A few weeks ago, I wrote about how I’ve realised that Raeven, my five-year old (just writing ‘five’ gives me goosepimples!) is so unlike me.

We are worlds apart. Those of you who’ve known me a while can vouch that I don’t really care about the way I dress, in that I favour clothes built with both function and fashion in mind, rather than just fashion.

In that I am as cincai as they come (Malaysian Cantonese for ‘laid back’). My parents used to worry about me being too blasé or generous with my stuff (particularly my money) but my uncle – ironically someone I never got close to – used to say that cincai people have cincai luck, and that we will muddle through. And you know what? He was right. Luck does favour the cincai. I managed to find a job I loved, marry my soulmate, give birth to two beautiful girls, travel the world without getting killed and end up living in what I believe is paradise on earth (the Northwest kicks ass, rain and all!). All because I never took things too seriously. Happy-go-lucky: A phrase made for me.

How Rae differs from me, for one, is that she is one helluva picky eater and I pretty much eat anything. Secondly, she cares way more about the way she dresses (read: as skimpy as she can get away with) and I prefer that she not freeze to death. Thirdly, she loves to stand out whereas I prefer to blend in.

Lastly, when Rae does not get her way, she will make sure that you suffer for it – whereas I tend to just avoid conflict as much as I can, and do whatever else other people want.

In short, I would never be friends with someone like that.

NEVER.

Two days ago, we had a fight over some earrings that she would not share with Skyler (yes Eunice, earrings YOU got for her). As usual, she had on her tiara, and her princess clothes, but because her earrings hurt, she took them off. Skyler promptly took one, wanting to try it on. When I clipped it on Sky, I turned around and asked Rae if she thought Skyler looked nice. At once, Rae’s face turned black.

“No, she does NOT look good,” she said.

“Well, you can both wear one each, and be the same,” I quickly said, desperately trying to diffuse what I could see was going to be a major meltdown, but not wanting to give in to what was basically just her being mean to her sister.

I could see her eyes flash dangerously.

Great.

“You know what? She looks like a Bajoran. Do you know what a Bajoran is?” I asked.

“NO! SHE DOES NOT LOOK LIKE A BAJORAN!” Rae yelled, an ugly tantrum rearing its ugly head.

“You don’t even know what a Bajoran is!” I got upset myself.

“NOOOO!”

And with that, she ripped off Skyler’s earring (luckily it was put on loosely so she didn’t even feel it).

I fucking lost it.

Long story short, after pushing Sky to my in-laws, I’d locked the both of us up in my room, where I subjected Rae to almost 20 minutes of scalding reprimand. All the while, she stood in front of me, biting her lip and fuming.

In the end, my own flesh and blood, my precious little angel, said to me, “I don’t want to be your child anymore!! You are the baddest, angriest Mommy in the world!!!!”

Needless to say, the words pierced deep into me and without warning, I broke down. And for five minutes, I knelt sobbing in front of my daughter. I could do nothing but cry.

Of course, that set her off as well.

We often hear about mommy guilt, how basically the perfect moms of the world make the rest of us feel like we’re doing a shitty job. Well let me tell ya, it’s nothing compared to the guilt that your own child can provoke in you.

Yes, I was an angry Mommy. In fact, I could not remember the last time I was patient with her, and that I had not at the very least raised my voice a few decimals simply because I did not like her attitude.

Yes, I was guilty. And boy, did I feel guilty.

Yes, Rae is perhaps the fussiest person I know.

Yes, she has attitude.

Yes, she is vain.

Yes, she is MY daughter.

But she is not me.

And no matter how much I wanted her to be cincai and not be picky or vain or take things too seriously, I cannot change her.

I read somewhere that we should always allow our children to expand their minds and bodies, and that we should only limit or discipline them when the things they want to do are:

  • unsafe
  • against our religious beliefs (or your family value system)
  • a waste of money

I’ve tried hard to follow these guidelines but I’ve failed miserably. The intolerance I hold inside, the strong disdain I seem to have for vanity and selfishness and bad behaviour just seemed to override all the rules, and all I could think about was how to stop my daughter before it was too late. Before she turned into a monster. Before she was beyond changing.

After all, it’s for her own good right?

Right?

Why do I so desperately want to change her? For all the imperfections I have accepted in myself, why haven’t I accepted those in my own child?

Empathy for those in one’s own family is a hard thing to cultivate, and even harder to hold on to. You take those you love for granted all the time, and feel you have the right to tell them like it is, to dispense with all the useless niceties in order to say what you feel, and to take the liberties necessary to change them, all the while claiming that it’s because you love them. That it’s for their own good.

Is it really? Is it our job as parents to change our children? Set them on the straight and narrow, by hook or by crook? Bend them to your will?

That fine line between making sure our children grow up to be responsible, socially functional adults, and to give them the freedom to discover life on their own – how the hell do you toe it?

I guess I’ll just have to find out myself.