Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Secrets of Mother/Daughter Relationships

A few months ago, ABC’s 20/20 featured a show titled, Secrets of Mother/Daughter Relationships. It discussed the most complex female relationship.

Here’s an excerpt:

Mothers and daughters have a special bond with all its complex emotions – anger, resentment, competition and of course, love. But every son will also hear echoes of his own life with mother.

Mothers and daughters – sometimes they’re enemies, sometimes best friends.

You love her, sometimes you hate her. Sometimes she’s the last person you want to see. But she’s the first one you call for advice. That is the seesaw of feelings between mothers and daughters.

I think every daughter can relate to this.

I’d like to think that I have a good relationship with my mother now. But it hasn’t been always like that.

I remember being labeled a Papa’s girl when I was growing up. I’m not really sure how it started. And by the way, my sister, who always wanted to contradict me back then, was a self-proclaimed Mama’s girl. So you see, the complication started early on. But as far as I’m concerned, I loved both my parents equally. And I’m sure that each one of them loved both me and sister just the same.

And then my parents separated. I can’t really understand why I became loyal to my father even though I chose to stay with my mother. I think my mother resented that because my father was abusive to her. But he was my father and nothing could change my love for him.

I experienced that seesaw of feelings with my mother. One minute I was telling her everything that was happening in my life, and the next minute, I was sneaking out and hiding the truth.

My father has long been gone and my mother and I get along pretty well now. I confide in her and run to her when I have problems. We see each other at least once a week. We go to mass together, that’s because my family doesn’t have a vehicle and she gives us a ride to church. And she insists. She wants to make sure that we go to church every Sunday.

Sometimes she would volunteer to give me a ride to the grocery store. But I have learned that my closeness to my mother should have boundaries. I know she meant well when she didn’t want me to buy those tomatoes because they were so expensive. And my “But Ma, I need these tomatoes for the dish I’m making” isn’t acceptable to her. When she asked me how much those Asian pears and guavas were, I just ignored her because I didn’t want to argue with her. When she asked me to call her the next time I do my groceries and give her the taxi fare instead, I almost did because I knew that she could use the extra money especially now that gas prices are skyrocketing. But thanks, no thanks. And no offense please Ma. I’d rather do the groceries myself.

Here’s some more excerpt from that 20/20 show, Secrets of Mother/Daughter Relationships:

Deborah Tannen, author of the best-selling “You’re Wearing That?” explains why mother and daughter relationship is so complicated. She says, “Mothers and daughters talk more, talk about more personal topics. That means they may be closer but they also risk offending each other much more.”

There are four flashpoints in the mother and daughter relationship:

1. Appearance - Clothes, weight, hair. Women are judged by how they look and mothers are judged by how their daughters look.
2. Control – Mother sees daughter as a little girl.
3. (Motherly) Advice – Everytime mothers offer advice or suggestion for improvement, there’s an implied criticism. Mother sees it as caring. Daughter sees it as criticizing. If mothers can’t learn how to bite their tongue, daughters need to learn to use humour to diffuse tension.
4. Secrets – Daughters keep secrets from mom if they sense disapproval. Withholding information is a daughter’s way to gain power.

Tannen says that there is no magic formula to the perfect mother-daughter bond. But there are ways to make it work.

1. Bite your tongue.
2. Use humour.
3. See it from their point of view
4. Use praise. It’s also a form of power.

Read more at ABC News Love Her or Hate Her- She’s Still Your Mom.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

First Communion

Last January, Ryland and the rest of the Level 2 Catechism Classes started the preparation for their First Communion.

First, the parents were invited to attend three meetings to guide them how to help the children understand this Sacrament. Like the one for First Reconciliation (Confession), parents were given a guidebook and the children a workbook. And so for one to two nights a week, I sat down with Ryland for about half an hour doing the lessons on his workbook.

On the first meeting, Wanda, the catechism coordinator, asked us parents to share memories of our First Communion. Hers was how she got spaghetti sauce all over her white dress. One dad was how the bread got stuck to the roof of his mouth. One mom said that all she remembered was how she wanted to get out of her dress once she got home. Another mom remembered how she had to wear this long white veil. My sister’s (her daughter is also in Ryland’s class) was how she had to memorize all these prayers and the Ten Commandments, seven deadly sins, etc. Mine was how we had to wear this gala uniform – white dress, white veil, white socks, white shoes. And the thing that stuck in my mind was thinking, “So this is what the host tastes like. It tastes like bread.” Wanda asked me how I felt about that. Was I surprised? Was I disappointed? Honestly, I couldn’t remember.

Wanda also told us about the Orthodox church. They have their Baptism, First Communion and Confirmation – all three at the same time. At the meeting, there were these two parents who belonged to the Orthodox church. They had no memory of their First Communion because they had it when they were babies. Babies were given just a very small piece of Bread. Isn’t that interesting?

The point of having the parents teach the children about Communion is to make this a special experience for them. After all, parents are every child’s first teachers and the home is their first community.

Last Saturday, the children had a retreat. On that day, they also helped make the bread that they were going to receive. It was not the traditional wafer. They made unleavened bread. After the retreat, parents and children had rehearsal at the church.

After months of preparation, the children finally had their First Communion on Sunday. They looked oh so cute and adorable. The girls in their white frilly dresses looking like little brides. And the boys, although not all of them wore suits, were in their Sunday’s best. They marched down the aisle to the altar carrying red roses and then they sat down with their families. It was a very special celebration.

Years from now, I wonder what Ryland will remember about his First Communion. Will it be that he had to memorize the Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be and The Creed (I Believe)? Or perhaps the nights we spent reading and learning from his workbook. Or how he had to wear his white and black suit and how he had to take off his blazer at church because it was too hot. (It was 27 C.) Or perhaps receiving the bread for the first time. Could it be how disappointed he was that he didn’t get a single toy out of his presents? Or that I said, “First Communion is not about toys.” I hope what he remembers best is the nights we spent together learning his communion lessons and also how he was surrounded by his family and how we had a feast after his First Communion.

What about you? What’s your memory of your First Communion?

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Husbands and children

The other day, the ladies of The View were discussing how one of their producers asked time off from work to spend time with her child. Their boss was very considerate and gave her some time off. Now, one of the ladies who doesn’t have children asked, “What if I ask time off to spend time with my husband, will you give it to me?” The boss said, no, he wouldn’t.

Is it fair?

I remember I had a similar discussion with a co-worker whom I shared a cubicle with back when I was still working in the office. My children were still a lot younger then. There were times when I would be unable to report to work because one of the kids were sick and I had to stay home with them. Lisa, my co-worker, was single and she didn’t have children. She thought that it was not fair that mothers are being given consideration for these absences. Our company has very strict guidelines with absenteeism and she said that if she were the one missing all these days of work, she would be questioned. I explained to her that the days I missed work were not considered absences but were rather allocated to my vacation days. But it didn’t seem to make her feel better.

Let’s go back to that discussion on The View. Do you think it’s fair to the wife not to give time off to spend time with her husband when the boss agreed to give time off to the mother to spend time with her children?

In the 1950’s, women were expected to care for the husband. But times were different then. Women usually stayed home. Now, women are juggling among 1) husband, 2) kids and 3) work. After having kids, it’s hard to focus on the husband because you’re always tired.

I remember this husband who went on strike because he said the wife was neglecting him. The husband told the wife, “You were with me before them.” I don’t even think that’s the point.

Sometimes the husbands complain that they are being neglected. But they should realize that caring for children is a 24/7 kind of work. Perhaps if they offer help more often, that would lift some of the burden from the wives. After all, marriage and parenting is a 50-50 thing.

I am seeing quite a few men now who are being hands-on dads. Dads are changing diapers or bringing kids to soccer games. But mind you. They would change a wet diaper but not a dirty diaper. They would go to their kids’ sports games but not to doctor’s appointments. And why is the mom the one who stays home when a child is sick? Or are there dads who do?

And don’t you also think that husbands should initiate the romance? I know couples that make time for date nights. They find somebody to look after the kids so that they could go out and have time alone. I think that’s good for the relationship. But looking for a baby sitter could sometimes be a challenge in itself.

As for me, I’m not really big on dates. Although it would be nice to have that every once in a while. But what would really set me in the mood for romance is an offer to help with the chores or the children. That way I could relax. But why do husbands offer help only when they want to get some loving (if you know what I mean)? Wives need all the help they can get every time, right?

I think it was also on The View where I heard that the number 2 problem among couples is housework. Money being the number 1.

I know that there are men out there who understand the challenges women have nowadays and they do try to help. I’m not trying to bash men here, husbands and fathers in particular. Actually, I would like to hear their side.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Kitchens are not built for short people

Martha Stewart had the lovely Kristin Chenoweth (co-star in the new movie RV) on her show last week. Martha usually asks her guests to help cook, bake, garden or do crafts. On this particular show, she and Kristin made Pink Grapefruit Sandwich Cookies.

Kristin is a petite person and she needed an apple box to stand on to reach the worktable. I was amused as she moved around the apple box with her as she helped Martha bake. “Kitchens are not built for short people,” she said.

I can only agree.

I am also a petite person and I keep a step stool in a corner of our kitchen. This blue Rubbermaid product has been a permanent fixture in our kitchen. The kids use it to reach the sink when they wash the dishes. But I am the one who uses it the most.

I use it when I put away food and dishes in the cupboards. I use it when I need to get same food and dishes from the cupboards. I use it to open the window in the morning. I use it to close the window and draw the blinds down at night. I use it when I cook pancit (fried noodles) in the large wok or when I boil pasta in the deep pots. I use it when I mix ingredients for cookies. I use it because I am a short person and kitchens are not built for short people.

The other night, I googled Kristin Chenoweth and found out that she is also a Broadway star and a Tony winner. I also learned that when she was twelve, she performed a song called, “I’m Four-Foot Eleven and I’m Going to Heaven.” That is a title that's also appropriate for me (I hope the last part, too). Now, if I could only find the lyrics of that song.