Goldenlicks, for lack of a better title

Today, I had my last elementary classes of the year, yay. It feels like a big accomplishment, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. (Mainly that 45 children is far too many for a foreign language class.)
We closed out the year by selecting and performing fairytale-type stories in groups. The children chose their own groups, and chose between one of five story adoptations, authored by yours truly of course. They practiced for a couple of lessons, and today was the performance (complete with simple props.)
I give you this background because I was surprised when a fight broke out in one of the groups over who would play Mama Bear from Goldilocks (whin co-worker kept referring to the play as Goldenlicks…) I mean, they could have chosen a play without gender specific roles (like The Three Billy Goats Gruff) or one I had done two versions of (The King’s/Queen’s New Clothes,) or they could have revised it to Papa Bear and Uncle Bear; it shouldn’t have been an issue.  But for whatever reason, these boys chose this particular play,  practiced it for a month, and starting crying over it TODAY.
Dealing with the boys and their fragile ego issues consumed me at the time, but now I’m more bothered by something else. 
What about all the girls in that class, who saw two boys literally come to blows and then dissolve into pouty tears for twenty minutes over having to play a fictional female role? This same role that they are born into.  Two teachers jumped in to talk to the boys, but what about the girls? What message does it send to them? Are we giving them any counter-messages to celebrate womanhood?

And what about me? Or you? We, who grew up at a time when people  threw around with abandon terms that equate being a woman with being fickle or silly or nonsensical or weak? How has that effected us? Are we damaged? Or has it, to the contrary, made us strong?

What the grumpy pants?

Me Too came home with her grumpy pants on today. I’m not exactly sure what happened. She wasn’t feeling terrific this morning after her flu shot yesterday afternoon (and her arm ballooning up soon afterward, eek! Luckily it seemed okay when she woke up.) But she was so happy when she left for school this morning that I was caught completely off guard.
The second grade at the local school cordons off a section of the school ground for growing sweet potatoes. Then every year, they harvest them and cook them in the school kitchen. This year, apparently some evil mutant vegetable-loving mice got into the potato patch and there were much fewer potatoes than usual. 
Nevertheless, tradition is tradition, the show must go on and all that;  Me Too very proudly took her ruffley blue apron to school today. She was so happy when she left; she has been looking forward to this day all year. And yet she was so downtrodden when she came home. 
Apparently her potatoes were rotten on the inside and she couldn’t eat them. This coupled with her being assigned washing duty (the horror!) instead of slicing duty was more than she could bear and resulted  in a crying, screaming fit immediately upon returning to the house.
That doesn’t sound right to me, either.
 I’m not exactly sure what happened. Maybe she’s coming down with something? Maybe there is more to the story of how she ended up washing rotten potatoes? 
She isn’t very good at handling girl drama. She takes things to heart that she would be better off ignoring. I worry about how she will deal with that. It only gets worse with age. Maybe I was lucky. Having both a brother and sister I had ample chances to practice all kinds of conflict management (that means we fought all.the.time.) I went into the world with a lot more experience under my belt, and even then it was hard. Hell, it’s still hard. 
All in all, it ended up being a traumatic afternoon. I finally managed to convince her to go for a walk, which always helps. Both of us. But I won’t be able to convince her to do that forever. She’ll have to manage on her own devices, and I’m not sure I’ve equipped her with what she needs.

Real Christmas

So my kids have never done a “Real Christmas.” I’ve had the freedom to pick and choose what traditions we follow (stockings!) and what we don’t (basically anything I find stressful.)
 This year, we are going to the US for the first time during holiday season, and I’m finding all the shopping and stuff to be a bit overwhelming. I mean, apparently special Christmas pajamas at a thing?? I think someone else is taking care of that.

Most of the year end Japan stuff is just not going to happen. I mean, that giant year end cleaning thing? That doesn’t get proper attention on a good year, much less this one. HRH made up nengajo the other day, then casually declares that yours truly need to write a poem to go in them.
Um, what??
I did do this one year. I should have known that no good deed goes without having a mile taken. My engineer right-brained husband has little understanding (or appreciation for) the creative process. It just doesn’t happen like that. It’s not like solving an equation, you know?
But anyway:
Here’s my poem

Sorry it’s crass

I wrote it cause

Hubby’s an ass.

An Unlikely Ally

I’ve found the most unlikely of allies in my morning struggle to get the kids fed (to HRH’s increasing ridiculous high standards) and out of the house on time without them killing each other in the process.  I leave most days at the same time, so this space-time anomaly that happens every time we move to the foyer has ceased being an incredible annoyance and become a down right pain in the ass and ever loving crisis.

My new friend is asa-ren, morning practice. Apparently, the fifth graders at our school and another school nearby will be battling it out on the basketball court and soccer field some time in February. Every child is required to join a team, and come to practice before school. This kind of heavy handedness would usually piss me off. I mean, what if your kid was a ballet genius who twisted their ankle right before a rehearsal because of stupid school-imposed basketball practice? Sounds like the plot of an after school special.

But for me, right now, this is an unexpected helpmeet. Me First has to leave the house at 7:15. He gets home from school around 4:00. Between snacks and homework and dinner and baths (a little play time if we’re lucky,) it’s a miracle if I get him to bed by 8:00. Sleeping earlier is not a real option, so neither is getting up any earlier. Therefore it follows that he doesn’t have time to struggle through a huge 5-star breakfast. Today was niku-man and salad. Easy enough!

He also doesn’t have time for lounging in front of the heater; Me Too knows she will have time to do her thing after he leaves so is happy enough to let him use the bathroom first, etc.

It reminds me a little bit of when Me Too was still in preschool. Brother would get ready and leave first, then we would have a little girl time to read or play games before she needed to go. Of course back then she didn’t leave the house before 9:00. Funny how our concept of what constitutes an early morning had changed!

Asa-ren is only twice a week. But I’ll take what I can get.

Seven Minutes in Hell

Every week at least once, I have to take a certain train line along the express route from Kamioka to Yokohama.

Aka seven minutes in hell.

The train is  full before it pulls into the station, but the foot soldiers of the Japanese economy dutifully plod their way forward, pushing and cramming and twisting their bodies every which way in order to board. The railway workers sometimes have to push people, and their belongings, in to force the doors shut.
Once the doors are closed, you are face to face (or face to chin, or face to chest, depending on your height advantage) with a sea of humanity you do not know and hope never to see again. The man who needs stronger deodorant. The woman smelling of face powder. The older man who had dried squid with his breakfast. The younger man who’s Parental Advisory required lyrics are blasting at you, a flagrant affront. 

The average commuter plugs in their earphones or simply closes their eyes and visits their happy place. Mine is a sunny porch near a beautiful garden I once saw in Kyoto. I can’t help wondering about those around me, though perhaps I won’t try too hard to imagine Mr. Profane Lyric’s.

When the trains pulls into the station, we jostle and push and otherwise wrangle ourselves into the (conparitively) sweet and cool air of the platform. Each going his own way, perhaps never to meet again, perhaps never to travel this way again.

Or we might see each other again tomorrow morning.

Monster Creation

We went out to eat after English school yesterday. Me First, as is his habit lately, ordered an adult sized meal. It came with a drink. With a twinkle in his eye (and maybe a song in his heart, I’m not sure since I wasn’t privy to that part,) he ordered a hot coffee.

Um, ???

HRH looked at me as if to pass the buck. He could have it, fine, I agreed. But he couldn’t use more than two sugar cubes. I figured if he didn’t finish it, I would. Take one for the team and all that, rah rah. Such hardship.

But I’ll be damned that kid drank the whole coffee like a pro.

Today when we took MIL out for Mother’s Day, he ordered an “afternoon tea” blend. Again, ???

What have we done? Is this a monster in the making? He’s too young to responsibly handle the caffeine addiction that will result from this behavior. Heck, I can’t deal with the fallout! World Peace is in imminent danger every morning until I get my coffee, we can’t go doubling that. It isn’t fair to the rest of Planet Earth.

Finally I told him he had to keep it to one a week. Caffeine stunts your growth, or so the old wive’s tale goes. Plus I can’t afford it if he starts ordering lattes on our weekly coffee dates instead of having a donut with milk.

The Okaasan Box

Do you ever feel like you’re stuck? Packed into a box that is slightly too short so you can’t stand up straight, slightly too narrow so you can’t broaden your shoulders? I’ve been feeling really crammed in and hunched up lately, like the tiger at Nogeyama Zoo, lacking the space and freedom to unleash my wildness and roar to my heart’s content.

But it’s an Okaasan Box, the confine of mothers in Japan. Encased inside that is the Gaijin Box, making my box a bit smaller than normal. Some days my pen feels more constricting than others.

It’s not like any one thing has happened. It’s a myrid of different things, pinches and tweaks and nips that have left me seeping from my semi-collected exterior. It’s walking through a park hearing some guy with a megaphone shouting that all gaijin should die. Not the hearing that, I know he’s a nut job (though I wonder how many people around me agree with him.) But I was walking with my daughter and I had to explain it to her. Snip.

It’s talking to the after care teacher at school and trying to see if something can’t be arranged so I can drop my kids off at the regular school time during the summer instead of the random “summer care” time that is thirty minutes later and will make me late to my class, only to have her respond that “no one else complains.” Scratch.

It’s the lone father at PTA who stood up in front of everyone and said he would pull this group of women into line. Pinch.

It’s my neighbor somewhat gleefully telling me that all the other moms at school think I forgot to make my son’s lunch for his field trip. (I made it; he forgot it.) Would they jump that conclusion if I was a Japanese mom? Shove.

It’s the husband who says I’m worrying too much when the kids at school call my son gaijin, or treats me like a moron when I ask a question about a homework problem, or wakes me up to complain about a glass that has been put away improperly (never mind his crap everywhere.) Smack. Twist. Scrape. Punch.

So what is a person to do? I could decorate the box, I suppose, as if I had picked it out myself. I could pretend it isn’t there, that it is actually quite roomy, that I don’t notice it much of the time. I could stare at it’s walls, forlorn, and give up any thought of a life outside of the box. I could break the box, smash it beneath my fists and pound on it until it splinters into a million pieces. But others would be hit by the debris. And as women we must always value others.

Others others others others others others others others

Never me. Never we. Never ourselves.

Well, that was cheerful. Have a nice weekend.

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