heart wants what the heart wants.

Instead, I am wealthy with cuteness via my toddler who toddles around all day with his bright eyes and smooth dolphin skin. Yesterday, we started the rainy morning off with a load of laundry in the basement. The load consisted of all of his stuffed animals and some of his drooly bibs. Such a small task requires much more energy with a toddler because he will turn it into an adventure. We have to wash his friends often because they are overkissed daily.

Once we get into the elevator, he immediately finds all the slivers of reflective surfaces so that he can give himself loud kisses. “Mmmuahh! Mmmmuahhh! Mmmmuuahhhhhhh!” I also have to cover the panel of alarm buttons that is perfectly within his reach. We walk down a long underground hallway to get to the laundry room. While walking, he feels very affectionate towards me and hugs my leg. He stops to look up at me with pleading eyes like the Puss in Boots Antonio Banderas cat in the Shrek movies. “Up? Up? Up?” He would like to be in my arms. Down the looong hallway. I hate to refuse but I do. I would love to always cuddle with my morsel, too, but I need him to get used to my not being able to pick him up for a while.

I try to distract him from the rejection by making it into a chase. He squeals. He just has to stop at the boiler room to check out what the workers are doing in there. I wrangle him away. We finally get to the washing machine. I’m worried he may be shocked to see his friends, Bear, Elephant, Mr. Mets, Lion, and many more, get dumped into a machine that will spin them silly, drowning them in suds, looking like a scene from Titanic. “Micah, it’s bathtime for them, okay?” He actually helps me by placing them in there one by one, solemnly, like we are performing a ritual.

Still carrying a bottle of detergent, I decide to let him walk outside in the courtyard for a little bit before the rain returns and we are forced back home to wait for the wash to be done. But he refuses to come back into the building as he checks out every gutter, dead leaf, bush and puddle. No matter how many times I pretend to walk back into the lobby without him, he doesn’t care. He wants to roam free. No separation anxiety since he knows I won’t really leave him. Dude is confident. I hide behind a tree so he will come looking for me and we can get home so I can sit for a spell but he is not falling for it.

He’s had it with my fakeouts. When I walk farther away, acting like I don’t have my eye on him at all, he throws himself on the ground. Lately, he wants a LOT of attention from me, almost like the baby has already arrived. And why not? He has always received 100% of my attention. We are always together. He is in for a rude awakening come October.

I am panting and sweating. I just want to sit down. I’m still holding the damn detergent. He wants to stay out. Finally, he hears one of the groundskeepers’ walkie talkie go off loudly with static so he runs over to me, about to cry. I soothe him and explain it is like a phone, that it was loud but not scary (“No ah-yah, Micah!”). We get home after more elevator kisses to his reflections and my pleading with him not to climb stairs once we got to our floor. After just a few minutes, we have to go back down to transfer his friends into the inferno, the dryer.

I catch a glimpse of myself in the elevator. Grey roots, sweat beads on the upper lip and lower eye regions, disheveled low ponytail in 80s leopard-print scrunchy, no bra, in the most comfy rainbow “dress” I should not wear in public even though it’s still within my building, wishing I could look only half as elegant and accessorized as Mrs. Roper.

That was about one hour of our morning. The rest of the time we play, read, dance to his favorite song, John Mayer’s “Heartbreak Warfare” while I’m making sure he doesn’t fall off our high bed when gets too excited during the chorus. He also climbs my stomach from time to time because it is big and inviting. Oh Lord help me when I do this with a newborn attached to my teat.

4 for 7

“I would take out minimally three mortgages on my home so I can pay for her to go to therapy four times a week for the rest of her life,” said K.

“Wow, you nice. I would disown her. Fine, too harsh. I would just make my friends adopt her even if she is 26,” I responded.

We were watching a gem of a show on ABC called “The Bachelor Pad.” This beautiful girl named Jamie was so delusional in her one-sided romance with a guy who did not value her in the least. She would follow him to his bunkbed and beg to makeout with him even when he had shoo’d her away before. And even after he had been making out with another gal on the bottom bunk as she fell asleep on the top bunk, knowing what was going on. She obviously did not value herself. This seemed to be a recurring theme among the quality reality shows we tune into.

“These shows are really making me scared to have a daughter,” admitted K.

For better or for worse, we’ve committed to not finding out the sex of our Belly Baby this time around.

For better: We want the experience of being surprised as a few friends have shared that the surprise was the most amazing, thrilling event of their lives. (Here, Kevin wants to point out that the pronoun should be “I”, not “We,” as he was all for finding out).

For worse: I don’t think we’ve purchased a single thing for this baby even though we know there are some gender-neutral options out there. When we are out shopping, we just freeze when we see boy/girl options for clothes and accessories (and Kevin unfreezes just long enough to shake his head at me though he was initially into this surprise business.) And the suspense (that yes, we created), even though we know that there are only two options, Lord willing.

To not know whether we are going to have another son or a daughter is a strange stage, a new experience we created to make our second pregnancy stand out from the first. (Again, I’m sure Kevin would like to insist that I use the “I” pronoun for accuracy). We end up fretting about the potential problems specific to girls when we don’t even know if we’ll ever have a daughter.

On the way to the gym one day, Kevin saw a teenage boy trying to hit on a teenage girl. He watched their interaction and worried that one day he will be cringing at the sight of someone trying to pick up his little girl. If he has a girl.

When I was carrying Micah, I didn’t have time to wonder TOO long as I found out Week 17. The night before, as we were about to fall asleep, I said, “C’mon, Que Bin. Let’s close our eyes for a few seconds in silence and then on the count of three, tell me which name you see on the wall of our imaginary nursery. One, two, three…” We both said “MICAH” even though we were still name-shopping. We both thought “boy.”

The next day, at the anatomy scan, we were holding hands tightly as the sonographer lubed up my belly.

“Can you tell me when you’re actually gonna tell us ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ because I want to brace myself. Otherwise, I’m just gonna stare at your lips intently to see if they’re gonna form a ‘b’ or a ‘g’ sound. Thanks for bearing with me. I’m just too excited,” I said.

Few seconds later…

“OK. Are you ready? I’m going to tell you now.”

“Yes, we’re ready!”

“It’s a boy!”

I started to cry. Kevin got verklempt.

“How sure are you? Can we tell the grandparents?”

“90% sure.” She moved her gadget on my belly a little bit more. “100% sure.”

After the visit, as we’re about to call our parents, I took out a boy’s onesie I had brought in my purse to show Kevin, “Booyah! I had known all along!” I had just felt it but wasn’t sure if it was wishful thinking as gut feelings are not 100%. Then I went on to have a Joy Luck Club conversation with my MiL who said something about how NOW, I can really lead the Kim family since I am producing the fourth generation first son. (Cue “Lion King” song).

This time around, I really don’t know. In a way, I can’t imagine either. I can’t imagine another boy because when I think “boy” I can only imagine my beloved Micah. But I also can’t imagine a girl because I can’t imagine my womb producing a different product from before. I do know that their sonograms look nothing alike. Micah was rounder, this baby is pointier, sharper. Pregnancy symptoms and the way I’m carrying is pretty much the same, not that those are conclusive.

I am pretty surprised at the reactions I’ve been getting from our family and closest friends about our not finding out the sex this time. My mom has begged me to quit doing this because it is just too frustrating and contrived to not find out what is readily available. She said back when I was born, there was no choice but to not know until the birth, but now, for me to look away during the anatomy scan and not find out was ridiculous. My mother-in-law went on a recent trip to Korea and said she couldn’t buy this baby ANY gifts since we don’t know the sex of the baby. My close girlfriends have taunted me, saying on the one hand, this is so not me, but on the other hand, why I gotta make everything such a dun-dun-dun event, and let’s just break into your online medical file.

I admit it’s driven us crazy here and there especially because my medical file is online, always available with my username and password. Yet, it has made our second pregnancy feel less like a mere sequel. It’s been fun hearing people’s theories and hunches, based on their own experiences or general wives’ tales.

For instance, after one of my o.b. appointments, a Black man come up to me on the F train while I was devouring some S’mores scone crumbs from inside my Alice’s Tea Cup bag, making sure I got every last bit. He stared right at my face then at my belly, then back to my face. “GIRL! You having a girl!”

“Is that right?” I asked, wiping the crumbs off my chin. “How’s your track record? How many times have you guessed correctly?”

“I have seven kids. Four by my wife. I guessed right four times. You having a girl.” He was honest. Didn’t lie about his less than stellar track record.

Another time I was running after Micah at Barnes & Noble when I noticed a tan Asian woman staring at me. I wasn’t offended at her long stare because it seemed like she was readying to strike up a conversation.

“How excited are you to have a girl this time?” she finally said.

“Really!? We actually didn’t find out the sex this time but what makes you think that?”

“You’re carrying so wide like I did when I had my daughter. You are having a girl! I’m Indonesian and we know these things.”

And finally, I met a gorgeous mother of four gorgeous, well-behaved boys today. She guessed girl as well but admitted that she thought she was having a girl the fourth time around. Her girl turned out to be her now three-month old son, Luke, the only blue-eyed child among her brown-eyed brood.

Why resort to something as scientific and accurate as a sonogram when I can have all this fun speculating for up to two more months?

“Supplies!” I Funny!

Walking to the subway from my visit to my o.b., I realized I had no idea how well the baby was growing because I had gotten sidetracked by my doc’s warm personality. She has a real girlfriend vibe about her and in our ten-minute appointment where she simply measured my belly with a tape measurer, she and I ended up chatting about our husbands’ personalities and how we are wired differently from them. She is the opposite of my previous rush-rush-rush older male o.b. who charmed me at the initial visit with his warm Italian uncle routine but once he had hooked me as a new patient, he even asked me not to ask questions at our monthly visit because he was too tired and my questions so routine. Not a bad guy but not touchy-feely at all, especially at the delivery where some support would be nice. The nurses were intimidated by him and he didn’t explain what he was about to do when his entire forearm seemed to reach right into me to break my water. He was going on vacation immediately after my baby arrived so he seemed to want to bone out right quick. Maybe it worked because I had such a swift delivery, especially considering it was my first baby. Checked into the hospital at 12:06 am on Thanksgiving Day 2010. Micah arrived at 6:26 am Thanksgiving morning.

My new female o.b. remarked again how funny she thought I was. She has said it before at least a couple times each visit but today she kept shaking her head, fist-bumping me saying, “Have you always been this funny? You really are a funny girl!” looking deep into my eyes.

I felt sheepish and Joy Luck Clubby because I really didn’t say anything riotously funny and she was making a big deal out of it. She seemed so amazed and surprised that I was funny. It came up while she was telling me not to go to the playground so much with Micah since it’s much harder in the heat and this far along. To relax by going on playdates at other mamas’ homes so that I can just park myself on the couch. I told her I would never be able to just sit there as I have to watch my boy, make sure he doesn’t knock down anything or get into other kids’ faces, even though he is hardly ever aggressive. She said, “Sure you can just sit there!” (She has three kids of her own so she is very experienced.)

I said something about well, I never want to be a gross mama who doesn’t watch her own child especially like those extreme mamas whose children can never do no wrong. How their kid will slap a child silly and the mama will just say, “Oh, he is just so curious!” without any apology. We bonded over how we always correct our kids even at a young age because we want them to learn right from wrong. But she asked again, truly wondering, “Were you always this funny!?”

(I told you I didn’t say anything really funny. Just imitated annoying mamas per usual).

I said, “Well, I was nominated Best Sense of Humor back in my high school days. Some people didn’t vote for me because they said I didn’t LOOK funny. I guess I can look kind of corporate?” I was being Al Bundy, reliving my glory days, but she asked for it, inquiring about the origin and development of my sense of humor.

“Yeah, it’s really unexpected because of your ethnicity.” She responded without pause. I agreed.

Walking away from that visit, I realized I have no idea if my baby is growing as he or she should be right now. I am gonna guess yes since my doctor didn’t flag anything. Need to focus next time. Also, what she said about ethnicity. I found it to be nakedly honest. A bit surprising that she admitted it since people try to be so damn P.C. these days. It’s true that most people don’t expect Asians to be funny and she straight up admitted that casually during our ten-minute girlfriend-like chat. No wonder she would always be surprised by my personality during each visit. Proves that people definitely believe in stereotypes and only fools wanting to be applauded on talk shows go around saying, “I don’t see color.” But is it really that surprising that an Asian-American gal can be funny? Would it be less surprising if I just sat there very quiet and demure, artfully peeling an apple while waiting for her to come in? Giggling off to the side with my hand covering my mouth? Offering her a quick dry cleaning of her doctor’s white coat?

I meant to write about how much of an uproar my Not Finding Out Baby’s Sex has turned out to be but I totally went on a tangent. Goodnight.

Color Me Beautiful

Raising my boy has been like watching my own National Geographic channel. I am fascinated to witness my previously scrawny six-pound newborn develop real emotions fit for the bonafide little human that he is. No one taught him to collapse on the ground when he is frustrated and not able to articulate why. Today, Micah threw a real tantrum. He woke up from his nap and could not be consoled. I tried to hold him but he would writhe out of my grasp to cry louder. So I tried to give him his space but he ran towards me to please pay him attention and at least attempt to comfort him. Similarly, no one taught him to point and weep when mama holds another baby, or to climb onto mama’s lap so that she is forced to return the baby to his mama. At our church nursery one Sunday, a younger toddler was wailing for his mama so I tried to go over and hold him to calm him down and M put his hand on my back, tenderly but firm, like he was saying, “Pay him no mind, woman. Mind your own business and just focus on me, YOUR baby.”

This past weekend, we were picking up our friends, A and N, to visit another friend’s new home. As soon as Auntie N stepped into the backseat, M freaked out. He could not even glance in her direction and even used my forearm to shield his eyes so that he could not see her in his peripheral vision! I tried to let go of my arm once he drifted off into his nap, but he would burst out crying so I let him hang onto my arm for security. Sure, he’s had SEPARATION anxiety, but NEVER this type of “stranger” anxiety. N noted that perhaps M associates her with the weekend I was sent to LA for my surprise Mother’s Day gift. That weekend, he saw Auntie N two days in a row. She had become the lady substitute for mama and maybe, just maybe, upon seeing her again for the first time since that weekend, he thought mama was going to go away again. True, it sounds farfetched because it is very advanced psychology for an 18-month old but it also makes so much sense. (Later, he was playful and friendly with her as we ALL played together and he saw that I wasn’t going anywhere.)

I’ve always been fascinated by the topic of Nature v. Nurture. M loves Korean food, particularly rice and meeyukgook and gheem. I thought that was just the way he was born but then I realized, he ate that stuff, at least occasionally while he was in utero, so he may have developed a taste for it. But then there are other things like personality. Ever since I was a toddler, I was not shy. I was a daredevil, asking to go high atop a Ferris wheel or on stage at church or at Czech gymnastics to tell stories. My husband, on the other hand, was so shy, he would hide behind his mama and be silent in public (not as painfully shy now though). For now, M is a bit like how his daddy was, though maybe not as extreme. He does not talk much in public and takes a while to warm up, though he babbles loudly at home. He loves being in the presence of people but loves to take it all in before engaging.

Seeing M freak out like he did with N for the first time made me think of how so many things shape us. Babies are amazing because they are blank canvases. They are born with their natural temperaments like easygoing or fiery. Then thrown onto that are painful life events, like neglect, or parents who are constantly fighting or eventually divorce. Or positive circumstances like a nurturing, joyful family, great friends, or a wonderful school you thrive in. Even inevitable milestones like the arrival of a sibling or transitioning to daycare after being home with mama could affect one’s original essence. Imagine if I had never come back that weekend. Would Auntie N always remind him of my absence? Or even women who look like Auntie N? And how would my abandonment have affected this young morsel? Would it have muted his naturally gentle and jubilant spirit? Maybe made him generally more irritable or aggressive? Or would it not have even registered as it happened at such a young age, too early to recall as one of his first memories?

Many years ago, my girlfriends and I were having brunch and somehow got on the topic of those early childhood photos we took in school. I told them that when I see those photos of young kids, even myself, especially the progression from year to year, I almost feel like weeping because these blank canvases do not know what’s ahead – dysfunctional families, heartbreak, insecurities, feeling unsafe in this crazy world. One of my friends pointed out that she loves baby/childhood pictures even when she knows what they will go through by the time they are adults, because she views it more as what they were able to overcome and grow from.

I know what she means but as a mama to this still-pretty-blank canvas, I will try my best to decorate it with vibrant splashes of paint more than marring it with ugly stains.