Archives for category: Imperfect Mom

Page 9

This is my favourite photo of me when I was pregnant with Rae.

I looked neither *fat nor sane.

*well, you should’ve seen my other photos.

 

I did realise one very sad thing as my digital scrapbooking took on lunatic proportions. I never took any photos of me when I was pregnant with Skyler, except for when Rae celebrated her second birthday and I was barely along then. The bane of all mommies – always the photographer, never the photgraphee. Pity.

It was the girls’ bedtime, and I was reading Fox in Socks to Raeven, something I rarely do since that book annoys the hell out of me.

But since she gets to choose her two books, I had to read it, so I read the whole thing. Took me ten minutes but when I did, I half wanted to throw up.

At the end, Rae sighed contentedly. And just as I thought that she would sink right into her pillow and go straight to sleep (right…), she sat straight up as though she’d just remembered something.

“Open your mouth, Mommy!” she demanded.

“What?”

“I wanna see!”

I obeyed. She peered into my cavernous mouth and inspected it for a second.

“Okay, your tongue is still straight.”

Satisfied, she climbed up to her bunk bed.

 

This is what makes all the meltdowns worth it.

A lot of you have asked me how I find the time to write and jazzercise and start a preschool and keep the house running.

Well, here’s the secret.

I have Hermione’s Time Turner.

πŸ˜€

Okay, so I don’t have Hermione’s Time Turner but wouldn’t that be just the thing? Sorry, I’m just gearing up for Book Seven.

Anyway, here’s a rough schedule of my day:

6.30am: Alarm rings. We don’t get up until 7am, to get breakfast for the girls. Sometimes they have cereal in the car if we decide to sleep in a bit. Lokes makes eggs when he feels like it. I pour cereal πŸ˜€ 

8.20am: I head out with the girls for jazzercise at 9.30am. Drop Lokes off at the office (when he’s home) and then drop the kids off at the childcare next to the gym.

10.30am: Jazzercise is over. Pick kids up and head home for lunch. We have simple stuff like cheese and ham quesadillas or sandwiches, soup or salad. Very quick to prepare.

12 noon: Put Sky down for her nap. Sometimes I nap too with Rae playing computer games next to me. Most of the time, I check my emails.

1.30pm: Sky wakes up and the girls play. They play very well together now and I can leave them in their play room for a couple of hours. Sometimes I set the pool up and they splash outside. Sometimes we go to the park for the day. Sometimes we do art outside but only when Mommy feels like cleaning up two very paint-splattered girls after.

3pm: Get the girls their snack of crackers and fruits.

4.00pm: When my in-laws were not here, I would take dinner I’ve prepared the night before out, to reheat/prepare rice/stirfry a vegetable.

5.00pm: Out to pick Lokes up from the office.

5.45pm: Home for dinner. Lokes has the girls after this.

6.45pm: The girls wind down with a bath and get ready for bed.

7.30pm: Lights out for the girls. Lokes and I bathe and what not, before going downstairs to prepare tomorrow’s ‘menu’.

8.30pm: We are done and have until midnight to do our own thang.

Of course, now with my in-laws here, we don’t do meals and we have some evenings to ourselves, where I attend my preschool meetings and so on.

I usually vacuum the house during the weekends and wash the toilets once every fortnight. I take the girls grocery shopping middle of the week to beat the traffic.

There you have it. See, you don’t need a Time Turner.

Maybe a little Tina Turner might help:)

ps. Lokes does the laundry πŸ˜‰

One thing I did not mention about Rae when I wrote about how she was different from me, was that my daughter is also a Really Sore Loser.

It has gotten so bad that these days, she even cheats her way to victory, and no matter how much I try to reason with her, winning remains her ultimate goal in every game she plays. And she will make you rue the day she loses and I mean, kicking-spitting-screaming-The-Exorcist-headspinning rue.

No, I’m kidding. She doesn’t do any of that but she will weep and refuse to play another round.

During our weekly preschool meeting today, I shared this problem with my friend S, a seasoned mom of three. And to my relief (which sounds bad, I know, but it helps to know other people’s kids suck) she told me that her oldest child was that way as well. And what she did was that she created opportunities where her child could ‘practice’ losing by making family game night, three times a week.

“She would refuse to play and I had to make her because it was family game night. And then when she did play, she would taunt the rest of the family, so that we would kick her out so she wouldn’t have to play, and in not playing, she won’t have to risk losing. In the end, I had to make her play through the game. Sorry is a good game to start. And remember, practice makes perfect.”

All I can say is, S is a genius (she said she started her children on Sorry as young as three). Isn’t family game night just the best idea ever?

Thing is, her oldest child is now in her teens, and she still has the problem of not being able to handle defeat. So don’t expect family game night to make the problem go away.

“It just helps her to accept and deal with the fact that you can’t win at everything, but it doesn’t take away their dislike for defeat,” says S.

And here I thought that it was a PreK or at most elementary thing.

Sigh. Well, it doesn’t hurt to try. Good thing I love board games!

I’ve never been a book parent (you know, parents who read books from What to Expect When You’re Expecting right up to Parenting Your Out-of-Control Teenager) but since Rae’s little outbreak, I’ve been doing some research online and man, there is just too much info out there. Not all of it can be trusted but they are still good to know.

I discovered I am a weak-willed parent.

Well, I didn’t need the Internet to tell me that.

And that Rae may be a strong-willed child. No kidding.

I think the parts that make most sense are:

A strong-willed child likes to help make decisions. When possible give your child choices. “Would you like to have a chocolate chip cookie or strawberry ice cream?” Give them projects in which they can take charge, like planning the family vacation. A strong-willed child doesn’t want to control you; he just wants you to allow him some control.

A strong-willed child will only comply with rules or laws when they make sense. Give them a solid reason for a rule.

A strong-willed child wants to feel unique and special. He does not want to be ordinary. He struggles against the confines of traditions and conformity. <== OH YEA!

and most important of all:

Stay on your child’s team, even when it appears to be a losing team. You’ll have the rest of your life to enjoy mutual fellowship if you don’t overreact to frustration now.

Why does a strong-willed child do what he or she does? Robert J Mackenzie had this to say:

It is often because he is trying to test your rules, by ‘doing research’, to see what he can get away with and what works for him.

Dr. MacKenzie teaches that effective discipline starts by giving a ‘clear, firm message’ that focuses on the behavior you are trying to control and not the child, is ‘specfic and direct’, is given in your ‘normal voice’ and includes the ‘consequences for noncompliance.’

The hardest part for me? The calm ‘normal’ voice. I am an emotional person, and can run hot and cold in half a second flat.  

I guess practice makes perfect!

ps. Rae has been really good after the incident. She has said a million I Love Yous and has come to me whenever she faces a conflict with her sister. Just one minute ago, she came to me complaining that Skyler would not share with her. We worked through the problem where she sort of understands that her two-year old sister may not get what sharing means, and that she has to show her.

“Mommy, Mei Mei does NOT understand what sharing means! I’ve showed her and she doesn’t know. This is fuster-rating!”

Believe it or not, that’s progress. At least she’s not ripping the toy off her sister, right?

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.

When Lokes and I moved to the US, we pretty much moved blindly.

We didn’t know if he would earn enough to support all four of us. We didn’t know how much our monthly expenses would be. We didn’t even know if we would be able to communicate properly with the Americans. Sure, we speak English, but English is not American (just like Malaysian is not Indonesian).

But the one thing we knew right off the bat was that our kids would have better childhoods compared to the ones they would’ve had back in Malaysia. Instead of weekends spent trolling The Curve or One Utama or some other bigger, better super mall, or cooped up in some indoor playground because of the haze or the heat, the girls are now able to go to the beach almost every day, or tool around on their bikes or trikes at the park. Summer comes and we are eating strawberries right off the field. In the fall, the girls trudge around in the mud, picking out pumpkins. And if we’re really lucky, winter would bring a gift of snow, and the girls would spend hours just messing around in our backyard, building – and eating – snowmen.

If I remember correctly, the last time we visited a mall was last fall. Bizarre since this is the country that created the mall.

Don’t be mistaken. It’s not that these things are not available back home. We have parks and the most beautiful beaches you will ever see in this lifetime. We even have strawberries in Cameron Highlands. But even having lived all our lives there, we rarely did these things.

We took the girls to Taman Perdana ONCE.

We took them to the SS2 park TWICE.

We took Rae to Karambunai and Pork Dickson (beaches) ONCE and even those were Lokes’ company offsite trips. We simply tagged along because we would otherwise not have the time or inclination.

And therein lies the irony. That we worked so hard that even though we had the money, we didn’t have the time to do anything as a family.

We may not have as much money today. And we may not drive an expensive car or own any branded stuff. Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time we took the whole family out some place fancy for dinner, something we used to do almost every week back home. In fact, there have been days, I swear, that we’ve looked at our bank account and wondered if we could get the girls new clothes or shoes without dipping yet again into our savings.

It’s THAT bad.

And then, there are days when you see your children standing knee-deep in rows and rows of ripe, crimson strawberries, their faces and fingers stained red from stuffing their faces with the ruby fruit, juice dribbling down their chins and onto their pristine, white not-so-much-for-berry-picking clothes.

And as they squint into the ripe afternoon sun looking for me because they’ve walked so far ahead, their hands working quickly through the bushes, their mouths chomping even faster, I can hear these words come tumbling out of their busy little mouths.

“MmmmMmmm Mommy. Stwabewwies! Mmmmm!”

 

It is these moments that let you know that it’s not about being able to afford a trip to Disneyland, or getting your daughter that Limited Edition $29.95 Magic of the Rainbow Barbie, or having the perfect house.

It is these moments, these little gems of sheer joy that come bursting through when you least expect it, just from being able to spend an hour in the hot sun, plucking and eating dust-covered, earthy strawberries until you feel as though you may just burst at the seams.

These are the moments they will remember.

Yesterday, as my girls and I were making our way to the car after jazzercise, Rae announced, loudly and purposefully within earshot of my friends’ children, that we were going to McDonald’s.

Since we made no such plans, I reacted.

“No, we aren’t!”

“Mommy! Don’t say that!” She barked at me.

And then her face crumbled.

For 30 minutes after the incident, I tried to demystify my five-year-old’s actions (by talking her ear off). Her decision to suddenly make something up for no reason, had shocked me to my very core. Why did she lie? Was it to make her little friends jealous? Isn’t that kind of…bad? Cruel? Evil?!

Is my five-year-old evil?!

When we picked Lokes up from the office, I ‘reported’ the incident to him. He was as shocked as I was – and a little scared as well.

“Did you talk to her?” he whispered worriedly in Cantonese (the girls were napping in the car but we didn’t want to take chances).

“Of course. I asked her why she did what she did,” I whispered back.

“What did she say?”

“She didn’t know what to say so I asked her if she was saying we were going to McDonald’s to make her friends jealous. She didn’t know what jealous was, so I gave her an example, that if I said I was going to McDonald’s, and I told her that she couldn’t go, I asked her how she would feel.”

“What did she say?”

“Sadlor.”

“And then? Did you tell her not to do it again?”

“Of course I did. I told her if she doesn’t want to be made to feel like that, that she cannot do it to her friends. I even asked her how she would feel, if someone did it to you and me. People she cared about. But don’t expect it to be fixed overnight.”

Lokes sighed. We sat in silence for a while.

“Do you think all kids are like that?” I asked. Hopefully.

“I don’t know…”

“Seems so…cruel. Like she’s evil.”

“Maybe they are.”

“Yea, kids can be cruel, right?”

“Right.”

 

Imperfect parenting rule #22: When there are no answers, assume the worst.