Wednesday, March 27, 2013

"Expect kids to behave and they will." What kind of voodoo magic is this? And will it work?

I recently wrote a post asking for help explaining the differences in behavior I've observed between Kenyan and American young children.  I'm not sure I'm a whole lot closer to cracking that particular complicated nut, but what I did get was a ton of wonderful advise on how to humanely "civilize" (for lack of a better word) toddlers and pre-schoolers.

All the comments seem to circle around the following:  Be empathetic to your young child's chaotic internal state; don't say "no" too often, but when you do, mean it!  This is said in a ton of different ways: Pick your battles, give your kids freedom within clear boundaries, allow them to explore but provide a sense of safety....

There's a lot of wisdom there and I see the same applied here in Kenya. My neighbor said something to the same affect recently about there being a lot of leeway for small kids, but when it comes to some things which are important, like greetings, parents are consistent and stern.

But there was something else that kept coming up in comments that I've heard throughout my life as a parent and which continues to mystify me.  It is: "Expect your children to behave, and they will."

WHAT IS THIS?  It seems like some kind of wishful thinking voodoo.

Still, being a desperate parent, I've actually tried it, in a "clandestinely trying to telepathically hypnotise my child into good behavior" kind of way.  I'll just visualize a positive response to a request (e.g. pick up your toys). As I'm visualizing the good behavior, I'll even change the way my voice sounds, breezy and casual as if OF COURSE you pick up your toys, hoping that the mystical positive vibrations in my voice will reach his core chakra and gently guide him to make the "good choice."   I may even telepathically send the message "You are a good boy.  You will pick up your toys and make your mother happy." just for good measure.

Is this what you people mean?  If so, I'm not sure it's working.  He mainly just looks at my clearly false serenity, scratches his head, and may or may not do my bidding.

Still, amid my mocking of this "expect good behavior" advise, I had the nagging sensation that I had heard this before.  And then I remembered.  

In my former life I did research on programs that support "disconnected youth" (formerly known as "delinquents" in less polite circles).  These are young adults who are not in school or working and may have cycled in and out of foster care and might even be homeless.  They are kids that most adults have given up on and who have the deck stacked against them. They probably frustration people who love them the same way young children do.

My job was to figure out how the programs who had the best success reaching these youth were doing it.  We interviewed dozens of these places, and do you know what kept coming up again and again?  Yup. "Expect good behavior."

But with older kids who are used to being distrusted and treated like criminals it's easy to think about how to realign this.  Give them more responsibility than they think they can handle, and show them you know they can do it.  Don't start off the relationship by talking about what they aren't allowed to do or what will happen if they break the rules.  Don't react to transgressions as if you expected them to make them.  Don't act too surprised when they act correctly.  Proud but not surprised.  .

OK.  So, maybe this is it!   Maybe the same applies for the little ones.  And maybe the way you say things does matter.  Like yelling, "Jesus Chrsto, Caleb if you do that one more time...."  could become a calm, "You know better.  But if I see that again I'm going to have to..."  

I'm sure there are a bunch of ways this can manifest itself without having to consult a shaman. Now, I'm just going to have to figure those out.  Your ideas, as always, are welcome!
Just a cute pic of Caleb.  Because he's truly a kind, sensitive, funny kid who's generous with his friends, and I've been overly focused on his periods of defiance and tantrums in the last few posts.
See what I'm doing here?

Sunday, March 24, 2013

How Do Kenyans Raise Tantrum-Free Toddlers? I'm asking.

* WARNING: This post is lousy with sweeping generalizations and unscientific observations.  Of course, ALL Kenyans do not parent the same way, and ALL Americans do not parent the same way.  But culture being culture, there are certain general trends and differences, which is why God invented anthropologists.  Which I am not.  But I have a blog.  And thoughts and musing and observations which I am attempting to string together into a coherent insight.  As always, feel free to challenge me on any of this.

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Those of you who follow this blog probably know I'm a bit obsessed with the differences in Western and Kenyan parenting styles.  Raising my children in a different culture has opened my eyes at the same time it's thrown me off my axis.

But the single abiding conundrum - something I STILL, after years of observing and pondering can't quite explain is the following:  Kenyans seem to do pretty much the opposite of most conventional US parenting wisdom when raising young children.  There are no schedules (sleep, feeding or otherwise), parent-child play time is generally at a minimum and tantrums are generally indulged.

The pattern I've observed (and discussions with Kenyan mothers confirms) is: avert the tantrum at all costs.  Distract the child, give in to the whining or walk away. Whereas Western mothers will often abide a tantrum and even accelerate it to teach a point or as a matter of principle.

Perfect example:  Yesterday Caleb, apparently not still out of the "terrible threes" (is there a "formidable fours" or something?  Please?), decided that it was simply beyond the pale to have to wear a jacket to pre-school.  He screamed and vehemently refused to put on his coat. Neither threats nor logic nor sweet talk were getting us anywhere.  He said he'd wear a long sleeve shirt, but NOT that jacket.

And here's where the American in us comes out.  Sure, acquiescing and letting him wear a long sleeve shirt instead of a coat would meet everyone's goals.  Caleb's arms would be warm AND he'd be happy.  But we stuck our ground on a matter of principle.  The principle: He's not the boss of us!  So we dug our heals in, the tantrum escalated to decibels that elicited concern from our Kenyan neighbors.  But, being the larger humans, eventually we won.

Americans are told it is important to establish lines of authority, that children thrive when they are given clear boundaries, that it's hard at first, but that children will learn from our loving, firm consistency.

Kenyans mothers do pretty much the opposite.  In the coat situation, I get the impression that a Kenyan mother would probably just get the long sleeve shirt, avoid the shouting match and worried glances from neighbors, and be off to school.

I gather this because I've seen mothers regularly give candy in response to a child's incessant pleading and even admonish me when I refuse to indulge my own child's whining for sugary treats saying, "Why is he crying?  Just give him the sweetie."

In a lot of ways, American parents are stricter with small children and set clearer boundaries.  So, what baffles me is why Kenyan parents seem to be getting better results - meaning ostensibly more obedient, less defiant and more polite children.  (It's worth noting that raising obedient children might not be the primary goal of parenthood. Still, it does make those hardest years of parenting a bit less exhausting.)

When I raise this paradox with my expat friends, it's met with silence.  And then someone breaks it saying ... "Well....  you know they hit their kids."

Even the Kenyan friends whom I ask to explain this tell me, "It's true. We let the toddlers do what they want and then around school age they are expected to know better. If they don't fall in line they know the mother - or really any mother - will beat them."

[BTW: Kenyans use the word "beat" a bit differently than Americans.  It's not like beatings result in black eyes and broken limbs. A "beating" is usually a thwack with a stick.]

But I truly believe this is not the whole story.

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I have American expat friends in Nairobi who use spanking as a regular form of punishment.  A mutual Kenyan friend was actually surprised after spending a weekend camping with them at how much "spanking or threat of spanking" was going on. It seemed unusual to her.

And most of the Kenyan children I've met do what their parents ask not because they are cowering in fear of a beating. They just don't appear to test the waters as much.

I was at lunch with a Kenyan friend and her daughter, who is the same age as Caleb.  Caleb was running around the restaurant and throwing a fit about not wanting what he ordered when it came. Ashley sat politely and when she started to fidget a bit her mom looked over at her and said simply and without a trace of irritation or anger, "Kaa vizuri" (sit nicely).  And Ashley complied.  I was exhausting myself trying to contain my son, to no real affect.  My Kenyan friends, as always, were polite about Caleb's rambunctiousness and advised me NOT to lay down the law, but to just "let him play."

So, it's confusing.

For a lot of reasons, I'm convinced that the politeness is not simply beaten into Kenyan children, though that could be part of it.  But what are the other "parts of" it"  Here are some thoughts, but I welcome,... scratch that, I would LOVE to hear what other people think might be happening here too:

1.  In the American context moms and dads are often a child's primary source of affection.  Here, it seems more spread out.  There's often a more deeply interconnected extended family and grandmothers or aunts and uncles might give as much affection.   Maybe that means mom can stick more fully to her role as disciplinarian, without it being undermined by also being a best friend.

2. Speaking of affection:  It seems that Americans/westerners are a lot more demonstrably affectionate with school-aged children.  I've seen a lot less snuggling and kissing and cuddling with small children here.  Babies are barely let cry, nursed on demand and co-slept with (i.e. lots of snuggling), but older children are treated more as small members of the family, with real responsibilities.  So, what's my point?

Here's a untested theory:  Apparently kids "let down," regress, become emotional, etc... when they know they can come be cocooned in a loving embrace.  Caleb used to cry every day when I picked him up from daycare, which made me feel horrible until the day care folks told me it was a good sign. "He holds it together all day at daycare and he knows he can 'let down' when he sees you."  So, might it be that the longer period of the continual loving embrace by Western parents means that our children are "letting down" more?  Maybe Kenyan children, severed from that maternal embrace a bit earlier, develop the coping skills that allow them the higher order control to calm themselves from a tantrum or do something they don't want to do.  (I just made this up, so it could be bunk.)

3. You know how people say you can potty train kids early, but it will take a longer time?  Maybe discipline works similarly.  We Americans start with the discipline and consequences as early as 18 months.  And then beat our heads against the wall for a few years before there's some real payoff. Maybe Kenyan parents just start the discipline later when kids are more able to quickly absorb the lessons.  And then they have less worry that indulging a toddler will create some kind of entitled monster.

4. Some Kenyans have explained to me that Kenyan parents just choose fewer battles, so when the parent lays down a threat its more likely to be taken seriously.  The kids get away with a lot, but when mom says "no "the child knows she means it because they haven't been hearing it all day.

5. Some people have surmised this is a problem of toys.  American kids have too many of them and they take over every corner of the house.  This ultimately makes kids more bored and cranky when they are in the  absence of primary colored stimulation AND it sends the signal that the child is center of the family instead of a member of it, who must sometimes put his/her needs behind those of others. Kenyan homes, even the more affluent, are rarely overrun with toys.

6.. It's entirely possible (and would not be the first time) that my assumptions are simply wrong. Maybe Kenyan children are not as polite and respectful as it would seem.  Maybe they are throwing tantrums and testing limits like a cranky little boss just not when I am around or I'm just not noticing it.


Truth is, I have seen Kenyan children act similarly to my own.  But, then again, those children usually have parents who have adopted more Western parenting styles.

Most often, though, when Caleb throws a tantrum in front of most Kenyans I get a confused, "what's wrong with your child" look, as if his behavior is far out of the range of normal.  Oftentimes, I'm asked, "What's wrong with the child?"  When I say, "He's just upset because we ran out of juice," they scratch their heads at this out of proportion reaction. They seem genuinely bewildered.  As am I.


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This post has a lot more answers than questions   And if I ever wanted comments on any post, this is it!!  I know many of you are living an a culture that does things different or goes against the advice you've been inundated with and somehow miraculously results in well behaved children.  And plenty of you out there are just smart parents with good insights. I'm dying to know: What do you think?


Monday, March 18, 2013

Sex, scat and the meaning of life

Do you see that little list of "popular posts" over to your right?  No?  Check it out.  I'll wait.

You back?  Did, you notice anything?  Maybe not yet, but I'll explain.

So, these posts did not land in their vaunted "popular" position by some merit-based peer-judged competition.  They are just the posts that got the most hits.

The most popular is the one with the sophisticated title of "Poop Post" which is about... well... poop.  Potty training specifically, but really about the whole family's poop issues. I'd like to think it's funny, relateable, entertaining and not unworthy of the #1 spot, but there might just be something else going on here...

Another Top 5 post was about my son's circumcision in Nairobi.  This one... well....maybe not so relateable, but funny in an off-beat, cringe-worthy kind of way. I'd like to think it's attracting quite the viral attention purely based on the brilliance of my cross-cultural observations and witicisms.  But, again, there's probably something else going on here too...

Another Top 5 asks the rhetorical question, "What is the Universe Trying to Tell Me?"  It's about a string of weird coincidences that ended up in my getting a very needed surgery just in time.  It's too much to get into here, and, honestly, it's was probably too much to get in to in the original post which was rambling, not all that relatable and long.

So, maybe it's about time to tell what "else" is going on here.

Some of you land on this site because you know me (hi!) and others I've met through the blogging community. Some, might even just want a peek into Kenyan ex-pat life or to witness my deeply profound musing about parenting, which are entirely unique among the 4 billion other mom blogs.

Others have simply Googled things like "vagina chair" and found themselves squarely in the middle of my rant about the evolution of hipster insults (ala. asshat and douche canoe). And probably annoyed.

Which leads me to my main point: Who are you Googlers who end up unwittingly at my site and then elevating random posts to the "popular" spots?  I'll tell you: a weird combination of degenerates and spiritual seekers.

Any post with the words, poop, shit, vagina, penis snipping, defecation and ass are going to get a bunch of sickos (ooops, now I've done it), who I imagine are sitting in their cubicles Googling these words in hopes of a cheap thrill before they are fired.  Or maybe they are sitting at home in their moo moo and cape ala fat Homer Simpson looking for something titillating to distract them from their loneliness   Or .... actually ....  I don't want to imagine people Googling these search terms.  But I imagine they are disappointed to find my G-rated posts.
Not that Homey would EVER engage in Googling salacious search terms. Still, this is what I picture
The other group who inadvertently land on my site make me sad in a much less mock-able way.  These are the wrong-headed spiritual searchers who are definitely asking too much of the Internet when they Google "What is the Universe Trying to Tell Me?" - which is the NUMBER 2 Google search that lands you to this site after "mama mzungu."  If you're using search engines to look for answers to deep existential questions, we have a problem.  I mean, the Internet is REALLY smart and everything, but it's not wise.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that if site analytic are any barometer of human nature (which, again is probably asking too much of the Internet, but I'm going with it....), then when no one else is looking we are  either succumbing to our baser instincts or searching for the meaning of life.

Or shopping.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Choosing Peace in Kenya

Here is a conversation I had with the guard of our townhouse complex several weeks ago:

"Samuel, are you worried about the elections? Do you think there will be violence like last time?" 
"No, mama Caleb. It will be peaceful.  Raila will just win."  
"But what if he loses, or if it goes to a run-off.  Do you think there be violence then?" 
"It won't happen because Raila will just win." 
"But what if he doesn't win." 
"That won't happen."

This went on for a while, and I literally couldn't get him to consider the possibility of a loss.

His was not an isolated sentiment.  There was a feeling that Raila had the momentum and the numbers.  The election was stolen from him last time so, the logic goes, he should be a shoe-in now that the election commission has been depoliticized and international observers were keenly watching the process.  Anyway, Raila's main opposition AND the running mate were indicted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity, and Kenyans across he board were fearful of turning the country into an international pariah and taking the economy through retributive sanctions.  Even though the polls had him neck and neck with Uhuru, it seemed he couldn't lose. People here didn't seem to be entertaining the thought.

That's what worried me most in advance of the election.  It implied there would be a level of suspicion and outrage should the outcome be in another direction.

So, when Uhuru shocked his part of the country and won the election outright, I waited for some kind of outcry.  Something ranging from public protests to utter pandemonium 

There was none of it.  Raila called for peace even as he called "foul play" and insisted he'd work through the courts.

photo credit: sabahionline.com
Instead of taking to the streets, people seemed to whip straight through the 7 stages of grief, right to acceptance. Though plenty are stuck in sadness and quite a few in denial and anger.  I've heard reactions ranging from "We're in mourning." to an angry "I'm never voting in this country again. What's the point?"  But most have resigned themselves that "Uhuru will be our next president."

I'm sad for those who are mourning or feel robbed. But at the same time I'm ... well, "proud" seems a bit patronizing and I don't mean  it that way, but that's about the feeling... proud that Kenyans have chosen peace.

Having a backdrop of violence can go one of two ways. Often it escalates.  Violence begets violence, especially where grievances are given room to simmer and underlying issues remain unaddressed.  There's nothing inevitable about this peaceful election. Over 1,000 families lost their loved ones and hundreds of thousands lost their homes last election. They are still in IDP camps. Those wounds are still festering. Many who experienced violence last time feared a reoccurance.

But a backdrop of violence can also mean that people work harder to maintain peace, having tasted the ugliness of bloodshed that almost no one wanted.  This appears to be the story in Kenya.

In the five years since the last election, the electoral process was made more transparent, independent courts were set up, commissions to curb hate speech were erected, and a new constitution was passed which devolved authority to local levels where it can be held more accountable.  While the vote counting was happening, there was a heavy policy presence in possibly volatile locations.

And Kenya is a relatively prosperous country, by neighborhood standards, in which people have a "stake in the peace."  Even after the disappointing result, Kenyans in Kisumu seemed eager to get back to work.

I really love this country, which has accepted my family with open arms. I love the patience, the curiosity, the warmth and the hospitality of the people here.  Maybe I should stop intellectualizing and just be thankful to whatever forces aligned to keep the peace here in Kenya.

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P.S. I know there's a sense from some who feel wronged by the outcome and suspicious that votes were rigged that peace came at the expense of justice.  I don't have a great answer for that.  Hopefully the courts can prove or disprove any wrong doing.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Waiting out the election results. With sugar.

It's been a strange week.  On Monday Kenyans took to the polls in epicly long lines, waiting hours to vote for their candidate (Raila is by far the preferred candidate in our city).  It was peaceful, and election observers said it was mostly fair and free.  But eyes were on our otherwise sleepy town of Kisumu, watching for a repeat of the violence that happened in the last election in this opposition stronghold. (It was widely thought that the election was stolen from Raila the last time around.)
Photo credit: www.nation.co.ke
Monday was a national holiday so everything was closed.   The streets were eerily quiet.  A heavy police presence was felt.
Colin took this pic on Monday. It's hard to tell, but this is the heart of downtown and normally teaming with all manner of traffic.  
The quiet continued the rest of the week as the IEBC tallied the results.  This, putting it politely, was a fiasco.  The electronic tallying was beset with errors and the counting had to start over 2 days after the vote.  By hand.  It's almost Friday and only about 1/3 of the votes have been tallied so far. There have also been so many rejected votes that "rejected vote" would be a strong third party candidate.

So, now we're in a long holding period.  So far, Kenyatta has been holding a strong lead and over 50% of the vote - something none of the pre-election polls predicted.  This is pretty bad news for the solidly Raila city of Kisumu.  Though there are still many ballots to be counted.

The sentiment here is that if Raila loses, that in and of itself means there was some vote rigging - this is how strongly people I talk to believe he should win.  Still, they all insist that protests will be peaceful, and they'd work through the newly created independent courts to solve problems.

But back to me.... This election week has meant that Colin's office is closed, Caleb's school is closed, my part-time work has stopped and our house help is back in Busia, where it's safer.  (Lots of non-Luos left Kisumu this week to go back to their tribal homelands.  Just in case.)

We've been hunkered down and all getting a bit of cabin fever.  Caleb cries at least once a day that he misses his friends, and I'm not far behind him with similar sentiments.  Colin's work has not slowed down, so I'm balancing the kids and the housework - something I'm not so much in the habit of doing.
OK. It's not all bad.  Sometimes this cuteness happens.
So, each day I try and think of something SOMETHING I can pull out when the whining gets too loud.  Today it was a rice krispy treat project.

Coming from Busia where there was one type of cheese - if we were lucky - and apples were an exotic treat, Kisumu has a lot of culinary variety and choice on offer.  But if you have a hankering for a quintessential American treat, you'll have to improvise with some substitutions.

Here's what passes for marshmallows:

I'm not sure what a "cha" is, but, then again, marshmallows even in their pure form are pretty mysterious. Still, these are pink and I don't like the way that guy on the package is lookin' at me.

And here's what passes for Rice Krispies.
 
I like how the giant spoon REALLY lets you get a gander at the cereal. And how Proctor-Allan have just skirted around the intellectual property liabilities. 
Well... this project, much like the vote tallying (see, I'm tying this rambling post together!), was a bit of a fiasco.  I'm not sure what toxic glue holds "chamallows" together (soylent pink?), but it does not so much melt into a nice marshmallow fluff, as it congeals and then burns.  Still, I dumped the counterfeit rice crispies into the pink goop and attempted to turn the whole mess into that delicious American classic.

This is what I got:


Some suspicious chemical reaction made the mallows all stringy and stiff and left a hard spackle residue on my pot, which just might destroy it.

But borrowing a play from my mother - who once inadvertently set our grilled chicken on fire, hosed it down with a garden hose and then served it to us for dinner because... "it's still good chicken," - I let this disaster harden, cut it into squares and then gave it to my delighted family.  Caleb has never had the real thing, and we made a game of picking out the tiny rocks that Proctor-Allan sneak into their cereal, so he thought it was the best thing since sliced jellow (NOT a typo).  Colin, the least picky eater you'll ever meet, told me it wasn't half bad.

Anyway, it's taken our minds of the election for 2 minutes.  We'll keep you posted...

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

How Date Night Saves.... well...Everything

In direct contravention of all parenting/couple advice, Colin and I rarely ever have date nights.  I suppose we're too exhausted from parenting, and when our sweet troublemakers finally go to sleep, we're not far from collapsing behind them.  But a few weeks ago, we made it happen.  And it was just in time.

We were... well.... having one of those rough times.  Colin was stressed out with work, and we were both getting impatient with each other.  Colin was in a funk, and I was annoyed that it was starting to feel contagious.  I resenting him for being down, just at the time when he probably needed my support. There was a lot of snapping at each other and passive aggressive muttering under (my) breath.  It was hard to have sympathy for each other since we were both wallowing.  There was a dark cloud hanging over our house.

But then we managed a date night.  We lifted ourselves out of our misery and met some friends for drinks at a rooftop bar/restaurant.  And something magical happened.  Simply being out of our house, away from fighting flashpoints like dishes and crying children, and looking over Kisumu city at night time put everything instantly in perspective.  And it felt like a treat.  We felt like a couple.  Riding a wave of relief and euphoria, we even went dancin g. Dancing! On the tuk tuk ride home, we held hands and snuggled into one another feeling that charge of affection we had when we first started dating.
For those who don't know - this is a tuk tuk.  Second only to a horse-drawn carriage in the romance department. Obviously. 
The next morning, after taking turns sleeping in, I came downstairs to see Colin making breakfast.  And I thought, "I love that man."  I wrapped my arms around him, and he pulled me close, returning my sentiments.  Caleb, feeling left out, inserted himself between us.  We looked at him and then each other and laughed out loud feeling a domestic levity we had been missing.  It was all going to be OK. The dark cloud was lifted. We were OK.

Damn.  Date nights are the best therapy ever.

So, we had another one.

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This past weekend we went out for a quiet dinner - just the two of us.  Our nighttime usually consist of cajoling Caleb to eat his dinner, pacifying a day-weary Emmet, running through the bedtime routines, and then sticking our noses in our computers until we fall exhausted into bed.  We probably could have long meaningful conversations about life, but we don't.

But on our date night, with nothing but a candle and a table between us we were able to do just that.  We talked about our future, our past, books, big ideas, and (inevitably) our children.  And amid this conversation with my best friend and most honest sounding board, I figured out something important.

Here it is:  OK.  So, if there's one thing that periodically depresses me, it's when I compare myself to the achievement of others.  I suppose this is typical - the result of growing up being told the world was your oyster, that you could achieve greatness, with the implicit assumption that you should.

But my comparison group of expats here in Kenya consists of a disproportionately large group of hyper-accomplished people.  IPA is run largely by development economists - young, smart, over-achieving, idealists, who distinguish themselves intellectually at the same time as they make a contribution to alleviating poverty   The other main group of expats work at the CDC, using their MDs and PhDs doing such noble things as working on malaria vaccines.

Compare yourself to this group and you come up lacking. I know I know I know, it's a fool's game. And I HAVE done things with my life.  I did well at top tier schools, landed interesting jobs and earned a good reputation.  Bla bla bla.  But still....

Anyway, we got to talking, over wine and pasta, about my professional future and my return to the workplace. We talked about the importance of finding my niche, the best way make an impact with what god gave me.   And I suddenly became totally overwhelmed.  Why was I still having this conversation in my mid/late (just late?) 30s?  That too made me feel inadequate.

And maybe it was the wine or the liberation from children, but suddenly my overwhelm tipped right on over to epiphany.  F*@k it, I thought.  Why is some socially sanctioned idea of success and achievement my goal anyway?  It's a trap.  A rat race for satisfaction that you can't win.

"You know what I really want?"  I said, pausing for dramatic effect, "To be good to the people around me.  Because you know, maybe that's my gift, and maybe that's what ultimately matters anyway."

"Well, you're not always good to me." He countered, only half kidding.

"OK. That's true." I admitted because Colin does bare the brunt of my bad moods.  But I was busy with my epiphany, so I continued.  "Maybe all this pressure to distinguish yourself, to leave a mark to figure out your unique contribution is self defeating.  Maybe it's OK - even better - just to do what you can to support your family and make yourself happy as long as it leaves room for you to be good to people around you."

"It sounds like you're working your way into a solid graduation speech Kim." He teased.

"Or I was thinking more...religion." I deadpanned.

We laughed together.  Colin probably at my wine-fueled enthusiasm and me at the relief I felt at my realization.

This is not a cop out are an excuse for mediocrity.  It's really a way to refocus my intention on what;s important  A way to feel satisfied and thankful for what the considerable gifts I have, instead of always wanting more.

It's also not at all original.  But I needed that particular epiphany at that moment.  And it might not have happened without the space of that date night.

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Of course nothing is permanently changed.  In a few weeks domestic drudgery might reemerge along with existential doubts.  But at that point, I guess we'll just have to go on another date night.
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