Archives for category: Imperfect Mom

This was a question posed by the coolest parenting mag around, Brain, Child (certainly the brainiest) last issue and some of the responses received were nothing short of hilarious – and so true.

For example, one parent responded that she believed that children are preprogrammed with a certain question quota, and ask questions every day even if they already know the answers. Another talked about the Potential Sibling Alarm or PSA, that alerts children whenever parents are engaged in activity that might result in the production of a sibling, one that could compete with them for food, territory and attention.

Yet another wrote about her mother-in-law insisting colds come from cold weather and not germs because she’s a nurse and knows these things.

“And of course, throughout the winter, there are days when those germs happen to coincide with those cold days, which just reinforces her idea that sicknesses are caused by the weather…”

Well, here are some of the unproven beliefs my family has about parenting that have afflicted me, beliefs so ridiculous and unfounded, and yet so strong as they have survived generations, myth and superstition passed from mother to son/daughter, that they manage to manifest themselves in the real world, and thus, reinforcing themselves in the 21st century as truths:

Chinese pregnancy pantang (superstitions).

I swear, they collectively are the best examples in the world that mere belief can transform myth to fact. And the more ridiculous they are, the more seriously you have to take them. I believe the gravity of the pantang is directly related to the pure idiocy of it.

When I was pregnant with Raeven, I was not allowed to do needlepoint in bed. I could do it on a chair, with my poor swollen legs ON the bed, but no, not with my whole pregnant body ON it. The reason? The Chinese (or maybe it’s just my mother-in-law) believe that whatever embroidery or cross-stitch pattern you sew, will appear as a birthmark on your baby.

So yes, if you embroider “Mariners Rule!” on your shirt, chances are your baby will be a Mariners fan – whether he likes it or not.

This applies to things like hammering a nail (will puncture your uterus) or painting (Skyler has what my MIL insists is a brush-stroke-shaped birthmark on her left leg because I painted Rae’s room when I was pregnant) or even taking a driving test (I took mine when I was seven months pregnant with Skyler and that is why I had her prematurely at 30 weeks).

Eating ‘cool’ fruits like watermelon or drinking cold or iced drinks will also result in a miscarriage or a premature birth. I did drink a lot of cold drinks and eat a lot of ‘cool’ fruits because IT’S A HUNDRED DEGREES IN MALAYSIA FOR PETE’S SAKE. And the fact that two other women I knew, who had very obediently abstained from such irresponsible, dangerous vices, also had premature babies, only shows that they had been LYING.

“I’m sure they went and had SOME fruit,” insisted a particularly superstitious friend of mine. Oh, brother.

And don’t even get me started on all the confinement pantangs. I’ll leave those to you guys.

I have a theory, which is another unfounded belief I have about these pantangs BUT IT IS TRUE:

They were made up by old wives to torture their daughters or daughters-in-law which they believe must be passed on because hey, I suffered – now it’s YOUR turn. That’s tradition for you: A thousand-year legacy of unnecessary suffering.

I’m sure there are a million pantangs out there I’m not aware of – and thus violated – which is why I deserved to have premature, birthmark-ridden, cakap manyak children. But as I said, I’ll leave those to you guys. So let me begin this tag to the following moms to share their unfounded, idiotic unproven parenting beliefs:

Remember to pass this lovely tag to five more moms or dads so we can all revel in our ridiculousness!

ps. You don’t have to do a podcast. You can, if you want to!


Click play to listen to The I’mPerfectMom Podcast, an original audio production featuring No More Lies by Cosmic Taxi. Enjoy new music by independent musicians at, available for use under the Creative Commons licence.

Skyler is not a clingy kid. She’s fiercely independent (“I try? Lemme try? TRY?!!”), outspoken (“MY violin!”), has a voracious appetite (“MY fishy qwackerth!”) and does not give up easily (“Baaawaaaaaaaaaaaaaaamy fishy qwackerthhh!!!!”).

However, she has her weepy hanging-onto-your-calf-for-dear-life moments. Today, after a wet, sandy afternoon by the riverside, after we washed out all the sand from her bottom and in between her toes and from the insides of her mouth, gave her a nice long bath, tucked her in for a late nap, she had one of those moments.

Now my two-year old daughter has very few loves. You can count them on one hand: Her Eric Carle The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Goldfish crackers (how did you guess?). Her sister’s brand new Hello Kitty violin which she insists is hers. And her biggest love of all? Grapes.

If a Skyler Tan ever applies to work at your vineyard, consider yourself warned. You won’t know what hit you.  

Anyway, so there she was, clinging on to me as I went down Skyler’s List of Loves so I could peel her off me.

“You want Hungry Caterpillar?”


“You want goldfish crackers?”


“You want violin?”


“You want grapes?”

She paused. I held my breath.



“Okay, mommy’s gonna put you in your chair so you can have some grapes okay?”

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” her nails dug into my neck and she grabbed on, like one of those irritating chimpanzee bags they sell at zoos or theme parks. Don’t you hate those?

“If you want grapes you have to sit in your chair, baby doll…,” I coaxed, trying to free myself from the Death Grip of Skyler Tan.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” her thighs clamped down around my waist, and she buried her face so deeply into my shoulder I swear there is a Skyler face print on there right now.

“Okay…so do you want mommy to carry?”

“Yeah…,”she whimpered.

“Do you still want grapes?”

She sniffed sadly.



So yes, the other reason why I couldn’t blog properly the last entry was because I also had a stubborn, 33lb child trying to get back into my body the last hour.

And Lokes left this morning for Florida.

But yay, summer is here!

These last two days have just been hell for me with the girls, especially Rae.

Yesterday, she practically screamed at my mother-in-law.

“I WANT YOU TO FIX MY TENT RIGHT NOW!!!” she’d yelled.

I was upstairs with Skyler when the bloodcurdling scream broke through the house, followed by sounds of angry stomping and laboured breathing. My mother-in-law was cooking dinner. Right away, I ran downstairs, Skyler in my arms, and spent the next half an hour sending Rae to the corner, lecturing her ear off about respect and manners and patience, before taking away her computer privileges for three days and then sending her to her room right after dinner where I’d told her she should spend some time thinking about what she did.

Instead, she fell asleep.

Today, she decided that it would be fun to decorate the back side of our house with handprints. I’d stepped in for TWO MINUTES, to put Skyler in the bathtub because she was covered in paint, and when I went to get Rae, my pristine white house had five HUGE handprints on it.

As I scrubbed the stubborn blue paint off (washable my ass! It took Clorox + 409 + Turpenoid to get it off) all I could think about was:

  • how screwed we are that nobody is going to buy our house when we’re ready to sell it because of the huge blue stain at the back
  • are there still boarding schools?
  • where one could get a tranquilizer

And this is all not counting the fact that this morning, my mother-in-law thought it appropriate to serve chocolate chip cookies for breakfast.

Question: If one Absolutely Hates Cleaning, and one’s child makes a bloody fucking mess, is it alright to completely lose it?

If just for a while?

‘Coz if anyone deserves to throw a hissy fit today, it’s me.


Listen to The I’mPerfectMom Podcast, featuring Trans of Life‘s Across the Light, available under the Creative Commons licence.

(I just finished ‘polishing’ this entry up this afternoon, as I’d rushed to type it out this morning so there were a lot of grammatical mistakes, points I’d missed. Sorry!)

It is no secret that Asians, when it comes to work and studies, are a competitive bunch. In the US, this is politely referred to as ‘the Asian work ethic’. In Malaysia and Singapore, it is simply called kiasu-ism, which when directly translated, means ‘fear of losing’.

Losing the rat race. Losing opportunities. Losing face. What drives this fear of loss, you ask? I have no freakin’ idea. Maybe it really is in our DNA.

Before coming to the US, Lokes and I had not given the issue very much thought. However, one thing’s for sure: When it comes to our children’s academic development, we will NOT push them to throw themselves off a building if they don’t get the 17As.

When Rae was about two and a half, we sent her to a Montessori school. You can read the guilt in this paragraph, and there is much of it. To my defence, I was a working mom. Also, there were no other types of preschools in Malaysia, schools that focused more on play or social development than academics. The Montessori ones promised to teach them the skills they need to progress in life, things like buttoning their own shirts and listening to instructions. We thought they were sensible life skills to learn, even at two and a half. Well, they are.

Malaysia does not have an established playgroup culture as you do in the US. I knew a few moms in a SAHP group I liked that organised a few, but as I was working, it was hard to get really involved.

More justification: We’d so wanted Rae to make some little friends, and so we looked around for a school that was nearest to us, didn’t cost too much, and enrolled her. She did very well.

Now with Skyler, we are only sending her to preschool at three or closer even to four. This is not by choice since school years here begin in September and you have to have turned a certain age by then. Since Skyler’s birthday is in November, she has to wait a year to start.

Honestly, this has given me more relief than anything else. After all, one of my children will be having HOMEWORK end of this year. That is a very scary thought. Homework at five. Can it be real?

So back to this kiasu-ism. I must confess, that sometimes, I am torn. On one hand, I do not want to raise my children to become emotionally-stunted overachievers. On the other, I don’t want to raise bums. What is middle ground? Can someone tell me?

I don’t foresee sending my girls to KUMON or Salvan (American tuition centers filled with – you got it – mostly Asian children or well-to-do ones!) because, well, for one, I think my girls are pretty darn smart (ahem!), and Lokes and I are relatively skilled learning/teaching opportunists. Bottomline is, I don’t want my children to hate learning. I don’t want to turn them off books and knowledge.

You know, I remember having hated learning until my mom stopped whacking me with a cane to memorise my history facts or times tables. I was almost 13 when she’d announced, “You’re a big girl now. I’m not going to cane you anymore because you should know that if you’re to amount to anything and want to go to college, you will have to do well on your own.”

And with that, she trashed the cane, and even my sis, three years younger than me, got off the hook. A year later, I wrote an essay in school that became the defining moment in my life. It was a story about a man who loved his wife so much, that when she died, he died along with her. It was called Alone. My English teacher – a Mr Leong, I still remember – read it in front of the whole class, and proclaimed that I, Tai Pooi Ling, had promise, and that I was someone to watch out for.

The next year, I got 7As in my SRP.

And 6As for my SPM.

All this because my parents had stopped pushing me.

Moral of the story? Beat your kids to submission before they turn 13.

Okay, I’m kidding. You can stop looking mortified, Americans. Malaysians, you know you need to think of a better way to deal with discipline because seriously, what are you going to do when your child becomes immune to the cane?

Seriously, I was a rebel. I guess I stopped rebelling when there was nothing to rebel against.

And I think there is middle ground. We just need to find it. In the mean time, we will just have to trust our instincts.

ps. I asked my father-in-law yesterday what the point was for people to be so competitive back home when in the end, they’re not even going to study in local unis which is where they have to score all the 50As they need to enter (during the quota days). He said that the kids were not the competitive ones; it’s the parents.


Listen to The I’mPerfectMom Podcast, featuring Trans of Life‘s Across the Light, available under the Creative Commons licence.

He looked over at his friend, K, hurt. How could he have abandoned him? He thought they were best of friends, and now he’s over there, sitting with someone else.

B stood there, confused, and somewhere in his little heart, pain seaped and seared. Soon, his eyes glistened. He quickly covered them with the tips of his fingers, willing the tears to disappear.

Don’t cry. DON’T CRY, he seemed to say, without saying, as he gripped his glasses by the lenses, his eyes tightly shut. But try as he might, B could not hold them back. His mouth pursed and trembled, and he looked hopelessly at his forgetful friend, K. Defeated, B walked over to his teacher, his face locked in a solemn grimace, struggling silently.

Miss J gently placed him on her lap and whispered comforting words in his ear. Wiping his tears away, B gave K one final look. And then he let his friend go. Maybe tomorrow, he might’ve thought. Maybe tomorrow, I will get to sit by K.

This little scenario happened today at Rae’s preschool, and it broke my heart, along with that of his mom’s and those of us working today, because it’s happened to all of us. To our children. And it sucks.

Exclusion. Rejection. Jealousy. These are uncomfortable, hopelessly unfair but “that’s life” situations that gets parents of preschoolers bristling with tension and worry all the time. We want to jump to the rescue of our confused little babies even though we know we ought not to. I think this is the hardest part of parenting for me: To not overprotect.

A year ago, I was frantic with worry about how to teach my then three-year-old the dynamics of society, and basically, How to Deal With Other People Out There.

Like other children, she had problems with exclusion with some of her preschool friends. Preschoolers are fickle little people who change best friends the way they change their minds about everything else, at the flick of a switch. How do I explain this to my own fickle little girl without forever tainting her yet-developing understanding of friendship?

I didn’t.

Of course, if it were entirely up to me, I would most likely have words with those kids. But it’s not.

So time after time, rejection after rejection, exclusion after exclusion, we would talk. Or I would, while Rae sobbed and wailed and basically cried her little eyes out about ‘losing’ a friend to so-and-so. She was crushed so many times, and me with her. It was horrible. What am I talking about? It’s still horrible.

Today really made me think about Rae, and how much she’s grown. Sure, she still has a weepy moments when her friends decide to play without her, but she has learned to move on without falling apart every single time.

Or at least some of the time.

…finding your two-year old drinking water out of the toilet bowl.

Good thinking, Jenn, letting your girls play with their tea set in the bathroom!

Now I’m not sure if I’m happy that I’d just scrubbed the toilet down two days ago. Which is worse: Swallowing water containing millions of life-threatening bacteria from urine and faeces, or potentially toxic Clorox?

I think I’ll have to go with the Clorox.

Let’s see how she does this afternoon.

In the meantime, happy Labour Day to all who celebrate Labour Day on May 1st (like the normal people do *snort*). Oh you don’t know? The Americans do it differently here. Labour Day – which is spelt Labor Day, pfff – is celebrated on the first Monday of September.

Today is, instead, May Day, or Loyalty Day.

Now I’m gonna check if Sky is not throwing up green gunk in her bed…

About a week or more ago, Rae’s preschool had a little concert and it was none other than the delightful Nancy Stewart. Now if you’re not from Washington or Seattle or the US – and I’m not – you probably would not have heard of her. I only got to know Nancy and her beautiful children’s music from Rae’s preschool teacher, who plays her tunes all day long in class.

At the concert, we purchased two of Nancy’s albums, and now, play her music in the car and at home and she has also replaced The Wiggles as bedtime music.

Rae simply cannot live without her anymore.

So, dear Malaysian moms, get a load of Nancy at She has some free downloads, and I know, $15 is a little steep due to the exchange rate and in light of our unique circumstances *nudge nudge wink wink* but it’s worth it. Get the Song of the Month two-CD compilation – very, very worth it!

The more I read, the more I’m convinced. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech killer, might’ve suffered from a very severe, untreated, never-diagnosed case of Selective Mutism?

What would happen if enough of the troops in Iraq refuse to fight in the war? Lokes and I discussed this on the drive home yesterday. This morning, we heard this on NPR. Coincidence?

Breastfeeding doesn’t halt obesity. Damn.

We have not watched a single episode of American Idol this season. I wonder why.

Life of Pi is a surprisingly interesting read. I’d thought it would be dry (as all Man Booker Prize winners go, *snort*) but I am enthralled.

My scabbed knee still hurts like a bitch but I am still up for more netball this Saturday (the Seattle women’s netball team is competing in LA this weekend – wish them luck!).

I found a library book I thought I’d lost. Woohoo!

Raeven has two boys ‘fighting’ over her in school. They’d literally pushed each other today over who got to stand next to her. Mortified as I am, am also a little amused.

Skyler will NOT sleep in her own bed and has been coming over every night. It’s exhausting.

I bought some beef for stewing. Any suggestions?