Category Archives: parenting

Of Toddlers and Hairstyles and Pinterest Parenting

I finally got tired of my daughter sometimes looking like a boy and always having plain jane hair. These days, with so many parents letting their toddler boys’ hair grow long and dressing their daughters in gender-neutral clothing (guilty), you can’t tell the child’s sex by length of hair or type of clothing alone. However, if the toddler in question has pigtails, it’s probably a girl.

So I did my research. As a midwife and nurse, I research the heck out of everything. So should it come as a surprise that I ended up with nine pages of toddler hairstyles pinned to my “Kids” Pinterest board? I found pages like this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this and this.

Ada pigtailsSo I decided to start simple. On July 4, I put her hair in simple pigtails. Isn’t she so cute?! And it only took an hour for her to pull them out! Then three days later, figuring the problem was inadequate hair length, I pulled the front half into pigtails and pulled those into back half pigtails. Those lasted a whole two hours!

It seems every other day I read something (usually satirical but sometimes serious) about how the purpose of Pinterest seems to be to make you hate your life. But seriously… there MUST be a way to keep toddler hair put up!! I’ve SEEN it… like, in REAL LIFE!!

Anyone?

…Bueller?

じゃあまたね!

Knitting Rhymes and Mnemonics

childknittingIn a recent discussion on a Facebook knitting group I’m in, someone who is teaching knitting to a child asked what rhymes or mnemonics she can use to help the child remember the technique, noting that her mother taught her a rhyme but she’s since forgotten it. The answers were so awesome I just had to share. Here they are…

 

For the Knit Stitch:

  • Up, Round, Under, and Off
    • Or: In, Round, Through, and Out
    • Or: In, Around, Out, Off
    • Or: Up to make x round the top of T and pull off
  • Bottom up, left to right and around, slide the needle down, scoop, pull and off! (This one came with a comment about teaching this to kids of unspecified age at church: “It’s funny, alot [sic] of them think of knitting as ‘off’ and casting on as ‘over’. [T]eaching the right words is almost more trouble than it’s worth at this age.”)
  • In thru the front door / Go round back / Out thru the window / Jump off, Jack
    • Or: In through the front door / Run around the back / Out through the window / Off jumps Jack
  • Run in the front door, grab your scarf, run back out again before the cat throws up
    • Or: In through the door, wrap up, out the door, down the sidewalk
    • Or: In through the front door / Grab your scarf / Back out the front door / Before you barf
  • Stab him, strangle him, pull his guts out and throw him off the cliff. (This one came with a disclaimer: “I learnt a pretty gruesome one from Ravelry that I used to teach children at school to knit, they loved it!” I suppose sometimes it’s the really horrid/odd/gruesome things kids remember, like how they can’t remember the family patriarch/matriarch’s name—my daughter calls both of my husband’s parents “Grandpa”—no matter how many times you tell it to them, but the one time you cuss, they remember that word forever.)

 

For the Purl Stitch:

  • Dive down for pearls
  • Jack goes in / Puts on his scarf / Comes back out / And takes it off
  • Under the fence / Catch the sheep / Back we come / Off we leap!
  • Down the little bunny hole / Around the big tree / Up pops bunny / And away runs he
    • Or: In through the bunny hole / And round the big tree / And out through the bunny hole / And off goes she
  • In through the back way / Then rope the hog / Back out the gate / And jump off the log!

 

For the Standard Bind Off:

  • you have Pete and Repeat sitting on a log and Pete jumps over Repeat who’s left

 

Others recommended Kids Knitting by Melanie Fallick and Auntie Suzanne Blogs it All (http://auntiesuzanne.blogspot.jp/2006/10/knitting-rhymesold-and-new.html) as additional sources for rhymes.

 

じゃあまたね!

I’m Not Dead

Hi, all! I just wanted to reassure you that I’m not dead. Yet. I just had a baby, that’s all. 🙂 Giving birth and caring for a newborn and a toddler while recovering and then dealing with mastitis (twice!–more on that in a later post) has briefly put me out of commission as regards blogging. I promise I’ll be back as soon as I can!

In the meantime, I’ve discovered something and I wonder whether other parents have had the same experience. Briefly, I’ve found that having a new baby has made me more compassionate toward my toddler.

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Lottie, our new daughter, won’t fall asleep unless she’s held and often won’t stay asleep unless she’s touching someone. (Side note: For those who want to talk about cry-it-out or Ferber methods of sleep training, we actually tried those with our oldest and won’t be doing it again. Just not worth it to us, so consider saving your time by saving your comments.) She doesn’t tolerate being set down and left, even if someone is touching her. In short, now that I have a semi-independent toddler, once again having such a “needy” newborn is a little bit of a shock to my system.

Furthermore, I’ve learned quite a bit since having my first that really lends weight to the attachment parenting style. I’m not going to bedshare with Lottie through two or three years, but there are a lot of things we plan to do differently, one of which being a recognition that babies have an intense need for touch.

I’m not sure whether it’s the mental shift of caring for a completely needy baby suddenly applied to my toddler as well, whether it’s a newfound respect for attachment parenting, whether it’s a recognition of the baby’s need for emotional support suddenly applied to the toddler, whether it’s my subconscious attempt to stave off jealousy, or whether it’s a combination of the above… But I definitely have developed greater compassion for my toddler since giving birth.

Moms of more than one: Have you experienced this?

And perhaps this is a reminder of God’s love and patience for us. Human love and patience pale in comparison to God’s, but occasionally, the very best of human character can give us a tiny picture of God’s character and His glory.

Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:9-11)

じゃあまたね!

5 More Things I Love About Japan

Previously, I wrote a list of 5 things I love about Japan, 5 things I love-hate about Japan, and 5 things I hate about Japan. I thought it was about time to add another 5 things to the list!

  1. Toilets Never Get Stopped Up. At least, I’ve never seen a toilet get stopped up in Japan. This was my biggest household frustration in the U.S. (largely because I hate both toilets and excrement—I’m not a complete germophobe, but I’ve always hated these things, and a stopped-up toilet is like a trifecta of putridity) but something I don’t have to deal with here. Seriously, when I move back to the States, I want to bring a Japanese toilet with me!
  2. Convenience Stores. They have complete meals and microwaves so you can heat the meal you just purchased. They also have some commonly-required items like eggs, milk, and butter. Of course, all of this is also true of grocery stores, but convenience stores are on virtually every corner and are usually open 24 hours. Furthermore, you can even pay your bills at convenience stores! Just walk in, hand them your electric bill and some cash, and they’ll pay it for you! Convenience stores (or コンビニ “konbini,” as they call them) truly are convenient.
  3. Museums. Children often have free admission and adults pay far less than they would in the United States. For example, the museum at Ueno Park has free admission for children aged 18 and under, and only 600 JPY (about $6) admission for adults.
  4. Exercise. There’s no need to go to the gym because you WALK EVERYWHERE. My brother had a professor that we both loved. He was cool, fun, hilarious, geeky like us, and reminded us very much of a close family friend. He hailed from New York and told us that moving to Texas was like moving to The Land of the Obese. He talked about how Texans don’t walk anywhere—they drive. We defended that tendency due to the lack of public transportation, which itself is due to the vast spread of the state. Even in New York State, public transportation primarily exists in urban centers, not suburban or rural (which makes up the vast majority of Texas’s land area). Nevertheless, it’s true that in areas where people walk more, people also tend to be more fit, and that’s definitely true of Japan. After only three months of living here, my BMI dropped 5.3 points (28 pounds) from the upper end of normal weight to underweight. I certainly wasn’t eating any better or trying to lose weight; it just happened. (Interestingly, I’m still chunky in comparison to the Japanese women here. It must be their genetics! How can anyone be so thin?? I’m so ethnocentric…)
  5. Shipping. Domestic shipping in Japan is often free for a minimum purchase, and the minimum purchase is usually pretty low—like, 3,000 JPY (about $30—I think the minimum in the U.S. is at least $50). There was one weird incident that involved the cash-based society more than it did the shipping policies… We ordered a Christmas gift for someone online and rather than paying immediately, we were informed that the item would arrive with a bill, which we are to take to the local convenience store or bank to make payment. But anyway, the shipping is pretty awesome. And if the post office screws something up, they’ll make it right, give you a complete refund, and may even give you a gift in apology.

No Excuse

I read a blog post which told a story about a non-American man’s friends telling him which clothing suggests homosexuality in America. He quit wearing the clothing in question because he didn’t want to be mistaken for gay. His now-wife wrote the blog post and expressed anger over her husband being made to feel embarrassed about his clothing preferences and went on a very long rant about how people should be free to dress however they wish and love whomever they desire.

I get defending my husband. I get not judging people based on what they wear. Once upon a time, having tattoos was indicative of a criminal lifestyle; in America, that’s no longer the case (though in Japan, it’s still true). However, there’s a reason why certain types of clothing are associated with straight men, some with gay men, and some with women in the same way that wearing a ring on your left ring finger is associated with being married. If a majority of gay men wear a certain type of clothing, that type of clothing becomes associated with gay men, and people may, for very good reason, assume a men wearing that clothing is gay. If a man doesn’t want to be mistaken for gay, he shouldn’t wear that clothing. If he insists on wearing clothing commonly associated with gay men, he shouldn’t get angry at people for assuming he’s gay. In the same way, a woman who insists on wearing a promise ring on her left ring finger (which I used to do) shouldn’t get angry at men for assuming she’s married and not approaching her. In either case, romantic relationships may be inhibited and such people have only themselves to blame (myself included, as in the case of the promise ring). Similarly, I’ve known women who, for various reasons, were unable to wear their wedding rings and so wore them around their necks, but as a result, people often assumed they were unmarried. Any of the above individuals (including myself) have no excuse for being angry at people who draw the wrong conclusion. Furthermore, if I were to move to a foreign culture and wore clothing that suggested something I don’t want people to assume about me (such as my being a slut, a single woman, a drug addict, or a lesbian), I would appreciate my friends warning me about how others would view my clothing preferences, even if I was briefly embarrassed by the news.

A similar issue is people who choose not to cut their boys’ hair. I get being mad at people for trying to control your parenting, regardless of what your choices are, including anger at people for telling you how to cut your son’s hair or how to dress your child. Having a girl and hating the color pink, I feel for you. But there are also certain cases where you have no excuse for your anger. For example, in a day when girls often dress like boys, sometimes the only way to tell gender is the hair. You certainly have license to be mad at nosy people for telling you how you should or should not do your son’s hair, but you have no excuse for getting mad at people who mistake your longhaired son for a girl. It’s a legitimate assumption in a society where boys traditionally have short hair, girls traditionally have longer hair, little girls or little boys who vary from that norm are in the minority, and it’s rude to refer to someone as an “it” when you can’t tell the gender (therefore, you have to make a guess and God help you if you guess incorrectly).

The same is true of flat-chested girls who cut their hair short, don’t wear makeup, and dress gender-neutrally. I feel for you. I was a flat-chested girl who didn’t wear makeup and wore jeans and shapeless t-shirts as a teen. And you can’t control being flat-chested. But if, being flat-chested, you choose to cut your hair short and dress gender-neutrally, you have no excuse for your anger at people who mistake you for a guy. I feel worse for guys with slender frames because people may assume he’s a neutrally-dressed, short-haired, flat-chested girl, and there’s nothing he can do about it. On the other hand, if a slender-framed guy grows his hair long, regardless of how he dresses, he has no excuse for anger at people who assume he’s a flat-chested girl.

Cultural differences may make it difficult to know what’s considered feminine or masculine or homosexual. In Japan, pink clothing and skinny jeans may be worn by men or women, but both are generally feminine or “gay” in America. A man wearing either in America has little or no excuse for anger at people who mistake him for gay. If I were to move to a foreign culture and I had a habit of wearing something typically associated with lesbians, and I had no desire to be mistaken for a lesbian, I would be embarrassed but grateful to my friends for telling me the truth.

At any rate, my point is that if you don’t mind yourself or your child being mistaken for the wrong gender or for the wrong sexual orientation, go ahead and break the cultural norms. However, if you do break the cultural norms and people assume the wrong gender or the wrong sexual orientation, you have no excuse to be mad at them for doing so.

じゃあまたね!

Dear World: Stop Asking! (This Means You.)

There are certain questions you never ask a woman. “Have you gained weight?” is really obvious, as is “Aren’t you married yet?” But one question that it seems no one has a filter for is “Are you pregnant?”

There are many reasons not to ask.

1) Weight/girth. In many cases, you are indirectly suggesting that she looks fat or pregnant but you can’t tell which. If she’s early in her pregnancy, you’re suggesting she just looks fat. If she’s very pregnant, it’s insulting that you haven’t caught on yet. As an ER nurse, I had to ask all women, “Is there any chance that you might be pregnant?” Often, I shortened it to, “Are you pregnant?” It’s especially relevant if the complaint is abdominal pain. I once asked a woman with abdominal pain that question and it just so happened that she did look pregnant due to a medical condition that caused abdominal bloating. Obviously, she was embarrassed at the question and later went to great lengths to explain why she looked pregnant but wasn’t and I had to apologize profusely.

2) Privacy. It may be an (unintentional) invasion of her privacy to ask. For example, I had a friend whose family, being Catholic, drinks alcohol at every family gathering. She had just had a miscarriage and was taking a medication which the patient cannot drink alcohol when taking. Whether a woman and her husband choose to disclose a miscarriage is their business; in her case, she and her husband chose not to. However, when she didn’t drink at the family gathering (again, because she couldn’t drink alcohol while taking the medication), they asked whether she was pregnant, which, because they had just lost a baby, was like a knife being dug into her chest. That heartache could have been avoided if they had just waited for her to tell them about her presumed pregnancy when she was ready.

3) Pressure. No woman should feel like she’s failing at her role as a woman if she doesn’t produce a child at a specified time. And although that’s definitely not the impression most potential grandparents intend to give, I can tell you from personal experience that it’s definitely the feeling the woman gets. If she’s having trouble getting pregnant, asking just highlights her difficulty and makes her more frustrated. If she’s in the process of deciding when to have another child, asking just irritates her because she hasn’t made up her mind yet and doesn’t want to feel pressured. (In fact, it may make her delay pregnancy even longer because the pressure ticks her off so much that, whether she realizes it or not, she has to overcome her anger before she can settle on the choice to have another child.)

4) Trust. Just trust that the woman will tell you when she’s ready. I know you’re just excited about the possibility of another baby, but asking will either make her tell you before she’s ready or won’t have any effect. Either way, you have an unhappy woman who wants to avoid you as much as possible because she knows you’re going to ask the same inane question again and again and she doesn’t want to be asked. She can have many reasons for not wanting to tell you yet. Maybe she hasn’t told her husband. Maybe she wants to wait until a miscarriage is not likely*. Whatever the reason, it’s rude and selfish to insist that she tell you before she’s ready.

To all who have already asked me personally: It’s okay. I know you aren’t in my shoes and you don’t know how I feel. Furthermore, not all of these apply to me—for example, I know you don’t just think I look fat. I’m not mad at you, but I am tired of being asked. So just stop asking.

じゃあまたね!

 

*I’ve read very good articles, including interviews of the Duggars, about whether to wait or whether to share about a miscarriage or about an early pregnancy. As Dr. Seuss said in Horton Hears a Who, “a person’s a person no matter how small,” and you want to recognize the personhood of your tiny child. However, regardless of the reasons in favor of or against telling about a miscarriage or about a pregnancy during that time when miscarriage is more likely, it’s still the woman and her husband’s choice whether to say anything about it.

Japanese Abortion

As I explained in the previous post, I had the opportunity to interview employees of Bare Hope adoption agency here in Japan, and they shared with me a great deal of information regarding Japanese adoption and its closely related issue, Japanese abortion. My previous post was on adoption, and this post will focus on abortion. Again, if there are any flaws or misinformation in my post, the fault is mine.

In Japan, abortion has been legal since 1949, earlier than any other industrialized country. Because of this, Japan was once a site of medical tourism specifically in the area of abortion. The birth control pill was only finally legalized in Japan in 1999 (partly due to pressure from abortion doctors not to legalize it and thereby potentially reduce their incomes), but most Japanese prefer to use condoms due to the side effects and cost of the pill. In recent years, Japan has conducted about 300,000 abortions per year; however, in the most recent year for which I could find data, 2012, there were approximately 200,000 reported abortions. It is legally permitted up to the 24th week of pregnancy*.

The interviewees explained to me that in reality, there are a great many abortions not reported for various reasons. The primary reason they discussed was abortions conducted after the legal limit. Because it is not only illegal to perform an abortion after 24 weeks, but also to purchase an abortion after 24 weeks, all involved (the doctor performing it, the hospital hosting it, and the couple seeking it) are legally at risk. Therefore, should something go wrong, the woman wouldn’t dream of suing the doctor or hospital, even in cases of ridiculously blatant malpractice, because she would have to confess to committing a crime in order to do so. In other words, unethical physicians whose entire income is from abortions may frequently conduct illegal abortions because it translates to money with extremely little risk of reprisal because neither the hospital nor the woman and her family would report him for seriously damaging or even almost or actually killing her.

There’s also a significant economic impact. Prior to entering nursing school, I was required to watch an older (I think 1990s) PBS documentary on medical systems around the world. Though it attempted to portray the various systems with equal weight and without bias, it was very obviously, even from the beginning before any information had been shared, biased in favor of socialized medicine. Interestingly, it discussed Japan in a positive light, even though Japan’s system isn’t technically socialized medicine. In Japan, the government sets price controls on medical services rendered so that people can better afford their care; insurance companies also exist in Japan and, thanks to price controls, their premiums tend to be lower than those in America, to the truth of which I can now personally attest. However, these government price controls are so strict that a great many doctors go out of business because they simply cannot afford to work with such little pay, especially when they have business overhead and student loans to pay for. The end result is not enough doctors in Japan to care for the population (though, to be fair, the population is shrinking and growing older, so these physician-to-patient dynamics may change for better or for worse).

Where this relates to abortion is in the cost of maternity care. The Bare Hope interviewees told me that abortion costs much more than live birth**, so most hospitals cannot afford their overhead without abortion. In other words, they will very definitely go out of business if they do not perform abortions. Furthermore, illegal abortions cost significantly more than legal abortions—again, with no risk of getting sued by the family should something go wrong or should the doctor and/or hospital engage in ethically questionable financial practices such as hidden fees—and so the ultimate effect of illegal abortions is to result in obscene financial gains for the doctor and hospital and potentially a great number of women harmed and even killed or nearly killed with no legal recourse for the woman or her family.

In the U.S., the majority of abortions occurring after 24 weeks gestation are for convenience, according to the late Dr. George Tiller’s own figures, with less than 10% due to disabilities or medical conditions incompatible with life. I’ve read that those Japanese babies illegally aborted after 24 weeks are primarily disabled and majority capable of surviving outside the womb, but it’s impossible to know for certain since reporting of illegal abortions is obviously nil. The #1 reason for legal abortion is that the parents are not married. Many of the parents seeking an abortion for disability—specifically, Down Syndrome—come first to Bare Hope saying that they will give birth and place the baby for adoption rather than aborting if the adoption agency can ensure the child will be adopted. Obviously, Bare Hope can’t make such a promise, and so many babies who would otherwise be born alive and potentially placed with a loving family are instead aborted. For this reason (and for other reasons discussed in the last post), Bare Hope is seeking a partnership with a U.S. adoption agency that specializes in placing Down Syndrome babies. If you have any information on this, please let me or Bare Hope know!

じゃあまたね!

 

*At this stage, the child has a beating heart, brain waves, fingerprints, all vital organs in place, and a personality, and is capable of feeling pain. There is at least a 50% chance of surviving outside the womb if born at this stage. Abortion at this stage is more dangerous to the mother than live birth.

**I honestly don’t know how much of that is due to price controls and how much is due to the 5-day postpartum stay in Japan as compared to the typical 24-hour stay for vaginal births in the U.S.