Paul's Heart

Life As A Dad, And A Survivor

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Gong Xi Fa Cai 2019

What a fun time of year if you are of Asian heritage, or have a connection to someone who celebrates this time of year.

Many non-Asians proclaim “Happy Chinese New Year” when in fact, it is not only the Chinese that celebrate the Lunar New Year, such as the Korean and Vietnamese do also.  Along with being referred to as the Lunar New Year, this time period is also known as the Spring Festival.

Having two children adopted from China, I have learned so much about this time of year, either from other Chinese, or research.  But if there is one thing I have learned from the Chinese, and that I definitely admire about the people of China, something we have over the years lacked, appreciation and commitment to tradition.

The whole purpose of the new year, is to literally send off the old bad stuff of the prior year, and welcome only the good.  Family travel back home to be with each other.  It is amazing.  While China does not completely shut down, a major amount of its people make the travels back home to celebrate the new year.  Preparations begin up to a week before the new year celebration begins, in this case, today, February 5th and will continue until February 19th!  TWO WEEKS OF CELEBRATING!!!  I have personally witnessed this.

I landed in Hong Kong with just three days left of the Lunar New Year to adopt my youngest daughter.  Those three days were filled with fireworks, dragons, and lots of joy and hope.

And just for the record, the firecrackers and fireworks go around the clock, day and night.  The purpose, to “scare” away the evil spirits.  The first night of sleep only occurred because of exhaustion from the sixteen hour flight.  In the days after landing, we joined in many of the traditions to welcoming the new year.  And there are many.

2019 is the year of the Pig, the 12th and final animal of the Asian zodiac.  Legend has it that the animals were numbered in the order that they arrived at the Jade emperor’s party.  There are actually several stories.

Every day of this time period has a particular meaning behind it celebrating different things, culminating in the Lantern Festival at the end of the celebration.

Saying Happy New Year is not so easy either, in the Chinese language alone, there are so many dialects, to the translation has just as many differences.  And deep within the Chinese, are more than fifty different ethnic minorities.  Mandarin and Cantonese are the more common dialects.

When family return home, they visit their elders first, bringing gifts.  The elders in turn give red envelopes, usually with money inside, to help the younger to get a better start on the new year, also for blessings and good luck.  These envelopes are also given to friends for good luck and blessings.

Now if you have ever heard of the expression “kowtowing”, here is where at least one origin of the expression comes from.  To show proper respect to your elder, you “kowtow”, which literally means to knock your head to the floor.  So that you do not get hurt, you kneel, bend over placing your hands on the ground, putting your head on your hands.

Clark Griswald would have a field day decorating for the Lunar New Year.  Because it was believed, a horrible monster named Nian would terrorize villages every year, The celebration was believed to chase Nian back to where he came from.  You will see lots and lots of red, because red is the color of luck and prosperity.  Fantastic decorations of hand crafted paper cut-outs referred to as “window flowers”, either symbols or animals, displaying door “gods” or particular words, all meant to chase away Nian.

You will not starve during the festival.  Spring rolls, dumplings, noodles, fish, and rice cakes are in huge supply.  There are plenty of vegetables and fruit.  Enjoy drinking the many wines or one of my favorite international beers when I partake, TsingTao beer.  And do not forget teas.

You want to dress to celebrate the festival?  You do not have to go out and buy any Asian silk clothing, though there is a beauty to the clothing, the main thing is to wear something new.  Wearing something red?  A bonus.

There are plenty of myths to learn about during this time of year to appreciate just how wonderful a time period you are celebrating.  And of course, with the pig being the final animal of the zodiac calendar, that ends the twelve year cycle.

But beware, there are things you should not do during this time.  Negative words are out, not just “no”, but bad words with negative connotations.  Do not break anything, especially dishes.  For many, this one is easy, no cleaning or sweeping.  This is to be done before the festivities start.  Once started, it is all about good things, and if you have cleaned properly, you have swept all the bad away.  Stay away from sharp objects like knives and scissors.  It is believed that these will cut your wealth and success.  That includes getting a hair cut.  Because traditionally, the brides move in with the groom’s family, there is no visiting the bride’s family.  To do so would indicate marriage problems.  There is no worry about debts or repayments during this time.  The time is for celebrating, not for collecting debts.  No fighting or crying.  Do not wish new year blessings while still in bed, lest you risk the person being bed-ridden the rest of the year.

Giving gifts during the celebration?  No clocks (associated with paying last respects as time runs out), apples (because the dialect sounds like someone has died).  But cash, cash is king.  Put it in a red envelope to wish the recipient a prosperous, happy, wealthy new year.

Every year, I celebrate the new year with my daughters.  Not during the entire time period, but at least during certain days.  I have already had our meal with each other, and will do so again before the end of the celebration, and of course, they will get red envelopes.  It is important to me as their father that they continue to celebrate their heritage with them.

Gong Xi Fa Choy everyone!!!  The best to everyone!!!


*traditions and other information researched from the website




Fatherhood… I’ve Come A Long Way

One thing that I always said over the years, I wanted more for my daughters than I had.  What parent would not strive for that with their children.  It was important to me that my daughters did well in school.  My daughters learned and gave love to their family and to each other.  Each daughter has limitless compassion and empathy for those less fortunate.  And while these are all common values they share today, they are both still their own unique selves.

I was never one to want the girls dressed identical, and had they even been twins, I still might not have wanted that.  But while my daughters love each other as sisters, there is that independence that they want of each other, and rightly so, they should.  After years of having lost the battle of dressing alike, my oldest finely had enough when being asked if her sister was her twin.  My youngest, all too often feels compared to her older sister, and many times, not in a flattering light.  It should not be a really big deal for the sisters to be thought of so closely, but to them, their independence is as important as their unity.

The early life lessons of manners, respect, love are long in the past, the easier part of being a father.  But now that they are older, more important lessons are taking place.  Because now decisions that are being made, are most likely going to have an impact on their futures.  And as a parent, there is not greater pressure.  Everything must be done correctly.  Of all the challenges that I have faced in my life, there is none greater, than preparing my daughters for their future as adults in this world.  Again, with the idea, better prepared than I was to do so.

But there is a balance that must be maintained.  Clearly the pressures that they face in school, will be nothing compared to what they face as adults.  They must not forget this simple thought, happiness must be a priority.  My older daughter can be quite philosophical, and this quote from John Lennon was perfect for the conversation that we were having.  And my youngest definitely agrees and wants to make it her life motto.

There is no doubt, then when my daughters have completed their educations, they will both be on better ground than I was for the adult world.  Both will head in separate directions as far as their life’s plans.  To compare them to each other is not only wrong, but is completely unfair.  Yes, they are sisters – as I often pointed out when I was asked, only to be clarified, “no, they really are sisters.”  The gag was, because obviously being adopted, people were curious if they were biologically sisters, which neither they or I think about.  They are sisters, and always have been, always will be.  They will carry my last name as their own, until they marry if they choose to do so.

Make no mistake, my daughters are sisters.  They have things in common with each other, and they have their differences.  There is no comparison between the two.  As their father, I am their protector, their teacher, their role model, their encouragement.  And in the homestretch of their childhood, these responsibilities as their father are even more important than ever.  It is my job to teach them how to correct their mistakes so that things are not made worse.  It is important to learn about options and choices, and consequences or rewards from those decisions.  I want them to learn the “adult” way to deal with conflict when it arises.

At the end of each day, the flame from my torch of responsibility grows a little more dim, only because the flame is growing on each of their torches.  I could not be more proud of my daughters and all that they have done so far, and now, as I hear who they want to become, I can only say… “wow.”

An Uncomfortable Lesson To Teach/Learn

This Summer, I made a decision to let my daughters see the movie “8th Grade”.  While some expressed concern about the film’s R rating, others stated that the film was too important not to let kids, especially in 8th grade, see the film.  The filmmakers also expressed the importance of the parents seeing the film.  Once we had seen the film, we all had questions for each other.  And in today’s current environment, this conversation needed to be held, and the sooner the better.

The film basically deals with an 8th grade teenager who is social media smart, but socially present awkward.  She clearly struggles between being wanting to be cool and accepted, and just confused.

If you Google “uncomfortable car scene 8th grade,” the clip I am going to describe will come up and you can see for yourself.  But the clip does not show what kids need to see, just how innocent something can seem, and turn into a worst nightmare.

As I said, the girl is in 8th grade.  And one of the things that occurs during the school year, as the 8th graders get ready to enter High School, a program involving seniors, has the 12th graders have the 8th graders shadow them around school for the day to show a typical day and what it is like.  The 8th grade girl is matched up with a female senior, follows her around the school all day, including lunch.  After school, the younger girl clearly was excited about the day and called the older girl to say thank you for being so nice, for being so cool.

The senior responded, saying that she was going to be hanging out at the mall with friends later that evening, and invited the 8th grade girl to come along.  She was more than happy to accept the invitation.  And so her dad drove her to the mall.

Once inside the mall, she located her 12th grade friend, along with other teens at the food court, and joined in on their gathering.

Unfortunately, the other friends spot someone “staring,” and it ends up being the younger girl’s father.  Totally unaware her father was following her, she races up to him, chews him out for embarrassing her, and then informs her father that he needs to leave, and she will get a ride home with one of the kids she is hanging out with.

The driver, one of the boys, is dropping every one off at their houses until only he, the 8th grade girl, and the 12th grade girl friend are left.  They are near the older girl’s home, and the older girl replies, that they should take the younger girl home first.  The boy objects saying it was stupid for him to drive the other girl all that way, and double back just to drop off the older girl since they were right there.

At that point, out of the corner of my eye, I could see my younger daughter, also an 8th grader, begin to squirm as if she sensed something was going to happen.

The boy drops the older girl off, and then proceeds to take the 8th grade girl home.  He is in the driver seat obviously, but she remained in the back seat.  After a few words, he says, “you know?  This is really hard talking with you back there.”  Admittedly, I was clueless, as he pulled the car to the side of the road, thinking he was just going to allow the girl to get into the front seat.  Instead, he turned the car off, and walked around to the other side of the car and got into the back seat with the girl.  Now I may be forty years from being a teenager, but I know what this dirt bag was up to.

After a minute of small talk, he asks her if she wants to play “Truth Or Dare.”  This game has not changed over the years, and as an adult, I am not naive to think my kids have not dabbled in the game already.  The girl says okay.  The first round is a “truth” for both and while she asks an innocent “truth,” he puts her on the spot with something inappropriate.  But as round two begins, and she asks him, he responds that he wants a “dare.”  At this point, my blood is boiling because I know where this is going, and as I looked at both my daughters, I could see the concern on both of their faces.

And she dares the jerk to take off his shirt.  He knows that she is playing along now.  And when he asks her, “truth of dare?”, she responds with “truth,” to which he immediately calls her out because he did the dare.  She changes her mind and replies “dare.”  And of course he dares her to take off her shirt.  At this point, Iknow how this scene is going to play out, and clearly after the movie, there will be a conversation with my daughters.

She replies that she is not comfortable with taking off her shirt.  His response, “you think I’m comfortable sitting her with my shirt off?”  And when she does not respond right away, he approaches her again about removing her shirt, and she snaps back, “I SAID NO!!”

Rejected, the dickhead puts his shirt back on, and gets back in the driver seat, and drives her home.  During the ride, she actually apologizes to him.  WHAT THE HELL!!!  Apologize for what?!?  There were a couple of scenes in the movie that would be talking points, but with both of my daughters approaching dating age, this scene would be the one we needed to discuss as a priority.

There were all kind of factors that should not have taken place, but I want to stress, there is no blaming the girl.  She had innocent intentions and even explained to her father who she would be hanging out with.  Now honestly, I would not let my kids hang out with high school kids, mainly because they have enough friends their age.  But we all agreed, that the mall was a public place, and seemed safe.  And really, up until there were only 3 left in the vehicle, the ride home seemed uneventful.  But when the slimeball argued with the 12th grade girl about being dropped off before the younger, everyone knew he had a plan.  And now my daughters could see, for themselves, how something so simple and innocent, could turn into something so wrong.

I am glad that we saw the movie and could discuss it for several reasons, first, just as an icebreaker for a dad to have with his daughters.

But the other main reason, given today’s environment, which I have also discussed with them, the recent Supreme Court Nomination process, how a decision they make now, could impact them later in their lives.  And they both agreed that the boy was a jerk, and very wrong.

So with us so divided today, concerned with believing the victim, versus not letting boys be “victimized” by false allegations, I did my part.  I have had the conversation on being aware of situations to avoid, and how to respond if circumstances change and how to deal with something they are not comfortable with.  But make no mistake, there is only one warning, and then they are told to defend themselves any way possible.  And then talk to their mother and I.  All the boys have to do, is be a gentleman and be respectful with my daughters, and there will be no issue… now… or later.

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