Line #1, You’re on the Air

O

kay. The O-man is about to reach a minor milestone in his Xanga life: One year of writing and commenting. Damn, I coulda been writing a book. Here’s your opportunity to ask a question. Line number 1, you’re on the air with the O-man.

Being a Dad

Hi, I’m silvermyst_ashke.

Oman: Hey Silvermist, what’s up? For those of you who don’t know, Silvermist is a relatively new visitor to O-man’s world. She writes some pretty interesting stuff, that I’m just starting to get into. She recently wrote about Chinese Buddhism–her version. Anyway, what’s your question?

silvermyst_ashke: hm…I’d like to know how many kids you have and what they’re like.

Oman: Okay, that’s pretty easy. I have one daughter. Her name is K, but her middle name is Elise. Her mother–my ex-wife–named her after the character of Alex Keaton’s mother on Family Ties. Someday, she will learn this and perhaps not be too happy. Anyway, she’s a good kid, although a bit headstrong and stubborn, taking after her father–this, according to her mother.

But as I said, she is a good kid, which I attribute to solid rearing at a young age. She was born at Stanford and she was a talkative child from the start. When my ex was pregnant, I would talk to her stomach every chance I got, telling my daughter how much I loved her, where I would take her and what we’d do once she was born. When she was born (Caesariean section), the doctor immeditately showed her to mother and father–I was in the operating room, as well–and I said, “Hi K!” She openned her eyes and looked right at me as if she recognized the voice. The doctor, the anesthesiologist monitoring the procedure and the nurse monitoring her mother were surprised, saying that it was as unusual a reaction as they had ever seen. But I knew why. Elise had joined the world of the talker she had been listening to for nine months and she couldn’t wait to join. Man, we couldn’t shut her up once she got her engine going.

At Stanford, her mother and I would talk to her in a mixture of Japanese and English and she would understand everything, as kids will, but she would respond in English only. At day care, she was a leader, and definitely never took shit from anyone. One overweight kid had to learn this the hard way. He would take whatever toys he wanted and basically bullied everyone. All the other kids would give in to this bully, but K–all of 18 months old–finally was fed up with his antics. She bit his cheek as they struggled for a toy. Oh, he cried and cried. When I went to pick her up after school, I was confronted by two very upset Jewish parents. They were coddling there precious bully and they showed me his cheek. There were still clear teeth indentations on his cheek. K had bit hard enough to cause pain and leave a mark that lasted a few hours, but not enough to break skin. What control! I was kinda worried, cuz the parents were threatening to sue and shit, and I apologized, but the teacher told me privately that K had done what every other kid wanted to do–even the teacher–but could not, so if they tried to pursue legal action, they would stand up for K. When I got home, I gave K a brief, quiet and firm talk–what can an 18 month old understand? I told her that she stood up for herself and that was a good thing, but she should not have resorted to violence. Then I gave her a hug. What I really wanted to do was give her a high five, but she didn’t understand the concept yet.

When we went to Japan for my dissertation research, she had trouble adjusting. She was thrown into a world where suddenly she could understand what others were saying to her, but they couldn’t understand her, so she basically shut up in front of strangers. We enrolled her in day care, where she was initially a bit introverted. She got along well enough with everyone as long as she didn’t have to speak. Then one day, about three months in Japan, as everyone sang children’s song in class, she chimed in with the loudest voice: O te-te, tsunaide… According to the teachers, it was a wonderful moment, but as they soon learned, they couldn’t shut her up either. Once, they went on a field trip to Mt. Takao. One of the kids was handicapped, had trouble keeping up with the class and was trying desperately to hold back her tears. As they headed toward the picnic area for lunch, one of the teachers noticed that K was not with the group. Two of them were about to go look for her, when K popped out of a wooded area with a bunch of flowers in her hand. The teachers were ready to admonish her for breaking away from the group and going off by herself–how un-Japanese!–but she walked right passed them straight to the handicapped girl, gave her the flowers and told her to cheer up, that she’d stay with her for the rest of the trip. Which she did. When I went to pick her up at the end of the day, her teacher related the events of the field trip to me and at the end asked, “How are you raising your child?” This time, on the way home, I did give K a high five…

I have a bunch of other stories, but there are only 24 hours in a day… Anyway, since I returned to the US, she has been reluctant to visit me–I get the sense that she thinks I abandoned them. But in my own defense, I should say that I believed that when we first went to Japan, we would eventually return when I got a job to teach. When I got that job, my ex–a Japanese national–suddenly decided that she wanted to remain in Japan. There are a lot of unpleasant details that I will not bring up here, but in general, had my ex been willing to come as I thought we had originally planned, I would not be divorced right now. As a result, I do not get a chance to see my daughter. I email when I can, but I haven’t seen her since the summer of 1999. Since I remarried, I have been unable to go to Japan for various reasons, and every year I ask her if she won’t come visit me for the summer, but she flatly refuses. For the first nine years of her life, we were very close–she used tell everyone that I was the scariest (I’m strict) and nicest (we did everything together) dad in the world. I wonder what she says now. I hope that someday we can talk about what happened and that she will forgive me for not being with her for that last eight years.

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