Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

Archive for the category “Recreation”

A Reason To Celebrate

One of the best improvements to my life, with the adoptions of my daughters, and being from China, was learning a whole new culture.  The experience of travelling to a country all the way on the other side of the planet, and seeing first hand, where my daughters had come from, allows me to be able to relate to them, the many traditions and customs of the Chinese culture.  This is a promise that I have made right from the beginning, and plan to do the rest of their lives.  Yes, my daughters are American citizens, but they are also Chinese.  They are being raised as American citizens with Chinese culture.

Unlike the calendar new year, Chinese New Year floats in dates.  This year, it is slated to begin February 16th, and typically lasts for about 2 weeks. And I can confirm this.  When done right, as in mainland China, I was adopting my youngest daughter at the tail end of the Chinese New Year.  Firecrackers and fireworks never seemed to stop, even during the daylight hours.  Clearly, the Chinese love to celebrate the new year.  And why not?

But it is not just fireworks that make Chinese New Year so exciting and fun.  This is a time to look forward to the new year and all the blessings it will bring.  Food enjoyed such as spring rolls, dumplings, noodles, and rice cakes, along with chicken and fish, and plenty of vegetables are in great abundance and well prepared.  One side note, because I am a picky eater, I only eat 2 of the before mentioned items.  Clothing worn, though noting in particular, is always new (think “out with the old, in with the new, just as the new year).

One of the most fascinating thing about the culture of the Chinese, besides the fact of the many different dialects of the Chinese language, are the stories and folklore.  After all, one of the main stories of why Chinese New Year is celebrated, is about a monster named Nian, who lived in the sea, and would come on land, once a year to eat the people.  The legend is that he came to a home with a red paper on the door, and immediately firecrackers exploded behind him, causing him to get angry, and run away.

There are things you want to avoid during this festival:  negative talk, breaking ceramic and glass, avoid using sharp objects, do not take medicine (have to question that one), do not visit the wife’s family – which probably also ties in with no fighting and crying, do not demand money that is owed from people, and do not wish someone Chinese Happy New Year while still in bed.

A common gift is a red envelope with money inside.  One to avoid, is the clock as it symbolizes time running out (dying).

And of course, there is the great lantern festival.  So many decorations, it is no wonder that the Chinese start preparing for this festival more than a week ahead of time, and for many of the Chinese people, everything comes to a screeching halt during the celebration so that everyone can celebrate as family.  Like I said, I got to witness this in China personally.  It is truly amazing.

For most of their years, I have celebrated this holiday with my daughters.  This photo was taken four years ago, the last time we got to celebrate this holiday.  Next week, we celebrate again and as often happened, with celebrating with friends.  I am so looking forward to it.

Gung Hei Faat Coi (Gung Hay Fat Choy)!!!

Happy New Year!!!!  Year of the Dog.


Dad Edition 1.4

It was inevitable.  I have seen this happen so many times before.  I have even made several jokes to others affected by this moment… a daughter’s first date.

The days are passed, where my daughters looked at me more as some sort of superhero.  Of course, the super hero reference is more than coincidence as they both know how much I like superheroes.  Each of them have their own special skills, abilities, traits, and characteristics.  But as my youngest daughter let me know the other day, not to undervalue the role of a Dad as a superhero.  I may not be green, but unprompted, she said, “Dad, you are one of the strongest people I will ever know.”  She was of course making reference to the many physical challenges of my life, and my refusal to quit.

But now, as I enter the next phase of parenthood (full blown teenagers), just as superhero movies get re-boots, I am due as well.  Although I will still retain all the qualities that my daughters have known their whole lives, strong, smart, brave, there is a new one that I want them to pay special attention to.

My oldest is going to be going to her first dance soon.  I remember my heart dropping to the floor when she told me.  Of course, she relished in telling me this news, because I have always kept this type of future conversation very light, jokingly, maybe, that I wanted her to remain a little girl, never grow up.  But she is growing up.

When I talk to my daughters about this next part of their life, I talk to both.  Because it is important.  I have told them, it is important first and foremost, that they respect themselves first.  How they want to be treated, is how they will expect an interested individual to treat them.  My daughters should want doors opened for them.  If the dating continues… gasp… gets serious… gasp… that they refer to themselves as dating or… gasp… boyfriend or girlfriend, then the actions of the other must reflect the values that I want my daughters to insist on.  I told them that if hands are going to be held, then school books should be carried for them.  Of course, most importantly, treat my daughters with care and respect.

All kidding aside, I am very proud of both of my daughters.  I believe they both have a good head on their shoulders.  And I knew some day this day would come.  I am hoping that they have seen enough of my example to see how my actions, and that they should want to be taken care of the same way.  But here is an interesting, and differing view point of just a two year difference.

In having the conversation with my oldest daughter upon finding out of her first date, the first question that I asked, “is he nice boy?”  And she said yes.  I did ask her his name, and I did so, as I explained to her, this time was one time that I did not want to make a joking matter, and treat him with respect right from the beginning, which meant, calling him by his name, not “him” or any other nickname.

It was the next question that I got two surprisingly different answers.  I asked, “who is paying for the dance?”  She responded that they were each paying their own way.  I could not have been any more proud of her.  Having experience of being a teenage boy, going “dutch” (each paying their own way), was at least a psychological way to make sure that each knew that there would be nothing funny going on during the date, that otherwise might be assumed if paid 100% by the suitor.  Of course, I complimented my daughter on that decision, saying only that it was a good thing, because by doing it this way, it would allow them to enjoy only the moment they were in, going to the dance, without thinking about anything else.  Sure,  I am dreading dates #2 and #3 and so on, but at least I know right now, she is thinking respectfully of herself.

My youngest daughter took it from a different angle.  She is two years younger, but felt her sister was making a foolish mistake not saving the money by making the boy pay for the dance.  Of course, I would agree with her logic, because I have had frequent conversations with both about money and decision making.  And I want them both to make good money decisions.  I let her know that she made a good point, but then I told her this situation was a little more complicated than that.  I kept the explanation a bit simple by just saying, by her sister paying her own way, it did not make the boy feel or think, that there was any more interest at that time, and she would not expect that either.  This way, there was no pressure, they could just enjoy the school dance.

I am fortunate to have the relationship with my daughters that I do.  It is not the Norman Rockwell family photo type, as like many families, our family is no longer together.  But between the times that we were together, through the last 24 hours, I still take every opportunity to remind them about life, what they should want, expect, how to handle adversity, and hopefully to make good decisions.  One of the best decisions I made, was in hiring their “final” babysitter.  After having issues with several, we found “the one”, a teacher at their daycare, and for the next eight years, she became a role model for them as both a young adult and student.  This special babysitter was not only caring when it came to babysitting, but in her personal life, she balanced work, school, along with what was important to her at the time.

For now, I am starting to regret teasing my other dad friends about this day.

How Can This Story Get Any Worse?

This is Larissa Boyce, 36 years old.  Twenty years earlier, she was sexually assaulted by someone she trusted, that her parents trusted, to treat her in her dreams of participating in gymnastics.    Originally, when I wrote last week (“Defining Insanity”), the number of victims of Larry Nassar, team doctor at Michigan State University, was publicly being stated at over 150.  Today, the number has climbed as high as 265 victims.

Nassar was sentenced severely enough, that he is expected to die in prison.  But sadly, there is going to be yet more court actions as further sentencing is forthcoming.  And that is what has led to the increase in the number of his victims.  In listening to reports, Nassar believed himself to be a “body whisperer” which he probably felt gave him the right to do what he did to all of his victims and that people just did not understand, that is what made his practice work.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

The whole point of my “Defining Insanity” post, was that no matter how extreme these stories get, we still keep ending up going through the same cycle over and over.  Victim makes an allegation.  Victim is discounted, often made to feel as if the problem.  Repeat.  Incidents made public.  Outrage.  Denial of knowledge of the abuse.  Repeated over and over again.

As was reported in Boyce’s case, Boyce, who was one of many children, non MSU students treated on campus, she was made to believe she was the problem.  Denial that Nassar did anything.  Boyce was made to believe that she simply did not understand what was being done to her.  No one would be notified.  This would stay within the four walls of MSU.  People she looked up to in the MSU Youth Gymnastics program had not only let her down.  But by being complicit, over 265 victims are now the latest count.

Defining insanity.  The Catholic Church priest sex scandal.  The sex scandal at Penn State involving Jerry Sandusky.  These were all major publicized events, and yet, here we are again.  The definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result.

All it would have taken was for not just the first victim to be believed, but even within the first dozen victims if even that many were needed.

I have often found myself wondering about those adults in my childhood, especially teachers in high school, where comments were often made about certain teachers and possible inappropriateness.  Might the rumors have been true, and we were all just led to believe they were not?  Were fellow students being abused, and shamed into secrecy?  Were any of my friends made to think they were the problem?

And then there is the “how” this could happen.  That is an easy one.  It is all about “power”.  Because dreams are so high, yet success limited in numbers, opportunities are far and few.  And that power is held over heads to keep a victim compliant.  To have any success, keep your mouth shut.  And it does not matter what the pursuit in life is.  And this does not happen to just children.  As we are finding out with the “Me Too” movement, it happens to plenty of adults as well, female AND male.

How many is too many before a complaint is taken seriously?  How, with all the publicity, things like this still occur?  How do we keep letting abusers get into positions that enable them to feed their needs to abuse?

As a father of two teenage girls, this is my reality now.  And it should make no difference if I had sons either.  But I would hope, that if anyone would put my daughters in a situation that clearly was unacceptable, that my daughters feel they could trust the adults in their lives, myself, their mother, a teacher, a friend’s parent, as many as it took to deal with the situation.  But to do this, we need to believe their claim right from the beginning.  We cannot afford to be complicit and just blow it off.  Perhaps just even as bad, if we are made aware of such a claim of another child, not even our own, we still have that responsibility to act, even if not our own child.

Of course, there is the risk of the accused perpetrator being an innocent victim themselves of a vicious rumor campaign by mean and vindictive students or adults, retribution for a denial of an opportunity that was sought and denied.  And this has its own consequence as a career can be ruined, and a family destroyed.

But as an average human being, without training in recognizing and dealing with sexual abuse, we are not qualified to make the determination, which is a legitimate accusation, and which is not.

Think about it, and the investigations will reveal just how many people at MSU knew what was happening.  The number is now over 265.  How many people were told, then made the victims to accept the blame?  How many people knew, and then turned their backs?  If the victim count is 265… how many people knew?  And this is just the MSU situation.  There have been so many other institutions rocked by this type of scandal, and there probably will be more.

The question is, do we just keep doing the same thing, over and over again?  It is time to take the first complain seriously, whether our child or not.

Post Navigation