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Posts Tagged ‘International marriage’

Wow…it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. We are very welll and looking forward to taking a trip back to North America for the summer break. As to my lack of posting, mostly it’s a combination of being busy with life and not feeling the desperate pull to write that I once did. I think I mostly need a break. But until I get back to into writing again, please take a moment to fill out this survey for parents of multiethnic Koreans in Korea if you are one. Also, if you know someone else who is, please pass it along to them. 🙂

 

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Just a few pictures to show you how we celebrated our first Christmas as a family of 3!

Preparing for the big day

 

25 advent

stocking

Christmas cookies for daycare teachers

 

25 cookies 2

25 cookies

Dragon enjoying and wearing his Christmas presents

25 christmas outfit

blog presents

blog dragon

A selection of the many stocking stuffers sent from abroad

25 irn bru

25 chocolates

25 pp

Including some Father-Son matching shirts

25 guns

We went for lunch at the inlaws (mandu guksu, bulgogi, and tiramisu)

cake

And ended the night with dinner at the Hilton with our friend (no cooking for me today!!!)

hilton collage

Merry Christmas to all

xo msleetobe + fam

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On 32

For my birthday this year, Dragon stuck his mucus dripping nose in my mouth. Soon after, I started coming down with a cold, and I spent this afternoon with a fever and congested nose.

But considering Mr. Lee spent his 2012 birthday with a baby in the NICU, I’d say this was a step up.

Also, Dragon started shouting CA or CAD while pointing at his cat siblings today, so I think he’s added a second word to his vocabulary (1st being mom mom mom mom or omma depending on how much Korean he’s heard that day).

And Mr. Lee brought home this cake.

these sweet potato bakery-esq things we’re really into at the moment

AND an ‘S’ grade for his midterm work eval.

So, not such a horrible birthday in the end 🙂

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On Feeding

In general, our relationship works like this. When we’ve mutually agreed that one person should be in charge of something whether it be doing a chore, making a purchase, or planning an event, the person in charge gets to make the decisions. When it’s something that pertains to one person alone, that person gets to make the decision.

And then we had a baby.

Because of our respective work schedules, I am solely responsible for Dragon during the weekdays. And because of social conditioning and individual ability, I’ve been the one making the majority of the decisions about how Dragon is raised, which, for an infant, is basically about food, sleep, and play.
There’s no dispute about sleep schedules; we only wish he would sleep longer and better. There’s no dispute about play and social interaction. And Mr. Lee has always been supportive of my choice to breastfeed and then my need to supplement at the beginning.

Then we got to solids.

Now, before we go further, I need to point out the mommy wars in Western culture often revolve around food. So this isn’t entirely an East/West parenting issue. And personally, I have stopped any form of philosophical parenting and taken a more – ‘what’s good for us and scientifically reasonable is what we’re going with’ sort of approach. That means I breastfeed despite obstacles and qualms about certain approaches to breastfeeding advocacy, and I started solids at 4.5 months because it was the right time and recommendations are just that. Recommendations. I also puree food because I like to and spoon feed for now because it works for us, but if the little Mr. takes something age appropriate and size appropriate from my plate, that’s okay too. In short, breast milk is great, purees are great, finger food is starting to be great. Breast milk is good for him and solids are good for him. All is good right?

Well, we went to the 6 month government sponsored baby wellness-esq check, and the dr asked if Dragon was eating beef. No. Chicken? No. Eggs? No. Fish? Um…no. A wide variety of fruit and vegetables (brussel sprouts even!) and lots of iron fortified pablum…yes. But the dr didn’t care about those things.
So then I got a big talking to. Because all 6 months old should be eating those 4 things. They should, specifically, be eating mackerel I was told. Really? I said in an exasperated voice which was unfortunately interpreted as a question. Yes. I was making my son anemic because he wasn’t getting his daily serving of hanwoo.

Now, agreeing to raise Dragon as a meat eater has been my big concession in parenting thus far. I made it for various reasons, but a primary reason is that we live in Korea, and he will be attending Korean daycare and kindergarten and school and kids have meals made for them at these places. And there’s always meat. And nobody is ever going to respect the crazy foreign mother’s request to omit that meat from her son’s portion. So I know that whether I like it or not, he will eat meat. And I was planning on starting meat from around 8 months. But because I feed iron fortified pablum, and because I breastfeed, and because I like the idea of introducing things slowly over time, I didn’t feel that the moment a kid turns 6 months he needed to be eating mackerel.

The same day we went to a second dr (our usual ped) for vaccinations, and I was again reprimanded for not giving my 6.5 month old meat. This of course started getting Mr. Lee antsy. He was already secretly worried I think about me the vegetarian REALLY agreeing to feed our son meat, and then he heard from drs that denying our son meat for the past two weeks was harming him.

And this is where intercultural parenting is fun. Because yes, I am the one who is preparing food and feeding Dragon most of the time, so from my perspective, I get to make the decisions.

But Dragon is not entirely mine. And we are not living in my culture. And to be honest, although people will say ‘your child is YOURS and YOU know what is best for YOUR child,’ that’s not entirely how most people see it. Society sees your child as theirs, family and children’s services see your child as theirs, breastfeeding or anti-circumcision or anti-spanking advocates see your child as theirs, and older generations sure as hell feel your child is a piece of them and that they have a right to have at least a little bit of an opinion. The validity of these claims is up for debate depending on the issue and situation, but at the very least, our child is ours. He’s Canadian and Korean and at some point there’s bound to be some disagreements as to how to deal with that fact in day to day decisions about how we raise him.

Plus, being outside of my culture, and trying to interact in a language I’m not fluent in means that I can’t always express my ideas adequately, or explain cultural differences like how our rice cereal is fortified with extra iron unlike most homemade juk. And of course, not being raised in this culture, I don’t always know what people expect as normative here in order to prepare my defense of my way or even prepare for the controversy. Anyway, needless to say, I didn’t respond well to the doctors, and I got kind of pissy.

Then I took a little break and tried to be rational again. And I tried to give up a slice of my monopoly on how Dragon is raised even if it’s really me putting in the time and raising most of the week. And I decided that my husband and the doctors shouldn’t be lumped together. I should talk and discuss and find a compromise with my husband. And in matters that are really not important, I should smile and nod and carry on when it comes to others.

So I started Dragon on chicken but only chicken at 7 months. He’s not a fan 🙂 But I fully realize it takes kids some time to get used to different tastes and textures, so I try every so often in different combinations to see if he will become a fan eventually. And Mr. Lee is okay with no mackerel. Because he is our son. And we should find a middle ground in an honest way because we are raising a child together and can work together to find a good solution for all.

And then when Dragon and I went for a follow up vaccination, and when the dr. started berating me about meat and how my seven month old MUST eat meat at EVERY meal, I refrained myself. I didn’t talk about how often he consumed meat. I didn’t talk about how my culture does it. I didn’t talk about iron fortified foods or the fact that a whole lot of kids don’t take to meat or solids in general for quite some time. I just put the hint of a smile on my face, agreed to the general principle that iron is important, and said, that yes, indeed we had started ‘meat.’ Less is better, and appearance of agreement is good enough in this situation.

I’m learning.

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Some time ago, my sister found this amazing website where people post pictures taken long ago, and then update the same picture in the same style. It’s beautiful. It’s nostalgic. It’s starling in some instances.

Since Dragon was born, I’ve taken the same concept but altered it a little. I’ve been juxtaposing pictures of Mr. Lee and I when we were about the same age or the same stage as Dragon. And I can’t help but get a beat teary eyed when I realise how circular our lives are.

Us at 3 months

 

Dragon 4.5 months, me on my 4th month birthday

Dragon at 6 months, me about 8 months

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He said: ‘Now that the baby’s in daycare and around other kids, we have to be more careful about his body temperature.’

She said: ‘You mean…we should be vigilant about checking him for a fever or signs of illness because of more germs?”

He said: “No, his body always needs to be warm because then he won’t get sick.”

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Dragon and I have been back in Canada for a week and a half now, and there’s a lot of good. Eating berries by the carton for breakfast, Timmy’s on every street corner, fresh air, peaceful streets to take early morning stroller walks on, and ketchup chips. Not to mention the fact that Dragon LOVES his Nana. But there’s a lot of end of life issues with family members right now with dementia being one of the most frustrating and heart breaking issues.

It’s got me thinking about what a bicultural and bilingual marriage looks like at 90. If we are so lucky to spend 50 years together, and if we are unable to escape the challenges of dementia, how will having two mother tongues and growing up in two different cultures further complicate dementia issues? I hope to improve my Korean skills, but I will probably never be fluent, and I wonder, if it is Mr. Lee who suffers from dementia, if he will become trapped in 1983 and lose his ability to speak English. Or if we spend the end of our lives in Canada, but he is living in another era in his mind, if the disconnect between his surroundings and his mind will cause even further anxiety because he is not in his birth culture. I know in Canada there are now retirement and nursing homes devoted to a particular culture in order to minimise these issues, but if we end our lives in Korea, will the same be there for me?

It’s not a serious worry I have at this moment in time, but I suppose until now I had always expected that the unique challenges of international marriage would be fully worked out by our later years. We would be the grandparents and the inlaws. We would be the generation with the old fashioned ideas. We would have raised our kid(s) already and retired, thus leaving behind cultural differences in the workplace. We would have come to fully understand and accept each others’ weaknesses and use our strengths to mutual advantage. Everything would be perfected after 50 years right?

But maybe there are additional challenges when the mind goes in a different direction. And perhaps that will make our own end of life issues harder. Or maybe it won’t matter? Maybe when one of us is in the bed crying out in pain or delusional, the other’s worn and wrinkled hand will be the way to soothe regardless of language.

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