Addendum: Three Children in a One-Child World

I am sorry. I am about to beat a dead horse. I swear, I thought the horse was dead yesterday, but then he jumped up and kicked me in the back of the head while I was walking away. I am sad to say that my perspective on parenting in China has taken a turn for the worse since yesterday, when I wrote the antecedent to this post. Not so much changed (other than Piper’s hair), but I think I just realized an unpleasant truth that only a series of unfortunate events could make me fully understand. What seems to have happened since moving to China is that  our children have regressed significantly. In Minnesota, they really didn’t get into much trouble, aside from what the boys did behind their closed bedroom door during the fiasco of transitioning to big boy beds (the worst of it involved Vaseline). Today, I tried so, so hard to be a good mom. I turned off the computer, I colored with them, and painted, I somehow managed to clean up the house. I only let them watch 50 minutes of TV (a Sesame Street episode); they had naptime, and I didn’t sleep, I chose to be productive instead.  When they woke up, we went to the park and met a wonderful Chinese girl who spoke almost perfect English, then played with an adorable puppy. When we got home, I sent the kids upstairs for 10 minutes while the first pizza was cooking in the frying pan. About 8 minutes after I sent them upstairs, Piper came down to tell me that Toby had cut her necklace. I ran to see what she was talking about, because I didn’t know there were any scissors where they could reach them, and the only scissors I knew were upstairs at all are Brian’s very sharp, pointy mustache scissors. As I was running up to Piper, I noticed something wasn’t right with her head. She looked at me and said, “Toby cut my hair.” You can see it in the pictures. I think the Toby doing it part is a lie. Toby can’t actually use scissors that I know of, especially not those tiny mustache scissors. I have never been so angry/sad/emotional about anything that she has done to this point. It would be a different story if she had not just cut her hair yesterday, and knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was wrong. I sent her to time out, threw her scissors away (not the offending scissors, but the consequence for the next time she used scissors without me was that they would be thrown away, and I can’t throw away Brian’s scissors), and tried to make her realize how bad it was that she had just cut her hair. She lost cake, mouse privileges, and any other “special” things the night had in store. But really, I have no idea what the right thing was to do. All this to say, it has made me realize one of the biggest problems with our kids since we’ve come here, and it’s that they’ve regressed to the point that I can’t leave them alone at all, and I basically have to re-baby-proof my life. Yes, I can discipline them when they do something wrong, but the problem is that the things they do wrong these days are things I can’t fix easily, like a broken Kindle, Piper spraying Teddy in the eyes with bathroom cleaner, Piper’s unfortunate haircut. I don’t want to spend every minute of the day with them in the same room as me, but I don’t know what else to do. I guess I gave myself the answer right there–baby-proof. But my past experiences with that have only shown me that the more I get rid of, the more they will mystify me with the things they manage to do wrong. And the funny thing is, when they were actually babies, I never had to baby-proof. I guess I need to go find really safe places for the laundry soap and all sharp objects, because I’m guessing the next thing they’ll try to do is try to drink some kind of chemical. Thank goodness their shoes don’t have laces.

The back. I was really afraid to look the first time.

I guess no one told her mullets are out.

This is the worst part. Makes me want to cry the most.

I told her we were not taking pictures because it was cute. The pictures are to remind us why we should never do it again.

I guess you need sanitary napkins if you're undertaking a haircut of these proportions.

And this is something I forgot to add to my post yesterday:

There are a few things about parenting in China that are difficult in ways that I never imagined, and one of them is trying to be a mother to my children when there is a Chinese visitor. The situation is often that the visitor has come before dinner time, or at bedtime, and the children are either extremely hungry, or extremely tired, and I am trying desperately to understand the Chinese visitor, who is monopolizing my attention, oblivious to my children’s pleas for food, sleep, or attention, and I cannot ask them to leave, I cannot cook food for the kids (or I do not want to, because I do not like being told, in as many words or hand motions, that I shouldn’t like American food, or how to cook it), I can’t just leave the visitor to put the kids to bed, or I can’t feed the kids, because the visitor brought them some atrocious local delicacy that even I can’t bring myself to swallow, but I don’t want to offend the visitor by giving them something else to eat (and I don’t have anything to give them, because the visitor showed up just as I was about to make dinner). The ideal Chinese visitor would stay for about 30 minutes, and not require my children to repeat any Chinese words after themselves or me. After a Chinese friend leaves, the whole night is shot, and I have to gather the shreds of our routine (and the house), feed the kids and stick them in bed, all while feeling so tired I could cry, and so angry at the whole situation, that something outside myself was preventing me from meeting my children’s needs, and now they are wrecks, and I can’t stand them. I hate feeling so powerless in my own house. I shouldn’t find such visitors’ visits so stressful since I live in China and all, but I do. So stressful. Nai Nai has begun to figure out a better time to visit – about 7, after dinner has been served, the house is possibly on the mend from the day, and it’s not quite bedtime yet. Of course, her visit does tend to encroach on bedtime, but Chinese people are very good at leaving promptly (my main problem is that I can’t ask them to leave right away, which I sometimes wish I could). I feel like I am being invaded by people against my will, and not only is just basic communication incredibly stressful, and would be, all on its own, but these people are forcing me to neglect my children, and I feel resentful.

Okay, that about does it, but this time I’ll back away from the horse, just in case he decides to make another comeback.

Now I will add some pictures of what her hair looks like, after I tried to fix it a little and realized I needed professional help:

You know, it's actually kind of cute.

I never really envisioned her with a haircut like this, but now that she has it, I actually like it better than the haircut she got in November.

This is the side that needs the most help.



  1. You must remember that you are not powerless. You are the power source. We have relocated our kids often and each time they would test all boundaries because in their little minds they don’t understand the rules stay the same when the location changes, so its our job to restructure their lives. Take time to talk about areas they are allowed in and areas that are off limits without mom or dad. You did a wonderful job with the previous day. Kids are just messy despite our best efforts. I got your message on facebook and I’ll get back to you again. Ultimately, you have to fill your soul. You are the lifeblood of your family and if you are sick or not functioning well, the rest of your family won’t either. Be graceful with yourself and your babies. They are in a strange land, strange language around them, people look different than here, and mom has changed. How scary is that for a preschool mind? Keep writing. Praying for you..cause its what I do. 🙂

  2. Oh, dear April! You are up against a humongous horse because of this major change in all your lives. I visited Japan a few years ago and remember how disorienting and uncomfortable the language barrier was, and the fact that I didn’t even recognize the characters on street signs. Add 24/7 living in a completely different culture related to visitor ettiquette, your hostess responsibilities, decreased opportunity for your kids to get out of the house, and 100% change in your kids’ perspective of their world, and it’s no wonder you’re living in insanity! Hopefully, things will get better as time goes on and you all get accustomed to living there, but I imagine it’s going to take awhile. In the meantime, I agree you need to fill your soul and get away for some YOU time to recharge. And keep communicating with Brian about how you’re feeling. I think your kids are responding in the only way they can, and that even though it seems like sheer naughtiness or regression, it’s just their coping mechanism for right now in the very few things they can control. Can you set boundaries for your Chinese visitors, and encourage them to visit when it’s convenient for you? I know the ettiquette is different there, but your family is your first responsibility and your Chinese friends also need to accomodate your culture to some degree. I’m praying and sending strength too. Hang in there!

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