Thursday, May 29, 2008

children of two races

I read this article today on MSN and found it thought-provoking as a mom of biracial children. I maybe have been a little naive in my thinking that my children would be able to embrace both of their cultures on an equal level but maybe now is the time to think about how to make that possible for them. Does anyone have any thoughts on this issue?

Monday, May 26, 2008

a breakthrough?

I wrote before about Misaki's lying and it seems that we've had a breakthrough. Definitely not an ending but at least a breakthrough. I'm not sure if I handled it right but anyways...

Last weekend the girls were playing outside and Misaki came in with something in her hands that she was all excited about. When she showed me what she had it was a dangomushi (pillbug?). Now I'm not scared of those little bugs but I definitely don't want them in the house so I told Misaki to take it straight outside and that I didn't want her to bring anymore bugs into the house. As she walked out the door she said, "Oh, it's tickling my hands. You cute little dangomushi". Yes, she loves living things.

Today was a day off from school and Emi and Misaki played outside for most of the afternoon while Chikara and I did stuff around the house. By early evening most of their friends had gone home so the girls came inside. We decided to go out for dinner instead of making something. All the girls went downstairs with Chikara to get their shoes on and I gathered my bag and stuff (there's always stuff) and followed them. When I got downstairs, right away I saw some little black somethings on the ground. I went closer and realized that they were dangomushi. Five of them! Emi and Sakura were still getting their shoes on but Misaki was already in the car. I called her back and asked her straight out, "Misaki did you bring these dangomushi into the house?". I really expected her to lie since this has been the typical pattern for her. Her face screwed up into a cry and I asked her one more time and...

*deep breath*

...she said "Yes". Yes! They were magical words. Then she showed me where she had hidden the rest. Gross. At this point I wasn't sure what to do exactly. She disobeyed by bringing dangomushi into the house even though I had just told her a few days before that she was not allowed to. And she had hidden the bugs and I had just managed to find a few escapees. I knew that I should discipline her for that disobedience but I also felt like she had chosen to tell the truth which is a bigger problem that we had been working on. Gosh, parenting is hard!

In the end I didn't discipline her for the disobedience (I feel that coming back to bite me in the butt). I did tell her sternly that she had disobeyed and I wasn't happy about that and I made her take all the dangomushi back outside. But I did praise her for telling the truth and not lying. She wasn't sure if she should cry or smile. I wasn't sure if I should cry or smile, either!

While we were at dinner, she asked me why I had said that I was proud of her for not lying and I told her again that telling the truth was the right thing for her to do. I did reiterate that she had still disobeyed by bringing the bugs in but didn't she feel good when she told the truth? She said yes.

I hope this means we're turning a corner with the lying. I can't imagine that it's over and she'll never lie again but I do see the light at the end of the tunnel. Woo-hoo!


This is as close as she can get... saying "please".

Saturday, May 24, 2008

that explains a lot

I was trying to figure out why the air coming out of our air conditioner in the living room didn't seem very strong or cold.

Oh yeah. I had forgotten to clean the filters at the end of last summer.

All better. The change in the airflow is amazing. I guess now we're ready for those hot, humid Japanese summer. Yeah?

I hope nobody loses a finger


Friday, May 23, 2008

two reasons to go out and get yourself a one-year-old


(you can ignore the last 10 seconds)


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sakura's got a blog!

Lately it seems like every conversation in our house goes like this...

"Emi, good job on your Kanji, Misaki, you did such a good job with your hiragana, Natsuki, yeah, you can say a new word, Sakura, will you please BE QUIET for a moment."

Seriously, it's been like that a lot lately. I've been searching for something creative that Sakura and I can do together but is also something I haven't done with her sisters before. Something just for her because I have a feeling that no matter how hard I try, Sakura's life is always going to be like the conversation above. She just has the unenviable position of being the third born but not the last born and therefore everything she does isn't "new" and also not the most adorable since her little sister is around to take up that part. I know lots of third-borns who had to make-up for this disparity in other (read: negative) ways so I'm trying hard to avoid that as much as I can.

So without further ado (drumroll please), I would like to introduce a blog dedicated to Sakura and her favorite activities: singing and dancing!

Sakura's Songs at

Every week we will post a couple of video clips of Sakura singing her favorite songs (and possibly dancing!) so if you have a few seconds to spare please go on over there and check it out. I enabled the comments section but it is a private blog so if you lose the address then you won't be able to Google it.

Also I would just like to clarify here that I know that sometimes she's singing the songs wrong (yes, even the Japanese ones) but that is part of the charm of Sakura's singing and also, try as we might, she just will not believe that maybe, possibly the song could be sung another way.

***tj-injapan - Thanks so much for your comment and question! I will write a post soon to answer your question about how to deal with a meltdown on public transportation.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

saying no did the trick

When we first moved to Japan Emi was 8 months old and I was 3 months pregnant with Misaki. We had decided that it would be best to live with Chikara's parents for the first few months until we could get settled. That turned out to be a good decision for more reasons than one. Yes, it helped us save money but it also gave my in-laws a close look at how we raise our children and kind of cleared the air on a number of issues. One of those issues was how we expected our children to behave in restaurants.

I can vividly remember a time when Emi was around 11 months and we went out for dinner at a nabe restaurant. You know, the restaurant with a gas burner in the middle of the table for the pot to rest on. Sigh... it sounded so yummy but I forgot that it takes awhile for the meal to be ready to eat and once it was ready Emi ate quickly and then she was bored waiting for the rest of us to eat. She was sitting in her car seat but soon she had turned to screaming and squirming and I couldn't calm her down. My MIL offered to take her for a walk around the restaurant. I wanted to say no because really I wanted to train our kids to sit through meals but I was tired so I said OK. The two of them walked right to the front of the restaurant to the little toy stand that all restaurants have. Within five minutes my MIL was back for her purse and she bought Emi a little plastic toy. Emi played with that toy for all of 1 minute before she got fussy again. Fortunately by this time we were almost done with dinner so I just held Emi and sang to her until it was time to go. On the way home I remember thinking that dinner hadn't gone too badly.

A few weeks later we went out for dinner again with my in-laws and sure enough halfway through the meal Emi was done and bored but this time she turned immediately to my MIL. She expected to be taken for a walk. Right then I had a moment of clarity. If I let Emi go then she will never learn to sit down through a meal and then the next baby (in my tummy) will not sit through a meal and the next baby that we plan to have shortly after her will never do it either. I will never want to go out for dinner because it's going to be a huge pain which means I'll always have to cook dinner. It was so clear to me it was almost like I was *in* that awful moment. So I said no to my MIL (which did not go over well) and started rummaging through my bag for something to entertain Emi. It was a lot of work on my part that evening but she did sit through the rest of the meal in a relatively calm manner although I sang "Itsy-Bitsy Spider" about a million times.

Now, I am not so far removed from reality to know that it is a lot to expect a one-year-old to sit through a 30-40 minute dinner. But I also know that I've got to start somewhere. After that dinner, I went back to the parenting books I own and called my sister-in-law and my mother to try and get some advice regarding how to go about this. After about a week I had a plan but I didn't get to use it until a few months later after Misaki was born. Chikara's parents took us out for dinner at a new restaurant we hadn't been to before. Misaki was only a couple of months old and slept through the meal but Emi was almost a year and a half and started getting bored about halfway through. I saw my MIL moving to get her so I politely said that it wasn't necessary and whisked Emi to the bathroom. I quietly told Emi that it was time to eat and that I wanted her to sit down and be happy. She said "Yes, Mommy" and we went back and sat down. I handed her a piece of bread and a toy and she sat happily and ate the bread and played with the toy. About five minutes later my in-laws asked Chikara what I had done. Had I spanked her? They weren't appalled but they were shocked by the change in her behavior in such a short time (we were only gone for a minute). So I told them what I done and everyone seemed in shock. In fact, we were all silent and happy for the rest of the meal.

Yes, there have been times where my kids have had a meltdown in a restaurant or just wouldn't cooperate. You know those days where dinner out comes at the end of a long outing or they're teething or are beginning to get sick. We've had those days, too, but in general our children know that we expect them to sit and behave and if they don't then they will have to go with me to the bathroom for a talking to. Actually I'm surprised myself that this works. I think I've only had to give a spanking once or twice at a restaurant but that was to a 3-year-old who was just outright disobeying. Mostly a little talk takes care of it. Of course we follow this up by expecting the same behavior at home and that they follow other rules as well. I think that removing them from the situation and receiving clarification from me about what is expected is what does the trick.

Flash forward six years and we still use the same procedure. On Monday night we went out to ramen for dinner. It's a restuarant we go to often so the girls know what to expect but Natsuki is the one who now needs the constant reminding. After we sat down, our waitress brought us our water and Chikara ordered our food. This restaurant just got new plastic cups with handles for the kids so Natsuki can drink by herself except that she was having a hard time so when I reached over to turn her cup around for her she flipped out because she didn't want me to touch the cup. I handed it back to her but she had already decided she was going to be mad. There were only 3 other people in the restaurant (we were having an early dinner) so I decided this was as good a time as any to let her realize that crying doesn't get her what she wants. Once she realized I wasn't going to do anything she quickly turned from crying to angry screaming so I picked her up and off we went to the bathroom. I've done this with her a few times before so it was cute to see her cry on my shoulder for 15 seconds and then look at my face to await her instructions. Seriously, she knew I was going to tell her something. I said that screaming is "no-no" and that now was time to eat and be happy (words she knows). She repeated "eat" and "happy" and then "OK" and I hugged her and then we went out. She sat right in her seat (the kind that attaches to the table) and she was all happy. I handed her back her cup and she was all smiles. As I turned to go sit down I noticed that Emi, who was sitting beside Natsuki, was straddling the bench instead of sitting up to the table so I told her to turn around. What does she do? She swings her leg over and smashes Natsuki's hand into the table. Why me? Of course Natsuki burst into tears again and Emi got all defensive ("What? You told me to do it"). Just as I was trying to decide what to do the food came. Yeah! Emi said sorry and Natsuki went back to saying "eat, eat, eat" and soon we were back on track.

We enjoyed a lovely meal together and I thought to myself that this is why I said no to my MIL six year ago. You know, so that I don't have to cook all the time!

*** I should also mention that we also try to make dinnertime with our kids a lot of fun. We really encourage sharing about what they did or what they've been thinking about lately. It's a good time for all of us to focus on each other and for the girls to listen to each other. I realized as I re-read my post that someone might get the idea that the kids sit silently around the table while we watch them waiting for a hint of bad behavior. Totally not the case.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

she speaks

Ever since Emi and Misaki went back to school, one of my main goals has been to work with Natsuki on her speaking skills. It's not that I'm worried or concerned about her but I noticed that she doesn't get the one-on-one time with me that the other girls did so she doesn't have a lot of words in her vocabulary. The words she does have, she says clearly and everyone can tell what they are. She also uses them at the right time and so far we always know what she's trying to tell us but I knew that if we were ever going to get past "more" and "all done" then I was going to have to try a little harder.

At first she would just laugh at me when I would repeat words over and over that I wanted her to try saying but eventually I noticed that she was trying to say them and then she could say them clearly. One day last week we were playing hide-and-seek with Sakura and I was calling out Sakura's name in a sing-song fashion while Natsuki and I searched for her. I would call out "Sa-kura" and we would hear giggling from whever Sakura was but one time I called out "Sa-kura" and all of a sudden Natsuki said "Ta-kura" in a clear immitation of me. Sakura jumped out of her hiding place and ran over to us and the three of us sat in a circle and called out Sakura's name over and over while Natsuki mimiced us. It was awesome. Here's a little sample for your enjoyment.

Of course the other little voice you hear at the end is Sakura not wanting to miss out on the fun. It almost looks like Natsuki throws her voice when I asked her to say "Daddy". The other thing I'm enjoying about Natsuki's expanding vocabulary is how excited her sisters are for her. They rejoice over every new word and ask her to repeat it ad naseum.

For posterity, I decided to write a list of all the words she can say as of today, at 1 year and 9 months.

all done
morning (not good morning, just "morning")

chodai (please)
ohaiyo gozaimasu (good morning)
arigato (thank you)
kawaii (cute)
ne-ne (sleep)
papa (Daddy)
mimi (ear)
oishii (yummy)
hai (yes)
moikai (one more time)
dekita (I did it!)
yatta (yeah!)

It'll be interesting to see how much this list grows over the next few months when she turns 2!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

the last few weeks in pictures

First, I wanted to say thank you to everyone who commented on my last post. After reading all of the comments, I felt very encouraged and also a little relieved that this thing with Misaki can be overcome and it will pass. Maybe one day when she's a mommy and dealing with her little ones, she can come back here to be encouraged, too.

I haven't written much the last few weeks because we've been all over the place. There were a variety of national holidays and school events but from today everyone's schedules go back to normal and stay that way until summer vacation starts. I tried to take pictures along the way but I didn't always succeed so let's see what I've got.

First up, isn't Natsuki turning into a little girl. She had a growth spurt and she's jumping, running and talking up a storm. She's also fighting with her sisters and pulling their hair, etc., but then the next second she's smiling, dancing and singing so we've got quite the rollercoaster of emotions going on over here. I trimmed her hair in the back now that her bald spot has grown out and maybe that's what's contributed to the change in her look.

The first holiday that came up was just one Tuesday in the middle of the week at the end of April. I had decided to still teach my English classes that day so the night before, after dinner, we went out for ice cream and a walk. It was almost too cold so we took refuge in a Starbucks. The girls were on a sugar high from their ice cream and hyper since it was past their bedtime so on the whole, I'm not sure that going out was the best idea but we wanted to start off Golden Week with a little something special so in the end, I was glad we went out. Here's the girls hogging up all the comfy chairs at Starbucks.

The first weekend in May was the second half of our Golden Week vacation. My pastor's wife had asked if I would sing a solo with her gospel choir for the Takatsuki Jazz Street Festival so that was what we spent Saturday doing. This next picture is mostly for my mom.

Yes, that's me in the middle singing. The festival is really cool. They have over 40 different sites, some in parks, some in bars or restaurants, some at shopping centers and open-air shopping centers and then different jazz or gospel groups sign up to participate and are assigned an area and a time. Basically for two days you can just walk around this 1 square mile and listen to jazz or gospel all day long. We wish we could have taken more time but it wasn't really fair to the kids. I took this picture of Emi while we were having some ice cream (it was hot that day) and listening to a band. They played some Eric Clapton and some James Taylor so it's hard to say if they were trying to be jazz or rock. Anyways, I love this picture of her.

The next day was church and then in the afternoon we got together with one group of friends and then in the evening we got together with another group of friends. Needless to say we were exhausted by the time Sunday was over. We had planned to go to Kobe on Monday but the weather looked less than promising and everyone was so tired that I knew it would end up being not fun at all so we decided to take a relaxing day at home. This doesn't usually work because it's rare that all of us are tired enough on the same day but this day was perfect. Everyone slept until 9:30am (totally unheard of!) and then we all took a 3 hour nap and then everyone was back in bed again by 9pm. Even with all of that extra sleep, Natsuki fell asleep waiting for lunch (again, totally unheard of).

Tuesday was a family day spent with Chikara's parents going to visit Chikara's grandparents. We decided to meet early and have lunch and doing something fun before going to grandma and grandpa's house. My FIL knew of a lake that was on the way so after lunch at a restaurant (at which Natsuki screamed through the entire lunch because she wasn't allowed to hold her own drink - sigh...) so we stopped there. They had paddle boats so Emi and Misaki went out with my in-laws.

We waited at shore and I was less than thrilled to see Emi trying to climb out onto the front of the boat. There were no lifejackets and I didn't know how fast my in-laws would react so I was totally prepared to jump in and swim after them if something had happened. Sakura was totally OK with not going on the boat but I think Natsuki would've liked to go.

After that we headed to grandma and grandpa's house. Amazingly they were ready to go within 10 minutes of our arrival and we headed out to the one and only restaurant in our town that grandma will deign to go to. I've mentioned before some of her OCD tendancies and while we were getting our shoes back on I managed to take a picture of the entrance of their house and the hallway leading to the living room.

Do you see the newspaper taped down on the floor? Under the newspaper there is tissue so it's a little padded. The bottom picture where the blue slippers are is the entrance to the bathroom. I really wanted to get a picture of that but I didn't have the guts. Also, do you see the tissue stuffed into the slippers in both pictures? It's always like this. Although this trip was the first time that grandma praised grandpa for doing a good job with cleaning and laundry so he must be getting used to all of this.

Here's a picture of all of us (except me, the picture-taker) after we ate dinner.

I know that grandpa turned 80 this year so grandma must turn 80 later this year or next year. It seems, despite all of their complaints, that they are in good health. They polished off an a la cart dinner before I was even halfway through mine and they carried on conversations while giving orders to everyone. Fortunately Natsuki didn't scream through this meal. Well, actually she did but they were screams of joy and she thoroughly entertained both of them. I was worried that she might be too loud for them but all of the rest of us were tired so she really carried the entertainment all by herself!

We got home not too late but Emi and Misaki had school the next morning so we got everyone right into bed. I had been looking forward to Wednesday morning all week because Chikara had promised to clean the balcony for me. In an effort to prepare for cockroach season in the summer, I had really wanted to scrub the floor and walls of the main balcony of our house where I put out our laundry. Last year we had two cockroaches come in the house and we can only guess that they came from this balcony. All of the garbage has been moved down to the garage but just in case there were any leftover eggs or bits of garbage that would attract them, I had asked Chikara if he wouldn't mind cleaning it for me. He hates cockroaches just as much as I do so he was more than willing to tackle this project. This picture probably doesn't look like much so it's mostly for my mom who was here in February and can probably appreciate the difference.

Thank you Chikara!

From Thursday (last week now) everything went back to almost normal. Chikara had to go to work and the girls were in school but they were coming home an hour early each day because of parent/teacher conferences. There are two of these each year and the one in May is when the teacher comes and visits our house and the second one is in the fall (right?) and the parent goes to the school. Both Emi and Misaki's teachers were coming on Friday and I wasn't sure if they would just want to talk in the entrance of our house, which is what has happened in past years, or if these teachers would want to come upstairs. I couldn't decided how much to clean so in the end I took some extra time and cleaned up everything which is good because both teachers asked to come upstairs. Chikara was shocked but I knew from reading the blogs of other expat moms that this happens, too.

Both of the girl's teachers had really good things to say about my girls. I had been worried about Misaki and if she was paying attention or not but the teacher said that she was doing really good. Misaki's teacher also said that she was surprised at how good Misaki's writing had gotten in just a short time. I explained that after the first two days of homework, I noticed that Misaki wasn't writing *on* the lines but *around* them so I told her that probably the teacher wanted her to follow the lines to learn how to write her characters correctly so by the third day she had started doing it properly. Emi's teacher was totally fascinated by me, of course. I had actually been relieved to meet Misaki's teacher because she was very focused on Misaki but Emi's teacher was all, how did you meet you husband and where did you get married, etc. She also asked if we could possibly translate a song from English to Japanese for her to teach to the class. She was really sweet though and I don't think Emi cares if her teacher is focused on her or not so it seems like both of the girls are going to get on in their classes very well.

I had actually had a dream the night before they came that Misaki's teacher had showed up at 5am in the morning (instead of her 3:30pm scheduled time) and basically talked badly about everything I was doing. In the dream she was shocked that all the kids weren't up and dressed and I was trying to say that 5am is way too early, etc. When I woke up, I was in a bit of a panic and it took me a few minutes to orient myself. I was very relieved to meet both of the teachers and find out that they were very nice ladies. I hate it when my subconscious interferes with my sleep!!!

What else? Oh, we bought an airconditioner for Emi & Misaki's room and Natsuki and Sakura loved the box.

Also, this week Natsuki started playing with dolls. She's pretended to be interested when her sister's had played with their dolls before but this was the first time I saw her get out the dolls and accessories by herself and have imaginary play. It was so precious and she didn't even care that I was taking pictures. She kept saying, "baby, baby" and one time she said, very sternly, "NO". I wonder where she gets that from...

Since we didn't get to go to Kobe last Monday, we decided to go this Monday after the girls got home from school. My friend Abigail had her second baby on May 1st and we hadn't gotten a chance to visit them and since they live in Kobe, too, we decided to just make a day of it. We visited with Abigail first. When Natsuki saw the baby, she thought he was a doll and she wiped her hands on her shirt and held them out to me. She really totally expected me to hand him over. I did let her hold him later (with my help) and I think she was unprepared for the fact that he was real! I wish I could've captured the look on her face at that moment.

They named their son Joel, which is the name of my youngest brother and when I told Emi and Misaki that we were going to go and see him their immediate thought was, "Uncle Joel turned into a BABY!". Uhhhhhhhhh, no. I also told Abigail that my brother likes to be called Joel the Magnificent and it seems like they might just borrow that for their little Joel!

OK, I'm totally losing steam here so I'll write all about our Kobe adventures (including a visit to the new Ikea) later on.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

pants on fire...

In general I really enjoy the challenges of parenting. There are times when I feel like giving up or giving in but usually my mommy instincts kick in and soon I'm back on track. That being said, sometimes I have no clue what to do about some of the behavior issues that pop up from time to time. Although I think our children are well-behaved, they do have their own personality quirks and/or stage-of-life issues. Emi is bossy, Misaki is forgetful, Sakura is searching for her place in the family and Natsuki is learning to obey. For the most part their bad behavior falls neatly into these categories so it's easy to see it coming and both Chikara and I know what to do about it, plus the kids know that their behavior is wrong since we've gone over it a lot. But occasionally bad behavior comes out of left field and not only did we not see it coming, we also have no idea what to do next.

Case in point is Misaki's behavior over the last few weeks. I had anticipated that "something" would happen because she was starting elementary school and there are a lot of new experiences and new emotions that go along with that. Emi was the same way last year. She suddenly got more bossy (even though I didn't think that was possible) but after the first couple months of school and a lot of time-outs, she calmed down, got into the groove of her new elementary school life and peace returned to our house. I wondered how Misaki would react to this new stage in her life. Up until now, most of her bad behavior includes teasing and not paying attention to us and the consequences thereof so I thought we would get more of that. Boy was I wrong!

One night after Emi and Misaki had moved into their new room and we were putting them to bed, we couldn't find the nightlight. They don't really need it but since they're not used to the layout of their room, I thought it would be a good idea to have one so they could see if they had to get up at night to use the bathroom. But here we were, four days after moving into the room and it's already gone. I asked both of them if they had seen it or played with it and when I asked Misaki, a weird look flashed across her face for a second and then she said she didn't know. All my mommy instincts said she was lying but she's not usually like that so I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and we just left the curtains open a little bit. About an hour later, Emi came down to use the bathroom and when she went back upstairs all of sudden she was yelling for us so I went upstairs to see what had happened and Misaki is standing on the ladder for the bunkbeds holding the nightlight with a guilty look on her face. She was trying to put it back while Emi was out of the room. It was so out of character for her that I just put the nightlight in the socket and put them both in bed with a stern warning to Misaki to "cut it out". It was late and I really didn't want to get into it but it was really weird, even for Misaki.

A few days later school started and things were going smoothly. The second week of school, Misaki's jacket disappeared. This is not unusual since she often forgets her things. But by the third day of it being missing, I started to realize that it wasn't at school, maybe it was in the house or the car. I looked all around but I still couldn't find it. When I asked Misaki when she had seen it last, again the weird look went across her face. What?!? I stopped what I was doing and met her eyes and asked her again.

Me: Misaki, do you know where your jacket is?

Misaki: No.

Me: If I find out that you actually know where it is and you've been lying to me you will get a spanking because that kind of behavior is definately not OK. Do you understand?

Misaki: ...what if I find it right now?

Seriously, she said that. Suddenly it was clear to me that she was, in fact, lying. My sweet, sweet Misaki was lying (badly) to my face. What should I do? What should I do? Ahhhhhh! (deep breath, deep breath) So I told her I would just be mad and she stood up, walked into the living room, pretended to look around for a second and then pulled her jacket out from BEHIND THE TV! She had hidden it there because she didn't want to wear it to school. It's not that she didn't like the jacket but after one warm day the week before, she had decided that she didn't want to wear a jacket but the weather turned cool again so I wanted both her and her sister to wear their jackets to school and if it warmed up then they could just put it in their bags.

We had a little talk about how lying is wrong and she cried and apologized very nicely but it was all very bewildering for me since she hasn't ever really lied to me like this before. When Chikara came home from work, I told him the whole story and we talked about what we should do. Obviously, lying is totally unacceptable and even if it seems benign at this age, I would never want my children to get into a habit of lying that would be hard to break as they got older. Do you know adults that lie habitually? It's not pretty and we definitely don't want that for our children. One Scripture I constantly remind myself about is Proverbs 22:6,

"Train up a child in the way he should go
And when he is old he will not depart from it"

This is it, childhood, our big chance to teach our kids all the things they need to know. But how? How can we reach Misaki and let her know that lying in any form is wrong? Misaki usually learns by indefinable means. As in, I have no idea how she finally figured out how to use the toilet, or write letters or jump rope. We tried any way we could think of to describe what we wanted her to do, showed her, drew a picture for her, talked about it, etc. but all of a sudden one day she could just do it. I've talked before about the owie on her left forearm. One day, after two years of encouraging her to stop picking it, she just stopped. Out of the blue. I have no idea what finally clicked for her and most milestones in her life have been like that. So although I'm grateful that she finally figured out all of that stuff, I have no idea what process she uses to learn things so again I'm at a loss as to how to explain to her, meaningfully, what we want from her.

But on the other hand, maybe I'm overreacting. Two lies in the space of two weeks during an emotionally charge time in her life. Give the kid a break. Maybe this won't turn into a new habit but is just a result of everything else that is going on in her life. I turned to these nice thoughts in an effort to calm myself down.

After the coat incident, Chikara and I decided that maybe she needed a little sleep occasionally in the afternoons to regain her equilibrium. At that time she was still coming home at 11:30am and so between 2 and 3, I had her lay down for a little sleep. That evening when I took her upstairs to get her stuff ready for school the next day, she was blah-blahing as we were walking up the stairs. Yes, I was thinking but other stuff but as I tuned into what she was saying, our conversation went like this.

Misaki: Oh, sorry...

Me: What for?

Misaki: Actually, I don't know, I think it was Sakura.

Me: Sakura what?

Misaki: I don't know but there's black stuff on my bed. Maybe someone drew something.

Me: What?!? (not overreacting at all - yeah right!)

It turned out that during her naptime, she had taken her pencil and gotten the tip wet, drawn on her stuffed animals and then worried that we would find out so she hid the whole thing under her pillow and, the icing on the cake, hid the pencil under her futon. Unfortunately for her, I found the whole thing and she had that same weird look on her face. There we go. Three lies in a row, each worse than the other and each time she tried to cover it up and did not succeed. I guess I should be glad that she's a bad liar so at least this is all out in the open and we can deal with it. What did I do? Well, I had told her that if she lied again she would get a spanking so I gave her a spanking, held her afterwards while she cried, we prayed together, I told her I loved her and she apologized. But I knew that none of it had sunk in for her.

A few days later while she was playing in her room, she called Sakura and gave her something and then called her a minute later and gave her something else. Sakura was all excited and showed us two superballs. It was all OK until we realized that actually the superballs were Emi's superballs and Misaki was secretly giving them to Sakura. Now this time there was no lying but still very odd behavior for Misaki. So I had a talk with her and she had to apologize to Emi but again, I knew she didn't get it.

Then yesterday morning, while Chikara was getting ready to go to work, he calls upstairs and asks if I know where the toothpaste is. Now I admit that lately I've been absentminded but that one totally stumped me. I went downstairs to check it out and sure enough the toothpaste was gone but a similarly shaped tube of hand lotion was in it's place. Misaki. Why? When Misaki and Emi came home from school, I asked both of them together about the toothpaste and Emi's face was a total blank but the weird look flashed over Misaki's face. She was all, "Toothpaste, what toothpaste, I don't think I've ever seen Daddy's toothpaste, etc." while smiling the whole time. So we walk downstairs together and I show her the lotion and where the toothpaste should be and she's feigning innocence the whole time but I know that she's lying. But what I can't figure out is why on earth this would've happened in the first place. It's so totally and completely random. She wouldn't tell me so I spanked her and then in two seconds she "found" it. It was behind the washing machine. I was so in shock over the whole thing that I could hardly form a coherent sentence. She could produce no reason as to why she had taken the toothpaste, hidden it behind the washing machine and replaced it with lotion. And I totally believe her. I think there is absolutely no reasoning to it which is why it's going to be so hard to put a stop to it. I gave her another spanking, held her while she cried, prayed with her, told her I loved her and she apologized to me and later to Chikara after he came home from work. But again, I don't think we reached her. She actually tried to pretend that she couldn't remember what she was supposed to apologizing to Chikara about even though I had reminded her only a few seconds before.

So here I am today, bewildered. I guess I shouldn't be all that surprised. In preparation for the grade school years I've done a lot of reading and I knew that these are the years when children start lying, cheating, stealing and bullying. Maybe not all of them but all kids will try at least one and if parents don't step up right away then what started as an experiment could turn into a lifelong problem.

I also talked to my mom about it. My parents have been teachers since the year I was born and they've worked with all different grades and now my dad is the principal of a private school in Canada and one of his main areas of responsibility is to deal with behavior issues of his students. My mom said that lying in girls is a pride issue. They don't want to look bad so they create elaborate lies to cover up the teeniest thing. I can see how this relates to Misaki. She likes her image of being cute and sweet and she enjoys being well-liked by her friends and adults that she knows. None of the things she did were in themselves exceptionally bad but the lying to cover them up and her unwillingness to tell the truth even after we knew she was lying are the part that scare me. Another part of this that makes me sad is that I can't trust her. I could always trust my kids that they were trying to do the right thing. They might make mistakes from a lack of knowledge but never from willfull disobedience. It's not fun at all.

So why am I sharing this with all of you. Mostly just to share and get it off my chest. Some of you may be upset by my methods of dealing with it and that's OK. Maybe someone has some good advice for me, too. Maybe someone has been through the same thing and has come out the other side and can encourage me. Maybe no one will comment at all but at least it's not bottled up inside of me anymore.

I love my sweet Misaki and I know we'll get through this but right now, in the middle of it, I just have no idea what to do next.