Archives for category: Imperfect Mom

Aug07 ROFL award

The fabulous Sue at Red Stapler, whom I’d met at Blogher07, gave me an ROFL award for this post.

I know, I don’t deserve it, because I haven’t even been blogging much lately. And I’ve never thought of myself as capable of evoking floor-rolling guffaws (perhaps a rare LOL, but an ROFL? Perhaps I should write comedy!).

And an ROFL is what I desperately need these days. I’ve been so busy with Sky’s preschool setup that I’m almost missing Rae’s big kindy-going celebration. My kindy mom friends have been emailing back and forth tearful experiences this week and I feel so guilty for not having been as excited as I should be, as ANY first-time mom of a kindergartener should be, because of this coop crap. I should be tied up and fed fried worms.

But not all is lost. Today is her first day and I shall be as tearful as the rest of you. You’ll see.

Speaking of Sky’s new cooperative preschool which I’m helping to set up, let me just say WHAT THE FLIPPIN’ FISH HAVE I GOTTEN MYSELF INTO?! The people who was to lease us our site came back with permit problems that will last until Winter quarter so we’ve had to scramble the last two weeks for a new site. Our Twos teacher quit because it was just too much for her so we spent the last weekend scrambling for HER replacement.

One has to ask: Just how much stress can a human being handle?

I need more than an ROFL. I need the friggin’ jaws of life.

Yesterday, while filling the tub for a nice bath, I noticed scum caked in between the tiles that line the walls surrounding my tub. Reflecting on how long it’d been since I’d given the toilet a nice scrub (just a week ago, I swear!), I started to splash some water from the tub onto the walls, and with my fingers, began to dig and pry the scum away.

Pretty soon, I was scraping off dried pink Dove soap and blue Head & Shoulders shampoo bits off the tub with my fingernails. Five minutes later, instead of soaking in a lavendar and chamomile infused soup of relaxation, I was in full Toilet Cleaning mode, replete with gloves, Scotch Brite sponge and Kaboom! Shower, Tub and Tile Cleaner, rubbing and scrubbing. By the time I was done, I had time only for a quick shower (also because I didn’t want to use too much water since I’d used the water that was supposed to be for my bath, for the spur-of-the-moment, slightly insane, latrine detail).

This was around 11 o’clock last night.

The results are in, dear friends. My transformation into Mother is complete.

All of us felt this once. Yes, Every Single One of You. Or maybe you still do.

That the day you start to pick up on any of your mom’s traits, you’d kill yourself.

Aside from the impulsive cleaning and what she claims to be a genetically inherited sense of thriftiness which, to her dismay, had failed to pass on to me (which led her to conclude that I had instead inherited my dad’s ‘extravagance gene’), my mom had many other detestable traits.

Like how she’d lay on the couch and zone out at the end of the day. That used to annoy the heck out of me because I thought she was lazy and would not go out or take us anywhere. Of course later, I realised that it’s because she was just exhausted from work and all the stuff she’s had to deal with on her own with both my sis and me, with my dad always away on his bowling tours.

I also remember being embarassed by how…unrefined she was (it still shames me to say that). The day Lokes and I officially introduced our parents to each other, I spent the whole day on edge, sure that my mom and dad would find a way to humiliate me in front of my future in-laws and that I’d die of shame that very day, an almost-married girl of 28 (Here she lies, broken-hearted. Almost got hitched, but her mom farted). My dad and Lokes’ dad were old bowling friends so I was happy about that, but my mother-in-law (elegant, polished homemaker wife of relatively well-to-do tobacco sales manager) was as different from my mother (working-class government servant) as eau de toilette is from, well, toilet water.

Shockingly, they got along rather well. To this day, I still think it was all a fluke.

It’s easy to say you will never become your mother when you’ve never had her life. People can work hard to become something but what they rarely realise is that it is decidedly harder to not become something because…really, who has the energy to spend one’s life in constant avoidance and perpetual prevention?

Also, one becomes other things in the course of pursuing whatever it is one is pursuing. Things you never thought you’d become.

I may have taken on some of my mom’s more annoying traits without planning to (whether they’re really from her, only science can tell) but I will never become her. I will never be the mom she was to my sis and me, in all the good ways and bad, because I am not married to a man like my father and I am not living the way we used to live. And even if I’d managed to somehow replicate her history, I don’t think I could have emerged from the desperation and heartache that was her life, to become the strong, sturdy and financially-sound woman she’s become today.

Which is why when the day comes, that both Rae and Sky declare loudly they will never do what I do, or be like me, or become me, I will calmly nod and agree,

“Of course you won’t. Nobody’s perfect, honey,” I’ll say.

Not even The I’mperfect Mom.

Rae just learnt the meaning of the word ‘expert’.

Yesterday, driving around, she had a fight with Sky and did not want to speak to her. Sky kept talking regardless.

“Mommy, can you tell Mei Mei I don’t want to talk to her?”

“You’ll have to tell her yourself, Rae.”

“But you’re THE EXPERT at telling people to keep quiet!”

The last week has just been nuts, as August is crunch month for the new cooperative preschool I’m helping to set up. We’re getting ready to outfit the school, interviewing teachers and getting official with a bank account and the lovely paperwork and everything.

Just a few days ago, we interviewed a potential teacher who was just fantastic. By the end of our interview, I’d just wanted to comb Miss Awesome’s hair and feed her grapes because she was just so sweet and pretty, which, as we all know, are crucial qualifications of someone you’d want to hire to nurture your precious offspring into the social and emotionally-equipped, obedient and compassionate, genius-in-the-making, peaches-and-cream child you know is hidden deep, deep, deep within that little brat of yours.

Seriously, Miss Awesome fielded each and every of our questions so elegantly and articulately it was hard not to be awed by the woman. When our toddler group teacher asked her what her core philosophy was for raising kids, I counted at least five or six instances where she’d mentioned the phrase “social and emotional development”. That’s 50 or 60 points right there as far as we were concerned. But what really made me want to give her the job right there and then was how she’d made me felt when she’d uttered the words “positive discipline”.

Being the i’mperfect mom from Malaysia, God knows positive discipline is as exotic a concept to me as apple pie. When I’d heard of the disciplinary technique of time-outs, I thought it was crazy. Malaysian kids are pretty much staring at the business end of a feather duster when they misbehave, none of this time-out nonsense. Which child would stay in a corner for five minutes? Certainly not mine!

But you know what? It works. Still, when I helped to ‘spread the love’, Malaysians were confused. Time out? Apa tu? Cokelat ke? (translation: Time out? Wazzat? Is it a type of chocolate?).

In fact, the words “no” and “don’t” and “if I you pour water out of the bath tub ONE MORE TIME I SWEAR YOU ARE STANDING IN THE CORNER FOR TWO WEEKS!” have become so synonymous with the word “mommy” in my household that more than once, Rae has looked at me all funny the few time’s I’ve tried to integrate the words “sure, go ahead” into my daily vocabulary. It was as though I’d suddenly lapsed into the Language of the Apes.

Positive discipline, simply put, is resisting the urge to use negative terms to stop your child or deny him or her from doing certain things, even when his or her safety may be at stake. For example, instead of NO JIMMY, DON’T TOUCH THAT HOT LAVA!!, you might want to instead guide your child to what he may do instead, like so: HEY JIMMY, LET’S ROLL DOWN THE HILL! It is really finding ways to distract your child from doing something that you may not approve, to finding something else instead that he can focus his/her boundless energy on.

I dunno about you but this is Fucking. Hard. I’ve become SO used to saying “Stop that whining or I’ll give you something to whine about!” that almost super physical strength is required to force the neurons in my brain to fire a different way. Somehow, “Hey, let’s see if we can count to 100 without blinking!” does not have the same punch, yaknowatI’msayin?

Picture this: You’re a wreck from having been woken up at 3am because your husband seems to have developed a taste for middle-of-the-night-Stinky-Mouth sex (this is not what they mean by dirty talk, babe). It’s 7am and your child does not want the eggs you’ve managed to fry without burning, but would instead prefer doughnuts smothered in chocolate syrup and glitter. And as you stare down the small mountain of clothes sitting in the corner of your laundry room, maple syrup dripping from the edge of your table onto the carpet, your blood starts to boil. But wait. You quickly close your eyes and try to remember the words you read the night before from 101 Ways to Integrate Positive Discipline Into Your Everyday Child-Raising.

Get down to the level of your child, and address him or her in an even but firm voice. Say, child, breakfast today is eggs and toast, and if you do not wish to eat the eggs and toast, you may leave the breakfast table and colour quietly with your crayons.”

And as you emerge from Book Parenting stupor, you notice ten bloody scratches across your dinner table. And then your brain goes supernova.

Maybe one of you book parents out there has read this somewhere, so tell me: What do we parents do with OUR feelings of frustration?

We’re always talking about acknowledging a child’s negative emotions and accepting their tantrums and tears as normal and human, but isn’t it normal and human for us parents to want to yell at our kids a little as well? Isn’t it abnormal and unnatural to suppress these feelings of anger and general resentment when your child decides to experiment with chocolate syrup on your white walls?

And with all this, people are still shocked that we drink?

I say that whoever invented cocktail playdates needs to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Humanity Towards Stay-at-Home-Moms.

While I will never resort to using physical pain to discipline my children, I think always having to be a robot and forcing myself to use an ‘even but firm voice’ to discipline my children just seems too darn hard – and a little unnatural and dangerous even. I say a well-timed LOUD telling-off, once in a while, can do wonders, and isn’t too much to ask for.

As for Positive Discipline – that’s why I’m hiring Miss Awesome.

A few days ago, during a meeting for our new preschool, us moms got into a discussion of our older, soon-to-be kindergarteners, and the topic of the cut-off age for enrollment was brought up.

You see, in the US, school begins in the Fall, which is in September, unlike in Malaysia, where school commences as the year begins, right after New Year’s Day.

Needless to say, this took a lot of getting used to, because of the cut-off date of birthdays for qualifying students, which is usually August 31st of the year. For a three-year old preschool that begins classes in September, a child would need to be three by August 31st, and for a four-year old preschool, a child would need to be four by August 31st, and so on and so forth.

For example, Raeven, whose birthday is in June, would qualify for school the same year she turns the required age. For Skyler, who turns three November this year, she will have to wait until the next school year to attend preschool because the cut-off is August.

The interesting dynamic here is in terms of development, Raeven will be considered one of the youngest in her kindergarten class, because she would have friends who may be like Skyler, who have turned six by September, October, November or December of this year, while she would only do so next June. And in the same vein, Skyler would be one of the oldest in her toddler’s class of two-year olds, because when she attends toddler class in September, she would be just two months shy of turning three.

Because of insurance issues, schools adhere to the cut-off date requirement strictly. In fact, parents of children born in late August or early September, are often advised to let their children wait a year instead of trying to squeeze their kids in on the same year, so as to put their children ahead of the class the following year because they would be developmentally a year ahead than the rest of the class.

I confess that I had trouble accepting this at first, for this is a very strange concept to an Asian, to delay school to get ahead. In Malaysia, parents are always scrambling to put their kids in school early by at least a year.

“My child can read and write already! She may only be three but she is ready for kindergarten! Test her if you don’t believe! “

Sadly, this need to be smarter younger, smarter faster, is more often than not due to the parents’ kiasu attitudes than their child’s real ability, driven by meer peer pressure aka other kiasu parents. 

For all our cool Asian calculative logic, we seem to hold on to the irrational belief that with enough pressure and discipline, our children can exceed their potential – without even finding out what that potential is. School readiness, and sometimes developmental milestones, to an Asian mother or father, is but a state of mind. Like the spoon that is said not to exist, we disregard what is solid fact, deciding that we can bend and even wave them away with a flippant “Aiya, this is all just gwailo bullsh*t”, and continue to push our kids forward because “so-and-so’s six-year-old is already doing calculus!”

When I told Lokes about moms holding their borderline-age children back a year so that they will be developmentally ahead of their class, the first thing he said was, “That is so fake!”

What my illustrious husband means is that the child is actually given a false sense of security and achievement because when it comes down to the fact and figure, he is five, and therefore should really be in kindergarten, learning kindergarten things.

I then asked, “So which is more ‘fake’? Pushing a four year old who’s not developmentally ready to kindergarten or holding back a newly-turned five year old for one more year of preschool?”

When I sat down with Rae’s four-year-old class preschool teacher for her year-end eval May this year, I was told that Rae was more than ready for kindergarten. Like any normal parent, I was relieved. Relieved that Rae is socially and developmentally ready. Relieved that she’s got all her fine motor skills down pat. That she can draw figures that have necks and torsos, not just legs growing out of heads. That she can cut out shapes. That can colour, occasionally, inside the lines (even I have trouble doing that!). That she is able to listen to instructions and follow them. That she is able to stand in line, and sit in a circle and participate (sometimes, more than required). And most of all, that she can deal, quite normally, with the whole emotional mindfield of Making and Breaking Up with Friends.

So what about her academics? Surprisingly, we never even discussed it. As far as I know, Rae is already reading words off my blog and is able to write words that only a mom would understand like MOMIILAFUVRMUC. But if her teacher, who has a Masters in Early Childhood Education and 20 years of experience working with kids, is not making it a priority – so will I.

As for Sky, I know that she will be more than developmentally ready for her school age since she will be held back a year, if we continue to stay here in the US. And that’s fine with me. You can call it ‘fake’ ahead, or accuse me of becoming more Americanised.

I’ll just call it plain Cutting My Kid Some Slack.

ps. I joined a few groups in Facebook called Asian Parents Are Too Crazy About Grades (950+ members!) and APS – Asian Parents Syndrome and Against Strict Asian Parents and AA: Abnormal Asians who aren’t smart and defying the Asian stereotype discussions, just to see what the discussions are like. There are Asian kids in there, of about 10-18 from all over the world, lamenting over their high-pressure kiasu parents. Some talk about wanting to run away. Some talk about ways to rebel. There is even a thread asking how some high school kids are coping with rejections from Ivy League universities. Most complain that no matter how well they do, nothing is ever enough for their parents.

I wonder: Will this be my child ten years from now?

It is a frightening thought.

Hasn’t this issue already been talked to death? Apparently not, since MSNBC’s Today Show is still milking it for all it’s worth.

Are women their own harshest critics? Do dogs bark? Horses neigh? Pigs wade in their own shit?

I’ve put my two cents in and I’ve even been on the other, unforgiving side of parents back home who hire maids half their age to take care of their kids but you know what?

It’s not a war unless you let it get to you. After all, what’s a little harmless competition? I get my jollies from regaling you with stories about what I do at two in the afternoon with my kids. You get yours from all the cash you get to wave in my face. I say we’re even.

Seriously, women take things far too seriously. Granted, I get my panties in a bunch over issues like breastfeeding and pimping my blog so other people don’t like being called a bad mother just because they prefer to earn a salary, or an idiot for giving up their careers, but really, need we go to war about it? Get all riled up and go on national TV about it? Write books about it?

Here’s why we care so damn much about other women who are opting in or out; it’s because we’re jealous. And we’re petty. And we care way too much what total strangers think about us. And we set impossible standards for ourselves, and expect everyone else, including ourselves, to live up to them. And when we – and they – don’t, we shake our heads and go to town with our sanctimonious opinions.

I say, who the hell cares? There is only one person who knows why I do what I do, and that’s me. Okay, there’s Lokes too, but men don’t really care about such things. They want a fight, they play sports. We women, we get catty.

I suppose it’s good entertainment, or else there won’t be shows like Desperate Housewives and Oprah and, well, The Today Show, if women knew how to mind their own business, and instead, focus on getting corporations to offer work-from-home alternatives to BOTH moms and dads so we can be home for our children. With all the technology we have today, you’d think that would be a cinch, quality of life and all that.

So stop whining already, sisters. Write to your boss, call your congressman or MP, blog about better work options so we can all make some money AND be with our kids more. 

Make shit happen.

I’ve known it all along, that I would be the kind of mom who would take it easy with a lot of the rules associated with raising a child.

While my husband would disagree vehemently – since he is more slack than me, claiming that we all have ‘different standards’, still not realising that as parents we’d better sync our standards up pronto or suffer the consequences because we have deviously cunning demonspawn – I am actually very, very relaxed with our kids.

I don’t force them to finish their meals (I have tried in the past but you know what? It’s not worth the trouble and I have it on good authority it’s bad for them).

I don’t force them to learn.

They don’t really need to clean up at the end of the day because I don’t have the energy to clean up myself.

I still swear, and sometimes do so in front of them (by accident, of course), because you know what? A lady can’t be a lady all the time, much less a mom.

I still play video games and I let them play some every day.

Before you think me less than imperfect, I do have some rules.

I make sure they go to bed on time with a flexi hour allowance during the weekend. I make sure I read to them 30 mins a day. I make sure to floss and brush their teeth every evening myself. I enforce the max two hours a day of computer and tv time.

And by sheer miracle, they’re turning out fine. They are not rude children, and very rarely do they bite. I’d say these are very good kids by anyone’s standards.

Which is why I am at a loss when another kid is rude to mine.

The other day, at the park, I met the strangest child ever. She looked to be eight or nine, but her mother was still accompanying her up and down the play structure as though she was two. She may have been mentally handicapped or autistic but from my vantage point, on the grass munching grapes, you couldn’t tell these things. As far as I could’ve surmised, she was an ordinary grade-schooler – except for the overanxious parent at her side.

She was a hefty child, but very active, and ran around so quickly her poor mother could hardly keep up. There I was, sitting lazily on the grass while my own two littler children played, and this woman was huffing and puffing running around the structure cooing lovingly to her overgrown child to be careful.

Rae and Sky, as usual, were mucking around at the bottom of the twisty slide, trying to climb up it, when the girl had wanted to go down it. The mother started yelling at her not to do until my children had cleared off, which of course, they took their sweet time with. And so, I had to get off my fat ass and go make them. The girl stomped around above them impatiently, huffing and puffing like an animal, mumbling something I could not hear. Sensing all was not right, I barked at Rae to get her sister the hell off the slide RIGHT NOW. That, of course, worked, and Sky was barely off the damn thing before around 100lbs of child came thundering down the slide.

I stood watching the girl and her frantic mother (who did not apologise, by the way) go about their business, while Rae and Sky started to climb up the structure to have a turn at the slide. Sky decided it was too much trouble after the third rung and ran off to ride the bouncy animal thingies while Rae persevered. But before she could reach the slide, Miss Impatient pushed past her and got to it first.

As Rae started to approach the slide, the girl put her hand out.

“NO! GET AWAY!” she’d demanded.

Rae stood there looking at her, a little shocked.

The girl’s mother started to protest at the bottom of the slide.

Rae tried again to climb up to where the slide started, where the girl was standing, and again, the huge girl made a shooing gesture.

“BUGGER OFF I SAID!” she shouted.

Hmm, I thought. English.

The mother’s protesting instantly became louder, and Rae looked at me as though she’d been slapped. I stood where I was, about 20 feet away, by our things, not sure what to do next. Should I go rescue my daughter? She wasn’t in any kind of trouble. Besides, she didn’t look distressed at all, just kind of surprised at the whole thing.

Eventually, Miss Rude went down the slide into her mother’s arms, and the both of them ran off, mother after daughter, to the other structure to continue their reign of terror. Rae moved on.

While nothing untoward really happened, my daughter was shortly exposed to the word ‘bugger’. I’d hoped she did not catch it, but this is a girl who can remember the sequence of scenes after she watched The Sound of Music only once (“Mommy, the girl is going to meet her boyfriend!”). I didn’t ask her about it and she’d most likely forgotten the whole fiasco two seconds after.

I wondered then, on the way back, what I would’ve done if things had taken a turn for the worst. Would I have marched up to the lady and told her to keep a tighter rein on her child, handicapped or not? Would I have quietly escorted my children to a spot on the playground, far away from Attila the Hun? Would I have laughed about it with the mother in a “Ah, children. Can’t live with them, can’t live without them!” sort of way?

Honestly, I have no idea. I think about my children being bullied all the time, especially when I hear about my friends’ kids being strangled and pinched and beaten up at school. And yet, I have no prepared course of action if these things should take place, beyond having a talk with the teacher and most probably with the parent of the child. I myself have never been bullied, or bullied, anyone. Or I might’ve blocked these events out of my mind, who knows?

Slacker mom or not, these things happen. I guess the best course of action to take, even before these things take place, is to cross the bridge when you come to it.

At the rate things are going, I might have to deal with being the parent of the bully than the other way around.

So I read in the papers today that it’s rude to correct a child’s grammar if one is not a teacher.

A dentist had written to Miss Manners (resident etiquette corrections person at the Seattle Times), that he (or more probably a she) noticed that some of his/her patients spoke broken English, and asked if it was kosher to set said child straight. You know, sentences like “Where you at?” just oughtn’t be allowed to suspend in the air offensively (quick, when was the last time you used – or heard – the word “oughtn’t”?).

Miss Manners said no, you oughtn’t correct a child. Stick to oral cavities, not oral clarity, she said. No cause to embarass the young children unnecessarily.

This made me wonder. Would I want my child to be corrected by a well-meaning dentist if Rae was erring grammatically? Granted, she’s five and has erred in areas much graver than grammar (Mommy, can you give me that pizza taker-outer? What the hell do you call that thing, by the way?) but really, what is so wrong about a dentist telling my daughter that it’s “Where are you?” and not “Where you at?”

That’s what I feel is somewhat wrong with the world today. All this need for political correctness, it’s like an invisible box we have to walk around with, so much so more often than not we end up not even saying what we mean, or saying much at all.

And here we are, talking about lack of communication between two people, when all the things you really should say, oughtn’t be said because it’s just not polite to do so.

To be politically correct to our children (or other people’s children) or to be honest? To use carefully crafted answers or to tell them the stark naked truth?

Why should I wait to have sex? Because most men aged 30 and over are more experienced and hence will be able to properly show you how it’s done. As such, legally, you’d have to wait until you’re at least 18 to do it with these men. Yes, THESE.

Why can’t I marry my childhood sweetheart? Because it never lasts and Mommy has many friends who will attest to that. Here are their email addresses. Here’s the email address of ONE that lasted. Unless you’re willing to live EXACTLY like them, don’t.

Where do babies come from? Mommies (I’ve never understood what the big deal is with this question).

Why does Daddy have a tail? Because he’s a boy.

Why do boys have tails? So that they are different from girls or else we would all be girls.

Why does Uncle John have a boyfriend? Because he’s gay.

What does gay mean? It means you’re very happy.

So if you have a boyfriend, it makes you happy? Precisely.

Honesty, guys. That’s all it takes.