The moment the nurse put my newborn son in my arms, I thought, “Wow, now I can have a beer.” Alright, maybe I studied his little nose first and fell speechlessly in love with his face for a minute but the first thought – really – was about beverages. And was followed by sushi.
As a new mommy, I expected to be glowing. Radiant. Terrific. Like a whiny pig about to be smoked on the Zuckerman’s farm. In truth, I was just relieved. Relieved that there was nothing terribly unexpected. Ten fingers, ten toes and an APGAR score that meant nothing to me because I hate the new parental society’s test-results-driven phobia. He’s a baby for crying out loud – does he need to be born with boxing gloves on?!
I will admit, I was hoping for a fluke genius or a natural athlete just so I wouldn’t have to worry about saving money for his college tuition. Then reality set in and that dream was scaled down to one of playing “Smoke On The Water” with him when he turned three. “Just play the open E string like Jack Black in School Of Rock,” I showed him, but he just banged on the guitar and sang, “I’M IRON MAAAAN,”with no rhythm or melody to speak of. The next day, I started saving his college money.
The little brother, on the other hand, showed potential where his big brother lacked. He caught on right quick. Started walking a day before his first birthday, peeing in the potty at two and cursing like a truck driver by five. He is a living example of the saying, “too smart for his own good.” For the record, we did shave his head to search for the 666 mark. It must be internal – let the military doctor find that out, I say.
I joke of course. My wry sense of humor in parenting is hard wired from my own childhood. The only difference between my parents’ humor and mine is, I actually wanted children – they meant every cruel truth. Many Asian cultures practice this uneasy parry of compliments with modesty. In other words, when an Asian person receives a compliment, it has to be shot down, blown up and disintegrated with a totally inappropriate confession.
If someone commented, “Oh, your son has beautiful eyes,” a typical Asian-mom reply would be, “Don’t let that fool you, his farts are horrendous!”
Okay, maybe that’s a little Americanized. Surely, an Asian mom wouldn’t mention gas. She’d remark about academics (Why so stupid?!) or eating habits (Why so fat?!). It’s hard to explain this strange behavior other than to say, it must have something to do with the size of our heads.
Sadly, Asian culture is somewhat lost on my boys. They barely speak any Japanese, they know how to use chopsticks like a Neanderthal knows how to use a condom and the closest association with Japan for them is the Power Rangers. On the other end of the spectrum, they are obviously bi-racial. If their linguistics fail to live up to their physical diversity, then their saving grace is growing up in New York City – where it’s a crime to be average.
The bigger a freak you are in this city, the more it becomes home and between my husband and his sons, there’s no place like home. New York may not be the ideal place to raise a family, after all what kind of city bans the sale of a 32 ounce serving of soda but decriminalizes carrying two ounces of pot? Might as well sip ganja. And as my mother goes to E.S.L. classes for English (to keep the Alzheimer’s from setting in), I’m learning Spanish from all the officers on the P.T.A. board because apparently, I’m the only native English speaker. Me, the Japanese-American chick from Queens who gets generalized as Chinese. It’s okay – I like Lo Mein, too.
Nothing’s orthodox in this town – except the sales people at B & H Camera store.
If anything, growing up here has taught me not to take anything for granted, especially friends and more importantly, humor. Hopefully, it’ll be the same merit that gets instilled in these two monkeys I’m raising.
When they have their Hell-bent sissy fit over some silly little thing, I coach them to let it go. “Things will change, nothing ever stays the same – not even the New York skyline.” Maybe they see it for themselves, when we cross the Brooklyn Bridge on foot, or relax by the L.I.C. piers near Gantry Park. Maybe they hear it when I’m trying to explain 9/11 on its anniversary, sounding ridiculously nostalgic over two simple buildings. And they can see – some cuts don’t heal with bandages. Not even Angry Birds Band Aids.
“Be fair,” was my father’s advice. “Be gentle,” was my sister’s. Now that they’re both gone, their words test me in the little things my boys do. “Being fair” between two midgets fighting over a bedtime story or “being gentle” with backtalk and attitude reminds me how enigmatic my dad and little sister were. I could almost see them clinking their glasses. Bet they’re laughing at me up there.