This essay was originally featured in Ravishly on Nov. 1, 2017.
(Content warning: mental health, implication of suicide)
I remember the exact step on the D.C. metro escalator I was standing on when I got the news. It was just four words long. And with it, everything had changed.
I had just seen her, Giada, two weeks before. Finally, I’d managed to visit her in New York from Washington, D.C. after months of delays due to work, classes, and other commitments. Together with longtime friends, we retraced our old haunts in the West Village, from a kitschy cafe for tea to her favorite bar — Cubbyhole. Then, Giada and I stayed up talking in her shared Harlem sublet until 2 a.m.
In the Italian spirit of hospitality, she whipped up a spread of all the food she’d owned in that cramped kitchen that smelled like old cat litter. She brought out a plate of crackers, nuts, and dried fruit from a drugstore can, oddly festive and filling.
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Although I entered my thirties with trepidation, it turned out getting older has its perks, beyond just reevaluating dating and career decisions and no longer being carded at grocery stores.
1. Picking Battles
The human brain keeps developing through adolescence and into our twenties, changing the way we react overtime. It’s not uncommon in our teens and twenties to blow up at the slightest emotional provocation and then regret it (so-called amygdala hijack).
I’ve certainly mellowed out in my thirties. For example, the other day, my neighbor who likes to wear a Make America Great Again hat and a t-shirt emblazoned with “U.S. Border Patrol,” left a note on my car threatening to tow it, because it was parked near his house. I took a deep breath and knocked on his door, my two children in tow. “Hello, neighbor,” I said, smiling. “Is this your note?”
“Yeah, sorry,” he mumbled. “I thought you were one of them soccer moms who park here.” I wondered if he’d personally observed these women’s children playing ball or seen them pushing soccer balls through their birth canals to warrant the “soccer mom” title. I would have asked, in my twenties. Instead, though, I wished the neighbor a good day and left.
Now we are besties who go shopping and get mani/pedis together. Just kidding. But at least we’re civil.
I’m excited that my Quartz essay on bilingual parenting was picked up by social channels of The Atlantic, The New York Times (The Upshot), National Geographic, Vox, KQED, Flipboard and Pocket Top 10 and government and educational organizations, including Harvard and Stanford, in the past week.
Unfortunately, there seem to be some misconceptions, so I’d like to address them:
Yes, many parents are lucky to raise bilingual/trilingual kids with less effort. That’s indeed wonderful. While this has been my experience, the process is as unique as each family member’s language ability and environment.
- Yes, bilingualism has lots of cognitive advantages, too many to list in a short article. It does not cause speech delays, confusion, retardation, measles or rubella.
- Yes, unfortunately, this is a particularly American situation, as much of the world outside the U.S. nurtures multilingualism.
In addition to the positive feedback from educators and folks who are in the same boat, it’s been interesting to read some personal comments and messages, calling me a lazy, bad parent and a dumb American (with jabs at my kid).
I encourage anyone interested to check out the work of the wonderful experts that were generous enough to speak to me during the preparation of this article, as well as the resources linked in the piece. I hope parents keep exposing their kids to many cultures and languages and don’t lose the link to their roots, despite the struggles. And that they don’t feel alone doing it.
This reported essay was published in Quartz on Aug. 13, 2017.
Note: There are many unique approaches to bilingualism that may or may not work for different multicultural families living in the U.S. This is just one of them.
“What’s that music?” my three-year-old asked as we listened to a song in a foreign language last December.
Could my toddler be showing an interest in her Russian heritage? Maybe this would be a chance to tell her about the revered winter holidays of my childhood in St. Petersburg, Russia—calling up images of the falling snow as schoolgirls in black-brown uniforms and giant bows in their hair sang carols about solidarity…
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This essay was originally published by Brit + Co, titled “How an Internet Ad for Rebound Friends Saved Me after a Breakup” on May 3, 2017. It is set in 2005.
Waiting inside Tasti D-Lite that afternoon, Divya looked nothing like a cult follower or an aging Hello Kitty devotee. In fact, her very normalcy was alarming, given that we’d met on Craigslist.
A decidedly trivial thing was to blame for our meeting. Just a few weeks prior, a cab ushered me across the Hudson River a liberated woman who, for the first time in her life, was about to live on her own. That’s when the trivial thing appeared. It nodded a solemn hello on the Manhattan side of the Lincoln Tunnel. It made itself comfortable in my cab loaded with two suitcases, a couple of overstuffed shopping bags, a printer, and a new twin-size sheet set. It squeezed through the closing elevator doors and slipped into my temporary studio apartment. That thing was silence.
“Alright,” I finally said to the silence. “What do you want?”
“Oh, nothing,” the silence indicated. “Nothing at all.”
This essay was originally published by Brit+Co on April 3, 2017, titled “My First Real Apartment Gave Me an Identity Crisis.” It was republished by Business Insider.
My New York obsession began in childhood, before I could even speak English. All it took was a giant monkey ascending a glowing skyscraper, in a movie theater in Leningrad. I bolted outside and had nightmares for weeks afterwards. But I returned later, to see the movie, King Kong, all the way through: not for the plot, but to be whisked away into the land of glass and steel, so different than the Soviet Union on the verge of collapse.
A version of this essay was originally published in ScaryMommy.com on Feb. 25, 2017
I see you, Mama, pacing from room to room, recalling what still needs to be packed for tomorrow. You pause by the sleeping baby’s crib, in awe of his eyelashes and his measured breathing, unsuspecting that tomorrow someone else will be reading him his favorite bunny story and putting him down for nap time.
You try to cook as much as possible to prepare for your upcoming 11-hour, perhaps 12-hour, absences. You bought a crockpot and bookmarked recipes online; you stocked up on groceries as if Armageddon is fast approaching, and now your freezer door won’t close.