Monthly Archives: December 2011

Not Fitting a Mold

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Do you ever feel like you don’t fit the mold? I constantly felt this way growing up and it was not only because I am an Asian woman with freckles, who is above average in height, and can break a person’s nose with one finger, but because starting in kindergarten, I was a latchkey kid who had to take care of my older brother while my parents worked two jobs. Even though my brother is four-years older, it was explained to me that because my brother was a male, I had to take care of him. Every day after school, I was responsible for opening the front door of our home, feeding my brother a snack of Chef Boyardee or ramen noodles, and warming up the rice and soup for dinner.  I also had to prepare a bath for my brother, make sure he brushed his teeth, and then clean up the house before going to bed. I did this until he left for college.

On the weekends when my mom was home, she would point out every flaw on my face. She always thought my nose was too flat and wide, so she would massage my nose bridge and make me sleep with a wooden laundry pin on it. I always remember how she would also make me practice smiling in a way that did not make my nose look flat and my eyes too slanted. She told me that my looks were “too Asian.”

When my mom was not advising me about my outward appearance, she was teaching me how to cook a good meal for my brother since she knew he would be the “one” to attend a top university and become a successful businessman or doctor. When I would ask her about the dreams that she had for me, she always said it was to grow-up to be a beautiful woman, so I could marry a doctor, move to Northbrook, and have a husband who could buy me a big house.

When it was time for me to attend college, I picked a school that was far away from home. I wanted to finally experience freedom and find myself. I did not want to take care of anyone or be told who I was as a daughter and female. Many boys thought I was pretty, but called me a snob and lesbian for not wanting to date and go to social events. One boy became so upset at my lack of interest in him that he got his fraternity brothers to hide in the trees one night and rape me. I was able to escape because of my black belt in Tae Kwon Do, but I was never the same person after that incident. My hope and innocence died with each layer of clothing the boys were able to peel off my body.

When I withdrew from the college, I was so bitter inside that I pushed everyone away and put up a wall. For years, I let the animosity build because I was tired of the unfair expectations of me and how everyone was trying to put me in a mold. Why was I not allowed to be me?

When I sought out the church to guide me through these dark times, I was told by my pastor and church leaders to “stop being angry” and to guard my heart as a single woman. They believed that once I found a good husband, any pain would go away since marriage brings wholeness to individuals.  But how could I think about marriage when I had such a broken past? No one wanted to address this part of me because they believed being in a relationship, learning to be a submissive wife, getting married, and having children was the highest calling for a woman.

When several men began calling me and saying that God wanted us to be in a relationship and get married, I became so angry that I wanted to punch them in the face. I didn’t understand how two people could worship the same God, but hear different messages. Was I the one who was not open to His leading because of the bitterness or sin in my heart? I sought the advice of people at church again and I was told that I had the wrong perspective because I should want to be in a relationship with a godly man and I should feel blessed.  I had career and academic goals for myself, but they insisted that marriage and having a child would make those desires unimportant because ” I would understand how being a mother is the highest honor since I would be used by God to bless the lives of my child and anyone who came into my home.”

After many of these type of conversations with the leaders of the church, I had a meltdown and walked away from Christianity for two-years. Not because I was disappointed with God, but because of the way that people in my life, especially individuals in church leadership misused and abused their authority to oppress and dominate -sometimes even justifying their ideas by using passages in the Bible incorrectly. These wrong interpretations are damaging since they distort God’s design for a woman and can make her feel bad about herself.

In John Piper’s essay, “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood,” he talks about the importance of returning to masculinity and femininity that is biblical.  When men do this, there will be ” a sense of benevolent responsibility to lead, provide for and protect women in ways appropriate to a man’s different relationships.” As for women, there will be  “a freeing disposition to affirm, receive and nurture strength and leadership from worthy men in ways appropriate to a woman’s different relationships.”

Without a doubt, the greatest achievement of any human being is to discover God’s design and fulfill it. This should be the goal for the church and society. For women, should not be placed in a mold since it limits who God made them to be.

Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

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Confessions of a Helicopter Mom

When I first heard of the term of helicopter parent, it was in an article and attached to a picture of mom who was flying a helicopter and watching over her child below. I know that it is bad to be one, but I can’t help wanting to bubble-wrap my toddler son’s body when he wants to play outside. My husband thinks that I am going to turn him into a wimp with all my coddling, but I just want to avoid pain and hardship for him. I know it is crazy of me to have these thoughts, but I struggle to turn my inner helicopter off.

When I look in the mirror, I see a strong, educated, and independent woman, so when did I turn into a fear-filled parent who throws all rational thinking out the door when it comes to her children? I was thinking of this question the other day and I came to the realization that this fear of physical danger is probably similar to why some parents are fearful of their child failing academically or musically. What if your child doesn’t have what it takes to compete in society? This is probably why parents believe they need to produce bilingual children, give extra school work, make a child practice the piano one hour before school and one hour after school, and enrolls them in special skills camp during the summer. My Asian parents sent me to special camps because they felt the pressure by other parents. They said that they were ashamed to send me to the park district to make string bracelets and eat s’mores, when other kids were attending camp at Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy to take classes in Marine Biology.

Every day, I see well-intentioned parents who are told by media to create an environment that is bubble-wrapped and controlled. This is why parents are letting their babies “cry it out,” insisting their kids only eat organic products, and sanitizing everything their child might touch. We are hard on ourselves to keep things perfect for our children. Yet, we are also hard on our peers who are parents. We look at what other parents buy for their kids and judge them as parents. If a certain parent does not have the newest child-rearing item, some believe they are not successful parents. One of my friends confessed that she applied for a new credit card, so she could get a Stokke stroller that costs $1,000. Her reasoning was because she ”felt judged by other moms at the park for only having a Maclaren.”

Helicopter moms have become the norm. And if you think the hovering ends with high school graduation, think again. I teach college-level writing and I still have parents who edit their children’s papers through email, call me to check up on their child’s grades, and give their child a cell phone with G.P.S., so they can know where their child is at all times. I also see parents who drop off a week’s worth of food each week and will do their child’s laundry, so the child can have more time to study and enjoy college.

I know the intentions of the parents are to help their child succeed, but they are ultimately trying to control the outcome of their child’s future and make sure they can have a life of happiness and success. There are many mothers who believe that good grades will bring acceptance in good college and this will lead to child being successful and happy. This sounds like a wonderful, but life is not that simple.

The reason one becomes a helicopter parent is because they fear that their children will not be “successful” in school and life. I am guilty of this. Unfortunately, by trying to control aspects of the child’s life, they are raising fear-filled children who will be ill-equipped to survive in the world and are scared of failure. Lastly, parents are teaching them not trust God who is in control of their future.

Personally speaking, my days of being a helicopter mom have been stressful and exhausting. I feel like I am living a scene out of the movie “Groundhog Day” because I get through a day and then wake-up to do it again the next day. It is easy to justify being a helicopter parent by telling myself that I am being intentional and purposeful than my parents’ generation. Yet, I am allowing parenting to be my profession that consumes me. This intensity of caring for my children is draining and it is not what God intended for parents and kids. Every day, I fight my hovering tendencies and try to remember that parents stand over their children to protect and guide them. And for me to do this, I have to remember to “walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light” (1 John 1:7). I want my children to have the ability to function independently, to figure out who they are in Christ, and I am not helping by hovering over them.

Pray for me, as I take these baby steps to live in faith and let go of trying to control the things around me. Jesus said, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). This reminds me that Christ and his kingdom will never pass away. He will always be with us. This should be the foundation of my faith and if my children know this, they will never lose hope and will never fail because they have a secure future, “an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for them (1 Peter 1:4).

I am landing my helicopter and exiting. I feel hesitant, but so free!