Friday, June 22, 2012

Goodbye job... Goodbye friends... Big Changes Ahead... Breasts and a 'Harajuku Moment'

I try not to write anything useful for people who are living and working abroad, and I assume that's about how this entry is going to go as well.

When I come across those blogs by people who profess to float from place to place while living some sort of exotic high life, I tend to feel a couple of things (apart from envy). One is that they're quite possibly lying. The other is that flitting around and sampling other places is a dumb lifestyle. Mind you, I'm still envious, but it's still dumb.

I left my job. It was a good job, but it needed to be left in order to feed myself and my growing family.

I miss my friends there and I still think about what I'm going to share with them next time I see them at work... but then I realize that I'm not going to see them.

We're moving to my new job in Istanbul. It's a big confusing mess of a city filled with people who act like they shouldn't be living in a city.

It's been a little bit of a strange time. My baby son was born just a few days ago and we're (my wife and I) learning how to make magic juice come out of her body in order to nourish the little guy.

One of the biggest mistakes we've made so far as parents, and we made this one just hours after becoming parents, was to force massive boobs into his face and foster a lasting fear of them. It sounds impossible, but it's not. The second mistake we made was to enable this fear by buying a box of formula for our starving, screaming child.

In breastfeeding, two things need to happen: The baby needs to be hungry, and food needs to come out of the breast.

Simple, right?

Not so much. So far, a poking, prodding parade of rather annoying Turkish women have been lecturing my wife on breastfeeding and child rearing. Frankly, I'm tired, and we're just beginning to produce results. We've finally begun reversing the damage we've done as parents.

First, we needed to help baby to face his fear of boobies by tantalizing him. Make him chase the boobie and not the other way around. Get the milk started, then give him a taste. Wait a second, and pull back. Repeat 1,000 times. It helps to sing to him. My favourite song for this is one that I made. I call it 'Eat the Boobie.'

Second, we had to deal with the problem of passivity caused by giving him bottles of formula. This is probably one of the biggest problems I've seen happening in Turkish private schools. Letting the child lay on his back, doing absolutely nothing while feeding him nutrients from a box (or good grades) is a bit like attaching lead weights to a kite... or squishing a beetle under your heel and then naming him and adopting as a pet... and hoping he'll be able to learn tricks later.

Making a boob seem friendly and nonthreatening takes very little brains or talent, as many Hollywood actresses could easily tell you. Making the child less passive, however, was a real trick. Luckily, as I was thinking of how to deal with the problem, the solution presented itself accidentally when my exhausted wife started to doze. I'd left the room to go to the kitchen and take a just take a breathe. The baby wasn't doing what he was supposed to. As a teacher, I was already aware that children aren't simply programmable robots and that they can be frustrating sometimes. For you non-teachers who are thinking of becoming parents, you need to be aware of this. Unless you are a horrible pop musician (like Pitbull, who can barely complete a song on his own), you do not have the power to simply program children.

When I came back from the kitchen, I saw something wonderful. It was absolutely inspiring. My baby was looking at the breast, which was just out of reach, and sucking madly on the fingers of one hand. He was reaching for the breast with his other.

In teaching we learned about Vygotski and his zone of proximal development, or a manageable yet challenging gap to achievement that sets the bar neither too high nor too low. For my newborn baby, the gap between his sweet little face and my sleeping wife's funbags was too long, but he was sucking madly and knew what he wanted. Nothing passive there... woke her up, moved her closer... problem solved.

Tim Ferris, the talented business and fitness writer, has a talent for naming things, and I experienced something that he called The Harajuku Moment.

With the baby's goal too far away, he was doing the next best thing. With his appetite whetted, he was furiously trying to get what he wanted. It was nice to see that he wasn't giving up. My fear of him becoming a passive blob of an adult was soothed.

When I first read the term "Harajuku Moment" I thought of a Haruki Murakami short story called, "On seeing the 100% perfect girl one April morning." (Be sure to read the entire story as it appears in Sputnik Sweetheart and not the partial version that people put online). In fact, I'm sure it was the inspiration for Tim's coining of the term, which would make it a more interesting double edged sword.

The story is highly personal for me because it actually happened to me, and it happened in Harajuku as a single young man on my way to a job interview with a recruiter for a school in Tsukuba. It was morning. It was April. I can't for the life of me remember what the girl was wearing, but I saw her there and thought she was my future... and I kept walking.

It must happen all the time in Harajuku. Seriously, the place has that feel about it.

In Tim's version of the Harajuku Moment, the motivating, life-changing 'ah-ha' moment. In mine and Murakami's version, the needling, lingering feeling of 'what-if' that can follow a missed opportunity.

In life there are many things we want to do. Recently I saw a travel program about Vietnam. What I saw had me excited for days afterwards, so I sought out opportunities in Vietnam. I scored big and got a fantastic offer. It was much more than I had hoped for and I was ready to go. My baby was going to grow up with three languages. My son was going to eat cobra hearts and study martial arts. We would explore asian jungles together. Then the familial push and pull of discussion started to affect my ability to make decisions. The realities of the pregnancy and child rearing began to appear heavier and problems more insurmountable. Even now, the word "Vietnam" is associated with irritating feelings of lethargy, grasping and whining.

It's what no parent wants for their child. It's what no one wants for themselves. It's the difference between getting the milk and just sitting and sucking on your fingers, looking at a boob.

So, this morning I solved two major parenting problems (that I had helped cause) and been struck with a very inspiring ah ha moment. What am I going to do with it? Miss the opportunity like I did with the girl in Harajuku or a new life in Vietnam, or will I grab the bull by the boob?

No comments:

Post a Comment